In recent months, the concept of tapas has been gaining ground in Budapest. No wonder, as this classic Spanish form of dining is a great chance to sample as many flavours as you can over dinner. But there is still something new under the sun – at Tapassio on Hercegprímás utca, you can dip into Mediterranean and Hungarian snacks based on the Spanish model.
Áron Vermes and Mihály Kártyás both lived abroad for a few years, both working in hospitality and both in the Mediterranean, Aaron in Barcelona and Michael in Cyprus. There are two more things they have in common: they are equally enthusiastic about the cuisines of the countries concerned, and when returned home, they decided to introduce something of that gastronomic culture to Budapest.
They came to the conclusion that, in line with current food trends, Budapest is experiencing a renaissance of Spanish, Italian and other Mediterranean cuisine, but two or three snacks on a plate, four or five over the course of a meal, would be an additional great communal dining experience.
So, when the concept of Tapassio was put together, they decided not to stay with Spanish tapas alone – mezze and other Mediterranean antipasti would also be brought to the table.
The former Italian restaurant here was completely redesigned – the walls, while not particularly light, have been painted partly in yellow and partly left bare concrete, giving the interior a warm, homely yet modern look.
Being a tapas bar, of course, the main focus of beverages is wine – Spanish, Italian and Hungarian labels – from the simplest to more special, expensive rarities. Of course, you can also find beer, spirits and champagne, and they offer plenty of unique cocktails.
The food range is extremely wide, as it includes not only well-known varieties of Spanish tapas – standards such as ham croquettes and padrón peppers – but also Italian and typical Hungarian dishes.
This is especially useful if you want to show off the essence of Hungarian cuisine to foreign guests. They have seven or eight well-known Hungarian classics in tapas size, such as Hortobágy meat pancake (950 HUF), an assorted Hungarian cold platter (2,850 HUF) and beef cheek in red wine (1,650 HUF). In fact, you can order a complete series of Hungarian dishes – for 5,500 forints, you’ll receive seven tapas-sized selections.
Among the best-known Spanish tapas, the aforementioned croquetas de jamón (1,200 HUF) is very well executed. Croquettes of béchamel sauce and Serrano ham are topped with boiled potatoes in many places, but here you can taste the thick milky sauce and succulent Spanish jamón.
Speaking of ham, a real Tapassio speciality, choice Joselito (8,750 HUF), considered the world's best, is also on the menu. Although expensive for tapas, it is a real rarity and, if out of your budget, you’ll find a couple of slices in the Ibérico ham selection (3,950 HUF).
The fish and seafood section is also exciting: probably because the Italian-Spanish-Hungarian cuisine team not only makes tried and tested favourites, but also their own creations: the king prawn wrapped in bacon (1,950 HUF) is a perfect example.
Mediterranean cuisine is often liberally blended with sea fish and prawns with strong tastes of fatty ingredients, and in this case, for example, Italian guanciale cured meat is the perfect companion to king crab. And when it comes to the more rustic flavours, anyone who loves Italian tripe will be delighted with the Parmesan variety (1,150 HUF) on offer here.
Dishes are fairly priced, higher-end options such as Joselito or St Jacob’s scallops are naturally dearer, but you can find simple yet special tapas for around 1,000-1,200 forints. During the week, you also order a lunch of three tapas, a coffee and a bakery item for 2,950 forints, offered from noon to 5pm. And for those who like experimenting, we strongly recommend the “I trust the chef” combination, where you can dive into a tapas assortment created by the kitchen for 7,500 forints a head.
Of the desserts, you can’t go wrong with everyone’s favourite crema catalana but you should also try the classic tiramisù or coconut panna cotta with blackberry sauce, each 1,200 forints.
District V. Hercegprimás utca 13
Open: Mon-Thur, Sun noon-11pm, Fri-Sat noon-midnight