Grumpy Budapest – great French bistro gears up for shutdown cuisine


  • Nemes Nóra

11/13/2020 12:27 PM

At Grumpy, the overused cliché of the bistro with homely flavours is flipped upside down – here, they serve hearty and delicious classic dishes with a modern twist. As the Grumpy team switches to home delivery and weekday pick-ups, we look back on our recent visit to this cosy, enchanting venue in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter just before shutdown.

Szilvia Ispán, aka Sziszi, comes from a family with a long history in hospitality, and she always wanted to follow in their footsteps. But she first had the strong desire to explore the world, so she just hopped on a ship – quite literally – and sailed away. For seven years, she spent her days on various kinds of ocean liners and river boats waiting tables, cooking or overseeing the plants. She returned to Hungary in 2003, and started working as a waitress at respected eatery Menza, where she soon became restaurant manager – and stayed there for 15 years. Without a doubt, she had a lot to do with Menza becoming the legendary venue remains today, a key dining destination for tourist and local alike.

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

Sziszi gradually realised that it was time for her to move on. She felt the need to create a space that was more personal to her, not only to oversee the work of others but the entire locale. The result: Grumpy Budapest.   

It’s clear that the owner of this small, stylish bistro on Klauzál utca has been around the world – the interior is filled with colourful chairs, bright yellow tones and fun paintings and illustrations – thanks to artists Zsófi Perger and Renyagyár – decorating the walls, perfect backdrops for an Instagram picture. The atmosphere overall is reminiscent of a small, cosy French bistro

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

Grumpy has an open kitchen – Sziszi prepares the food on a long counter in the back. There’s no need to worry about cooking aromas lingering in the small bistro space though, as the main elements of the dishes, specifically the meat, comes in sous-vide form from Paris. Only the creamy sauces, the garnishes, the salads, the breakfast dishes and some of the desserts are prepared in the kitchen. Sziszi’s whole concept is based on her being the host, who is cooking and serving the meals at the same time, as if she was welcoming guests who have popped in to see her home.

“The places closest to my heart have always been the ones where the owner and their family run everything. This very common practice in Italy and France – the owner prepares and serves the meals, while chatting with the guests, offering warmth and comfort. This closeness and playfulness is what I wanted to reflect at Grumpy, too,” says Sziszi.

And she has achieved this beautifully: when the guests arrive she greets them, takes their orders and chats while the food is being prepared. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed thanks to this approach, enhanced by the homely cuisine.
With shutdown coming shortly after our visit, Sziszi has switched to a weekly menu of six main courses and four desserts, plus two options specifically geared to home delivery – but her approach has changed little in principle from when diners could sit down and devour in situ.

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

It’s a menu dominated by French comfort food, with international items. The winter selection had just been finalised when we were lucky enough to taste some of the delightful and complex dishes it offered. The creamy veal stew with mushrooms (4,200 HUF) was a unique find in Hungary, as locals here are not accustomed to making stew out of veal normally. The tender meat with a silky, creamy sauce and hash browns was the perfect combination to get you through a cold day.  

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

Two French classics, coq au vin (3,950 HUF) and the red-wine beef stew of boeuf bourguignon were served with Dutch potatoes – these truly rustic dishes could be paired with homemade bread, too, to savour all of the thick, flavourful sauce.

The oven-baked ruffled carbonara (2,850 HUF) with béchamel-cream sauce and bacon bits would be amazing to devour after skiing in the Alps. We don’t recommend counting your calories for this one, but every bite is worth it for the experience.  

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

The chicken tikka masala (2,900 HUF) has a similarly homely feeling to it – though it’s easy to recognise, it’s not exactly how you would find it at an Indian restaurant. The seasoning is a bit less intense, yet it’s just as creamy and hearty as the traditional item, while the sous-vide chicken is perfectly juicy.

One of the biggest wonders of the winter menu is the thyme lamb shank (4,950 HUF) – a rare dish in Hungary, even not that often prepared in France. The juice around the meat – which, again, is abundant – can be dunked into with the sweet potato rings. 

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

Photo: Polyák Attila - We Love Budapest

Grumpy is currently operating with a weekly-changing menu, being home-delivered weekdays noon to 3pm, even Saturdays if required. Orders should be placed by phone (+36 30 222 5625) or through Facebook by 7pm the previous evening. Delivery fees are currently being worked out. Customers may also pick up their orders from the restaurant itself, which now opens weekdays 10am-6pm.

How long lockdown will last, no-one knows. But knowing the owner’s resilient and adventurous personality, hopes are high and faith in a bright future for Sziszi and team isn’t shaken.

Shutdown opening hours: Mon-Fri 10am-6pm

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