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We Love Budapest’s Guest Experience series profiles Budapest hotels that invite our staff to visit at no charge, but with the understanding that we may include negative impressions in our coverage. Hotel management is not allowed to review these articles before they are posted.
Step back in time and a very different
sight would have greeted you as looked at the building which now hosts the Ritz-Carlton – namely, a massive Soviet star, indicating the presence of the Budapest Police
Headquarters, and decidedly not a
place where you were eager to spend the night.
This Neo-Classical building remained in police custody until 1997, when it was released without parole and re-opened as a luxury hotel. Interrogation rooms were replaced by sumptuous suites and a serene rooftop pool, and the spring of 2016 saw the doors officially open under then name of The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest.
As we enter the Ritz, the noisy commotion of Erzsébet tér fades away, and our eyes are drawn towards the chandelier twinkling above us. The lobby is bathed in a soft, warm light, and ironwork with Art Nouveau detailing marks the dining area straight ahead. Sensual lamps, reminiscent of the nude female form, sit demurely in the windows. Blue couches with prim golden pillows provide a quiet sitting area where guests might pick up a book on the works of Andy Warhol while they wait for the rest of their party to arrive.
A sign of the times, thick Plexiglas sheets separate us from the attendant as we check in, but there’s no loss in the quality of service by this. A pale blue key-card is the ticket to our suite, which is located on the eighth floor.
A suite at The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest
Perhaps you are accustomed to lavish excesses, to the casual opulence of upscale luxury accommodation. If, however, this is your first taste of such desirable lifestyles, then allow us to paint the picture of what awaits you in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton.
Light spills in through the windows, softened by
dusky curtains, falling onto a round table with two chairs, and a full-length
couch whose marble-topped coffee-table offers a place to set your sunglasses and handbag as
you settle in. Even a faux fireplace is installed to complete the façade of
a cosy home living room.
Music is playing softly from the television, a pleasant tune on repeat. Once you’re ready for this repetitive melody to cease, you turn it off with the remote only to hear it still playing from the adjacent bedroom. How’s this? Peeking around the corner, you realise you have two TVs. Of course!
The balcony stretches from living room to bedroom, with a heart-stopping view of Erzsébet tér, Budapest Eye and stately St Stephen’s Basilica beyond, bathed in summer sunlight. A cabinet to the left opens up to display the usual findings in a hotel: beer, wine, a fully-stocked mini fridge – but also souvenirs of Hungary, including a little Rubik’s Cube and a book on Hungarian cooking.
As the sun sets, the room’s atmosphere only becomes more desirable, with the golden rays of sunset making the space feel designed for a Disney princess or two.
The main bathroom (an additional toilet can be found by the entrance) has anticipated your every comfort, with slippers and a bathrobe on hand as you step out of a steamy shower or bath. In the hallway is a spacious wardrobe, where you discover a small sewing kit and box of shoe polish, should you have the need for either during your time in the city.
may be tempting to spend the whole day in such an inviting room, but we entreat
you, instead, to head to the spa, conveniently on the same floor and located
beneath a glass ceiling. Lush green plants surround the pool, whose organic shape
is complemented by a mosaic floor of blue tiles.
Male and female lockers are stocked with extra towels and bathrobes, should you have forgotten to bring either with you. The pool itself is a comfortable room temperature, and a sizeable hot tub is available when you’re ready to warm up. Just around the corner is the sauna and steam room, shockingly hot but enjoyable for the right audience.
Massages and other treatments are available in the spa centre. We enjoyed the treat of a head massage, where any residual stress from the day was entirely dissipated, and left only one thing on our minds: dinner.
The Ritz staff were eager to introduce us to
their new IPANEMA Brazilian Grill. Sitting in the comfortable terrace on
Fashion Street, dinner doubles as a night out on the town, a place to see and
be seen. We selected a dry red wine at the recommendation of our waitress, and
then opted for the Churrasco Experience, a tasting menu for a minimum of two
people, at 9,900 forints per head.
The meal began with an assortment of starters and side dishes – sweet potato puree, feijoada beans, home-cut French fries, garlic rice and grilled romaine hearts with peanut and lime, just to a name a few of the options. The beans were reminiscent of the taste of gunpowder tea, but upon asking, we were unable to divulge the secret ingredient for this flavour from the staff.
Six cocktails are available to enhance your Churrasco experience, and true meat lovers can upgrade the experience to include “free flow of premium beef". However, do be warned that it’s a lot of food – we settled on the regular experience, sticking to wine over cocktails, and left with bursting bellies nonetheless.
Churrasco is a typical South American dining experience in which waiters move around the floor with skewers, slicing meat onto customers’ plates, and the Ritz staff certainly add a flair of elegance and prestige to this culinary practice. We enjoyed the tender beef and pork the most, although the wait time between starters and meat was a little out of ratio. Luckily, the wine made up for the delay. A dessert of grilled cinnamon pineapple and spiced rum bananas was a sweet and citrusy way to end the meal, and under the spell of good food, rich wine and palatial bedding, we fell into a deep slumber.
Fashion Street a good tip
It should be noted that rooms facing Erzsébet tér are subject to the revelries of nearby nightspot Akvárium, which in a word, are loud. If nighttime noises are a factor for your comfort, perhaps request a room facing Fashion Street, instead.
Under the dawn of a new day, we retraced our steps to the dining area and sat by the window for breakfast. Coffee and sparkling water arrived quickly, followed by our choice of Eggs Benedict and avocado toast, prize of the Millennials. Both dishes were perfection: grilled goats' cheese and sliced cherry tomatoes topped the avocado toast, and the poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce of the Eggs Benedict sat upon a little salad of smoked salmon. After one coffee came another, and then two glasses of fresh orange juice, supplying a whole day’s worth of energy and nutrients for ample discovery and exploration around Budapest.
It was with a heavy heart that we bade farewell to the Ritz, allowing ourselves to linger in the lobby for final glances. We were rewarded by a small cabinet of curiosities, which a staff member explained was a tradition at the Ritz, highlighting famous persons and items from each country where the hotel is located. Here we saw signed footballs including one by famed Ferenc Puskás, as well as a bottle of Tokaji wine and of course, lots of paprika.
From attentive and friendly staff to spacious, plush and luxurious décor, the Ritz is certain to make a favourable impression from arrival to check-out. Every need has been anticipated and solved in advance, and the only thing left for the guest to do is relax and enjoy a comfortable stay.
The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest
District V. Erzsébet tér 9-10