Stepping into this cool, spacious boutique in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter, you soon forget all about excessively sweet goodies in gaudy presentation boxes. Charisma is the real deal, where handmade Syrian baklava, dried fruit and nougat made from additive-free ingredients are displayed in enticing rows. The gentle aroma here isn’t sickly or sugary but rose water, a scented introduction to Charisma's premium approach.
Syrian Albiek Hikmat lived in Dubai for many years, then decided to move with his wife and young son to Budapest. This year, they opened their store Charisma, selling sweet treats made in Turkey by Syrian hands, using Syrian recipes and Turkish ingredients with no additives.
Albiek explains how these confections stand out from their surrounding Levantine counterparts because they are less sweet, which is why the taste of toasted seeds, dried fruit or dates can be perceived more easily. They are made more stimulating with a little rose water or cardamom so, instead of sticky syrup, you can expect crunchy, even soft, diverse textures.
On the pretty counter, fragrant and colourful sweets are lined up next to each other in boxes like little jewels. You can try a total of nine types of baklava, each completely different from the other in appearance which, due to their size, should be eaten more like bonbons. Most are made with toasted pistachios, but there are also walnut and almond versions, wrapped in crunchy dough. A small 100-gramme box of pistachio mabruma is 2,900 forints, 250 grammes/7,900 forints.
In addition, you can sample several types of nut
and almond cakes, for example, barazek (100 grammes/HUF 1,890), and also
delicious dried fruit (dried peaches, 100 grammes/HUF 750), nougat (nougat rose,
100 grammes/HUF 1,490) and marzipan (pistachio, 100 grammes/HUF 1,290), which
look like mini bouquets of flowers due to their decorative appearance.
The pretty bonbons (dried peach, 100 grammes/HUF 1,590) would make a lovely present. Look out, too for the crunchy salted and smoked seeds, such as toasted cashew nuts (100 grammes/HUF 1,390).
Charisma sweets are definitely in the premium category, but an elegant gift box – choose from the ready-made versions on offer – can make a perfect gift for birthdays or anniversaries.