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On a square full of hipster hangouts, pubs and bars, Fiaker aims to be a more upscale bistro, where you can travel back in time to the golden days of the Habsburg Empire. Worry not, we don’t mean grandma-style lace décor, but a sense of sweet nostalgia that manifests itself in a wine selection of nearly 400 labels and fine dishes from the past.
The interior, therefore, does not evoke the Belle Époque. It is rather sleek, with a wooden floor and bare, bistro-like tables – only the really cool hat-lamps paint an old-school picture. Noon is never too early for a glass here, but if you’d like breakfast first, full meals, pastries, egg dishes and Viennese sausage all feature.
The founder, Attila Gombolai, also oversees KisBécs (‘Little Vienna’), a tiny wine bar specialised in Austrian wines with a few light bites. But when he had the chance to take over a bigger venue, Attila didn’t want to deliver the regular Italian-French selection, but rather offer something new: wines from the lands of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Out of a selection of nearly 400 items, 100 are on display upstairs – from as early as the 1990s – while about 30 feature on the menu by the glass. Fiaker is spacious, and can comfortably seat about four or five larger groups at any one time.
The menu is bistro-like, short and concise, but offers great delicacies. Thanks to the wine, cold plates are quintessential, and we have to say they are excellent. The ham and cheese selections are some of the best in town, and showcase specialities from neighbouring countries. You can order four different cheeses on a plate for 2,590 forints, including a year-old mature variety and an eight-month-old cheese with a flower crust. The ham plate contains examples from Prague and Istria, as well as smoked mangalica, a sought-after delicacy from Hungary. Spreads are also perfect pairings for the wine. Don’t be afraid to place your trust in the hands of the professional staff as far as advice is concerned.
Upon our visit, from the starter selection we tried the rosemary-and-tomato strudel (1,890 HUF). It evokes the olden days, but the presentation is boldly 2019. From the chef’s seasonal offers, we opted for Riesling duck breast with pearl-barley risotto (3,890 HUF). It is light, and with a Feiler-Artinger Pinot Noir, a perfect choice for autumn.
One of the most popular dishes at Fiaker is the goulash (3,190 HUF), a dense stew with root vegetables and potato foam, poached egg and sausage crumbs. With a Kékfrankos from Eger, it is the epitome of the old Monarchy. Pottage, an essential element of Belle-Époque cuisine, also features. Varieties come and go – this time, it was green-bean. Sausages, or poached eggs for vegetarians, are served on the side.
All in all, Fiaker is a lovely establishment, with an outstanding wine selection offering the best varieties from Central Europe, and you can’t argue with the location, either.