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If you agree that the best way to explore a foreign culture is through food, read on! Atlas Obscura has a perfect reason for you to visit Budapest.
Ever toasted with pálinka and tucked into chicken paprikash in a Hungarian home? Hungry for Hungary offers this experience.
We've got you covered with the go-to spots to ease those post-night-out munchies.
Let's begin with the view: the massive windows offer the perfect angle to soak in the winter scene and watch skaters on the ice rink, framed by the Vajdahunyad Castle. As you sip your drink, don't miss the gigantic white and red striped balloon floating up and down, providing an aerial tour. It is all truly romantic and welcoming, not to mention that stepping inside feels like a journey back in time to the glamorous days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Winter on ice, summer on the lake
Városliget Café & Restaurant might be a longstanding establishment but recently it got a facelift: now, it awaits guests with a magical wintery scene mixed with lakehouse vibes. The result is a gorgeous, inviting, and homely atmosphere, you shouldn't miss.
Stepping inside, you are greeted by a friendly staff, and the wintery decorations instantly make you feel at home. The grand hall spotlights winter sports, adorned with colourful sleighs, vintage skates, ski boards, and nostalgic photos in every corner. As you admire photos, you can relive long-gone moments of the ice rink, where winter sports have been ruling the roost for 125 years.
The Törley Hall invites you into a fairyland, where water plants, water lilies, willows, and even a boat (turned into a table) evoke enchanted vibes.
The space is gorgeous on its own, but the real showstopper is the panorama. Through the massive windows, you can catch stunning views of the ice rink (transformed boating lake in the summer), Vajdahunyad Castle, and the floating balloon. So, if you are in search of an ideal spot for a date, take a mental note: Városliget Café is the place to make a booking. However, the restaurant is equally accommodating for families: if you're on vacation with the kids, don't hesitate to ask for the children's menu.
Rediscovering the cuisine of the Habsburg era with a modern twist
The atmosphere of the turn of the century is defined not only by the bourgeois vibes but also by gastronomy. Chef József Dobosy, honing his expertise in Germany and Asia, crafts classic Hungarian dishes and the most beloved meals of the Carpathian basin. Sometimes, it means a full-on traditional approach, while other times, he introduces a modern touch.
'Our recipes draw inspiration from period cookbooks and the culinary wisdom of seasoned cooks, harmonizing these with the expertise and innovations of our master chef,' shares the Eventrend Group, the driving force behind Városliget Café & Restaurant for the past decade.
Taste the favourite dishes of the Austro-Hungarian emperor
History and tradition come to life through sumptuous and luxurious meals. For starters, we indulged in a duck liver paté, prepared by confiting in duck fat, enriched with cream, and served with fresh vegetables and hot toast on a special boat-shaped wooden plate. We couldn't resist the splendid salmon tartare either, enhanced with avocado for an even fresher and more visually stunning experience.
If you're in the mood for a hearty Hungarian soup, the veal goulash is a must-try. Another speciality is the so-called 'tafelspitz' – a highly recommended choice for meat lovers.
'This noble dish, originating from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, owes its initial popularity to Emperor Franz Joseph I, who considered it his favourite. Soon, it spread throughout the entire empire, becoming a cherished dish in both aristocratic and bourgeois kitchens, and eventually capturing the hearts of the Hungarian people. A true gastronomic classic, it is exclusively crafted from excellent Hungarian ingredients and served with additional soup garnishes and side dishes,' we learned about the history and preparation of this iconic dish.
The dish unfolds in two courses. In the first course, a hearty beef soup is elegantly presented in a pot, accompanied by boiled vegetables, dumplings, and a flavourful marrow bone. Served with hot toast and garlic, it sets the stage for the second course, showcasing tender beef brisket paired with sautéed potatoes, apple horseradish, and a sour cherry or creamed spinach sauce. As a final touch, the dish is presented in a classic copper pot, complemented by an almost antique table warmer. If nothing else, this is sure to transport us back to the happy times of yore – it's definitely worth a try!
Ox cheek, roasted lamb, and bites arriving on a sleigh
Continuing with the mains, we can't recommend the ox cheek enough, presented in a creamy vegetable sauce alongside bread dumplings. We also savoured the slowly roasted lamb, elegantly served on a plate surrounded by an assortment of pan-fried vegetables.
Of course, you can also choose from classic options such as Jókai-style bean soup with smoked ham and sausage, chicken paprikash, or Wiener Schnitzel. And if you're a vegetarian or vegan, worry not—there's a delightful selection awaiting you. Indulge in options like the vegan steamed vegetable rolls, accompanied by saffron sauce and wild rice, a personal favourite of ours.
Perusing the menu, you'll notice the 'Anytime' category, featuring dishes ideal for breakfast, elevensies, or a light dinner. Consider indulging in the Hungarian 'gomolya' cheese with roasted vegetables and sunchokes purée—a not-too-heavy but incredibly flavorful choice.
For a real treat, don't miss out on the Hungarian meat selection. It's not only the perfect sharing plate for larger groups but is also served on a sleigh—a delightful seasonal touch. Act quickly, though, as this special dish is available for order during the holidays.
Liget coffee and amazing desserts
Sweet tooth will be delighted to learn that desserts are not only pretty but also downright delicious. Whether you prefer classics like Sacher cake and Somlói dumplings or lean towards more modern delights, the choice is yours.
We opted for the latter and were totally blown away by the pistachio white chocolate cake, the café's signature dessert, elegantly served with a scoop of raspberry ice cream. Additionally, the tonka bean cranberry mousse and the mandarin tartelette with poppy seed, both visually stunning, also added to our delightful experience.
As the restaurant doubles as a café, you can expect brilliant coffee options. Choose from three different beans, all freshly roasted on-site.
The signature drink, known as Liget Coffee, is served just as it was at the turn of the century—with homemade whipped cream and a small chocolate cookie.
When it comes to drinks, the lemonades steal the spotlight, available in various flavors like cinnamon-apple or pumpkin-cardamom. If you're in a celebratory mood, we highly recommend the Városliget spritzer. Don't forget to explore the diverse selection of craft beer, wine, and champagne.
So, if you're yearning for a nostalgic yet homely atmosphere, coupled with amazing food and breathtaking views, be sure to put Városliget Café & Restaurant at the top of your Budapest bucket list!
Városliget Café & Restaurant