This article was updated more than a year ago and may contain outdated information.

gastro

szerkesztés

Where the Med meets the Middle East – Levante adapts to the elements

Writers

  • Nemes Nóra

21/02/2020 2.24pm

Near the Great Synagogue, newly opened Levante is a hit thanks to an exciting menu, a beautifully crafted interior and heart-felt hospitality.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

Balázs Balogh found his new calling when he made a success out of cult bar Neked Csak Dezső. The original, smaller Dezső concentrated on craft beer, before it moved to larger premises near Blaha Lujza tér, opening up a kitchen as well. When the chance came up to open a new restaurant on the ground floor of the Hotel Memories on Wesselényi utca, Balázs and his team decided to set up this new venture.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

As the new Dezső has its food element built around the drinks, here chef Tibor Tóth is delighted to give free rein to his culinary creativity. The Middle East and the Med are the perfect foundation for a creative menu anyway, as they combine the gastronomic elements of many cultures and draw from an extremely wide range of food and ingredients.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

“The Levant once covered a vast area, meaning east of Venice all the way to the Nile where North African cuisine is typical,” says Balázs. “We wanted to limit our kitchen a little – but as long as our olive tree grows, this kitchen will last.”

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

Right in the middle of the restaurant, the gnarled olive tree in question, 85 years old, is the perfect decorative focus. “It was also important for the menu and the design that the Levant has a physical role,” explains Balázs. This criterion was met by Tamás Mellik and his team responsible for the interior: grey and white walls offset the pastel and sand-coloured furniture, cushions from the Middle East, tasteful Greek statues, bentwood chairs and the aforementioned olive tree, actually quite young at 85. At the end of the elongated room, you find the open kitchen, even visible from the street.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

At first glance, the menu shows that they have worked hard to incorporate ever-popular Middle-Eastern cuisine with that of its Mediterranean neighbours. There are plenty of Greek, Turkish and Italian dishes among the meze, soups and main courses, but although they’re dealing with the ethnic cuisine of an ancient culture, it has been modernised in the same way as the interior, recognisable yet light and airy. The meze include classic Middle-Eastern musts, olives (950 HUF), humus (1,250 HUF) and baba ganoush (1,550 HUF), each with a delicate little twist that makes it unique. The olives, for example, come from a Cretan family farm, sprinkled with Maldon salt, while the humus is jazzed up with focaccia, minced meat and whole-roasted cherry tomatoes.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

In addition, you can opt for small bites that veer slightly from the geographical theme: the trout tartare (2,250 HUF) is served in a French pastry cup with dehydrated olive oil called olive powder. The playful ingenuity that makes the heavier dishes easier to make is impressive: for example, for the dolma wrapped in grape leaves (950 HUF), they do not only soak the grape leaves in brine and make the filling in the kitchen, but liven them up with pumpkin purée and pumpkin strips. This pairing is quite unusual but it works well and means you can’t really go wrong with whichever one you choose.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

The lamb ragout soup (1,750 HUF) is also somewhat away from the culinary mainstream here, but it’s thick, rustic, Greek and traditional, with so much meat and so many vegetables, it makes a meal in itself. Greek yoghurt and baked lemon help soften the blow.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

Trout (3,250) is also atypical for the Middle East and even the Med, but skin-roasted with baked lemon and tabbouleh fits perfectly into the concept – the same balanced eclecticism is typical of king prawns with tomato (4,250 HUF) or the lamb shoulder marinated with pickled onion, with creamy mashed potato (3,250 HUF).

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

There’s no need to heave a sigh of boredom when perusing the desserts – away from the standard baklava and kadayif, you can order a basbousa (950 HUF) – an Arab sponge-type coconut cake – with yoghurt and sumac, or maybe a French cherry pastry, adapted with rose water and pistachio in the Arab kitchen.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

Levante is a very pleasant surprise, managing to modernise basic, rustic Middle-Eastern cuisine without losing its original character, simultaneously blending the atmosphere of the Mediterranean with historic Budapest and friendly hospitality.

Levante

District VII. Wesselényi utca 4

Open: Daily 11.30am-midnight

Related content

Admin mode