Fishing is a national sport in Hungary, while southern cities Szeged and Baja are each famed for their own fish soup. But even with Lake Balaton providing an abundance of freshwater fish, too, locals often prefer the frozen sea variety – if they bother to go for fish at all. Low consumption is the norm. Now newly opened shop/bistro Halkakas is addressing that issue, serving healthy, delicious fare that can also be prepared in any number of ways.

Showcasing piscine culture in Budapest, the Halkakas fish bistro has been transposed from Dohány utca in Pest to open up on the Buda side along busy Margit körút. Here, it also operates as fishmongers, selling a varied local selection, with catfish the focus.

Margit körút and its surroundings are tipped to become a more vibrant quarter for dining and culture. Check out our most recent article about this soon-to-be trendy boulevard of Buda.

Owner Zsuzsanna Lévai has not closed her other outlet in Dohány utca, which still functions as a restaurant, in the tourist hub of District VII. Zsuzsi realised she missed the sense of community she had found at her first, smaller, venue on Veres Pálné utca, where locals could pop in for a chat.

Her new business on Margit körút is divided to two parts. In the fish shop, open from 9am, you can buy salads made from fresh local fish, special pâtés and seasoned, pre-cooked, sous-vide fish slices, which only take a few minutes to cook at home.

In the bistro, you can tuck into street food such as fish burgers, catfish quesadillas or, a personal favourite, catfish kebabs. Each costs 2,150 forints.

Vegetarians can go for a courgette burger with chickpeas (HUF 1,850) or tortilla with grilled vegetables (HUF 1,750). While the outlet on Dohány utca encourages sit-in dining because of the nature of the bistro, this new place focuses on street food. Seating is available – but on the hoof is more the norm. Catfish kebabs are ideally suited.

There is an option for fine dining take away as well, such as the Brasov-style catfish steak with beetroot, grilled catfish fillets and grilled trout. Quesadillas may be a bit messier but the tortilla base can be ordered gluten-free. Bolognese is also made from catfish, but they use smaller pieces than in the Mexican version. Drinks include homemade cordials and juices.

At Halkakas, only locally sourced fish is used, mainly catfish, for practical reasons, too. Its flavours do not dominate and anything can be made from it. Therefore, if you don’t like strong fish flavours, you can still find something to your liking. And in cosy surroundings, too.