With no shortage of rooftop bars in Budapest this summer, the revamped Leo has reopened refreshed, with the same commanding vantage point overlooking the Chain Bridge, the Danube and the Pest cityscape.
From its eyrie atop the Hotel Clark, Leo has seen other rooftop bars open and prosper across the city over the last month or so while it has been preparing for the season. A recent change of ownership has not been limited to the in-house restaurant below, first the Beef Bar, then Kiosk Buda, but at Leo, too, where Péter Gábriel is now responsible for the restaurant and the panoramic bar, overhauling the concept. While the restaurant transformation remains under wraps, Leo has just reopened for all to see.
The crew has been completely replaced, from hostesses to waiters and kitchen staff to the chief operating officer, new people are responsible for making the holy trinity of eating, drinking and fun go smoothly while you take in the view. Although Leo has always been primarily a bar, you used to be able to order food from the kitchen below. Now the focus is on drinks, you can ask for simple but high-quality bar food alongside a variety of exciting cocktails and premium spirits. The exterior of the Leo has also changed, the biggest novelty being a new roof, so it will be open not only in summer and autumn, but even on cold winter days.
The covering doesn’t take anything away from the view, the 360-degree panorama is preserved, but even in summer, it’s handy to admire Parliament or Buda Castle out of the burning sun.
The drinks list appears to be pretty flawless – it seems they have taken their main task very seriously, that of superb drinks rather than just offer a view and leave it at that. Manager Gábor Dreghiciu worked at Boutiq’Bar for five years, and the other members of his former team have followed him here, so you can expect expert mixology. The selection lists distillates, wines and bubbles, with a seven-item, special summer range of G&Ts. And, if you fancy any other cocktail, they can mix pretty much anything from a classic Manhattan to new-wave combination. For something more sour, bitter, sweeter or even fruitier, place your trust in your bartender.
The introductory bar-food menu was also compiled in this spirit: prime ingredients and craft are key, but the food should support the drinks, not dominate. Two soups, four appetisers, three mains, side dishes, sauces and two desserts are available for the time being, so you can order a bite to go with a G&T (3,050-4,450 HUF) the size of a small aquarium. Among the appetisers, the Caesar salad (2,900 HUF) has not been reinvented as it so often elsewhere. A thick, crispy romaine lettuce leaf with crispy bread chips, mature parmesan and a creamy anchovy topping. You can also ask for chicken or crab in it, but it is nice enough as it is unless you’re having strong drinks alongside.
The miniburgers (3,900 HUF) haven’t been reconfigured either, three buns filled with Angus beef patties and homemade spicy mayonnaise, making them an easy choice with drinks as half-a-dozen vegetables don’t fall while you’re eating them. They come with fried potatoes, but you’re just after a snack, try the homemade sweet potato, crunchy on the outside, creamy within (2,150 HUF), with a homemade sauce for dipping.
Fresh homemade pappardelle pasta butterflies (3,900 HUF) are tossed in a creamy, buttered sauce, cherry tomatoes and greens, but you can also order succulent Angus bites or shrimp (each 4,900 HUF). You’ll have to sit down to tuck into those because they’re beyond simple bar food, but go well with a glass of prosecco.
The desserts are very good indeed, cheesecake (2,200 HUF) with chocolate crumbs and mango mousse is a light, refreshing choice, while the sticky, almost lava-baked brownie (1,900 HUF) crowned with lemon sorbet is a real big hitter, a tempting treat.
Leo is certainly not the place to get the cheapest Aperol or the most hulking burger in town, but that’s not why you’re here. The elegant, light surroundings, the lavish view, the friendly service, the professional team at the bar and exclusive experience of overlooking the city deliver exactly what their slogan promises – you’ll feel like royalty.
District I. Clark Ádám tér 1