As we enter the last month of our spring, the time will soon come when Budapest can show off its Mediterranean side, offering the kind of cheerful sparkle that makes it hard to resist when having to stay at home. We miss the city’s pretty parks of the city, sunny cafés and finding a spot on the terrace of our favourite bar. So, until we can do that, we may bring the city indoors, starting with the dishes prepared by our best-loved restaurants! Imbued with Spanish flavours, the specialities of Pata Negra beckon us from the monotony of quarantine, until the moment when terraces re-open.
Light, fresh Mediterranean flavours, varied Spanish cuisine based on authentic foundations: this is how Pata Negra earned the title of the number one tapas in Budapest and has kept it for many years. A two-and-a-half week trip to Spain turned into two and a half years: not an everyday story, but one a few of us can identify with. Spain captivates hearts with its direct, open atmosphere, relaxed, pulsating lifestyle, and fantastic gastronomy.
“We believe and confess that tapas aren’t so much about delicious food and drink, they mean so much more than that. Tapas for us are a passion for life, which, if you feel it too, you can easily sense the passion,” say the founders of Pata Negra who, after their extended Spanish gastronomic adventure, conceived of the restaurant at that time.
After long fieldwork, thorough research, tasting and planning, Vilmos Losits and Szilveszter Mókusz opened the doors of Hungary’s first tapas bar in the autumn of 2004, on Kálvin tér. Their completely accurate approach to originality was a basic requirement, so in addition to the food, great attention was paid to the design of the bar: every little detail – from food to drinks, from tiles to napkins – was designed to create an unadulterated Mediterranean atmosphere.
After the first Pata Negra fulfilled all their expectations, five years later they started making tapas on the Buda side as well.
Gathering with friends over a good glass of wine while snacking and sharing food is what this special gastronomic experience is all about. In Spain, the selection in tapas bars usually consists of 8-12 different dishes, most of which are seafood: cocktail shrimp, shrimp, squid and octopus, but chorizo sausage and Serrano ham are also very popular, as well as sandwiches stuffed with these baked and cooked dishes.
At Pata Negra, dishes are prepared with precise instructions to ensure the perfection you enjoy each time. Rustic dishes on the first menu, such as patatas bravas, potatoes in spicy sauce, and albóndigas, meatballs, were augmented with new favourites over the years. Minor innovations came in from time to time but the same constant, carefully crafted selection remains in operation. Their menu is tailored to the needs of diners with allergies, with 42 lactose-free, 27 vegan and 55 gluten-free dishes.
“All of our ingredients are sourced from Spain and since most of them are fairly simple dishes – in quotation marks, of course – many of them are also suitable for those with food allergies. I think we are unique in this in Budapest and we are getting more and more positive feedback from people about it. Many of our tapas would even suit a paleo diet, but that’s not us boasting, it’s just how they are. We offer traditional, simple Spanish food, which gives a great deal of freedom to people whose food allergies make their lives difficult,” says Vilmos Losits.
Butterfish steaks and pan-fried duck fly out of the Pata Negra kitchen, along with your other favourites. You can find the almost complete menu of the Pest and Buda outlets available with food-delivery couriers NetPincér and Wolt, and even your favourite tapas are prepared for takeaway, 15 per cent cheaper. To evoke the relaxed nature of the Spanish tapas bars at home, you can get their Spanish wines at a discount with dinner, and beer drinkers can order draught San Miguel.
And third Pata Negra isn't even Pata Negra?
“Our traditional charcoal-heated Spanish oven is not a straightforward baking process – the Asador is a guarantee of quality,” say the owners of the third Pata Negra restaurant, which combines state-of-the-art kitchen technology with the centuries-old tradition of Spanish grilling. Behind the former Ballet Institute, El Asador de Pata Negra offers not tapas, but a Spanish culinary tradition little-known in Hungary: a charcoal-fired Spanish oven prepares premium-quality meat and fish dishes. El Asador de Pata Negra has temporarily closed its doors, the silence of the temporary quarantine in stark contrast to the lively Spanish wine dinners held here every month, which many of us look forward to. However, you don’t have to give up on exciting Spanish dinners for the time being, you can still order an aromatic, colourful Mediterranean delicacy from Pata Negra any time.