Embrace the Middle Eastern tradition of communal dining right in the heart of Budapest: gather and share plates at Goli! The menu is a breath of fresh air, focusing on exciting, innovative dishes rarely seen in Budapest. Here is why you should book a table.

Opened last December, Goli brings a fresh take on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine in downtown Budapest. Leading the charge is Tel Aviv's vegan culinary sensation, Harel Zakaim, who now calls Budapest home as Goli's head chef. The brainchild of Petra Saás and Péter Tausz, catering veterans known for their successful salad bar Fruccola (sadly closed due to the pandemic), Goli represents their pivot within the industry. Their vision? A cosy, welcoming atmosphere similar to a lively house party, offering delicious Mediterranean flavours. Enter Harel Zakaim, whose own restaurants, including a pioneering vegan eatery and a critically acclaimed shawarma shop, also had fallen victim to the pandemic.

Harel opened one of Tel Aviv's first vegan restaurants in 2012, followed by a renowned vegan shawarma shop that garnered international attention, even attracting celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. With his dreams placed on hold due to the pandemic, his paths crossed with Petra's and Péter's at the perfect moment.

Though initially seeking a consultant, their connection with Harel was undeniable. Which led to him moving to Budapest to become Goli's chef. Goli, named after the building's history (formerly the Goldberger Textile Factory), occupies the former Fruccola space on Arany János utca. Goli has emerged from its test run and is now welcoming diners! With a menu that promises exciting flavours, it's definitely worth a visit.

The open kitchen takes centre stage, showcasing Harel's team grilling vegetables and meat over charcoal. This ancient technique finds a modern twist with high-tech equipment. Thankfully, Goli's impressive open kitchen antics with mountains of charcoal and fancy fumes don't translate to lingering lunch odours on your clothes. A win for everyone, especially those who (like the owners) don't fancy smelling like their delicious meal. The atmosphere evokes a friend's living room. Ingredients, drinks, and plants adorn a wide counter, creating a welcoming space. While waiting for food, diners can admire the playful graphics by Dani Labrosse depicting Leó Goldberger's life on the walls. The laid-back interior design is credited to 81 Font Architects and Péter Szendrő.

The menu at Goli is a breath of fresh air. Gone are the expectations of typical Israeli and Middle Eastern fare. 

Sure, you'll find familiar touches like labneh and tahina, but the focus here is on exciting, innovative dishes rarely seen in Budapest. This isn't a rehash of classics; it's a new culinary adventure.

The commitment to originality extends to the beverage selection. Forget lengthy lists – Goli offers a curated selection of signature cocktails, each evoking the vibrant spirit of a Tel Aviv rooftop terrace.

Goli embraces the Middle Eastern tradition of communal dining, encouraging guests to gather and share plates. Embracing this spirit, we began with a selection of appetizers. Hoping for a mix of warm pita, sourdough, and fresh bread, we received a delightful spread: 10-year-old labneh with house-made zahtar, flat potatoes, charred eggplant, and mandolina chips. If the abundance of vegetables caught your eye, you're onto something! While Goli offers bread and meat options, the remaining dishes cater to vegan and gluten-free dietary needs.

Harel believes in the taste of vegetables and that a good vegetable doesn't need to be seasoned, it just needs salt, pepper, and the right technique to bring out its essence.

The labneh – one of the creamiest, most delicious we've ever tasted – is made from soya, not dairy, of course. The '10-year-old' refers to the age of the recipe, hinting at its perfected flavour.

The rainbow chili plate, named 'All the Joy in the World in one Spicy Plate', holds five types of hot peppers in different shapes, grilled, diced raw, and creamed. The chilis themselves might be a bit strong on their own, but they're the perfect way to add a touch of heat and play with the flavours on your plate. Don't be shy about sprinkling them on everything!

The grilled potatoes are perfect – boiled potatoes with tzatziki, scooped out on the grill, are suitably neutral and cool to heat up with a little chili cream, and if you're looking for a side dish, they're also a great choice to go with the meats on the menu.

The first bite of the charcoaled eggplant is an instant journey. The intoxicating aroma transports you to the heart of an Arabic kitchen or a Transylvanian vinete-making session. The smoky char takes centre stage, perfectly complemented by the rich nuttiness of the tahini and the creamy indulgence of the matbucha. This isn't your average tomato salad; it's a simmered-for-hours sauce, a symphony of warmth and spice that we like to call the heart of the dish.

The clear winner of this appetizer round was the beet charcoals with mandolina. Imagine paper-thin beetroot slices, their edges kissed by the charcoal flame, begging to be dipped in the accompanying dollop of creamy horseradish labneh. This dish is a revelation for both beetroot enthusiasts and sceptics. The simplicity is ingenious – a testament to the power of fresh ingredients and expert preparation. 

Here's a fun fact: the horseradish garnish isn't just a random pairing. It's a nod to Central European tradition, where horseradish is often served with beetroot. But in Goli's hands, it takes on a new purpose, perfectly complementing the subtle saltiness of the charred beetroot.

For the main course, we opted for the vegan shawarma with oyster mushrooms. While not the Tel Aviv sensation that first brought Harel acclaim, this dish showcases his expertise in coaxing incredible flavours from these versatile fungi. The shawarma itself is a masterpiece – a symphony of textures and sauces, so delicious it's hard to imagine sharing.

Rounding out the vegan options, we dove into the freekeh salad. This dish is a captivating journey through Israel on a plate. Bursting with fresh parsley, vibrant pomegranate, smoky burnt lemon, and a creamy mint tzatziki, it's a flavour explosion. So satisfyingly complex, it stands alone as a complete and delightful meal in itself.

For meat lovers, the lamb pita is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. Imagine succulent, crispy lamb nestled within a warm, pillowy pita. Creamy tahina adds richness, while the tangy amba glaze (a sour mango sauce) delivers a delightful contrast. A squeeze of fresh tomato finishes the dish with a burst of acidity. The veal onglet is a carnivore's dream, showcasing the true essence of the meat. Sliced to a perfect medium-rare, it arrives beautifully unadorned, allowing its natural flavours to shine.

This minimalist approach makes it the perfect pairing for any of Goli's enticing appetizers and side dishes, allowing you to customize your taste adventure.

Goli doesn't need our cheering; it's destined for greatness. From the moment you step inside, the experience is captivating. The relaxed atmosphere, friendly service, and vibrant Mediterranean vibes create a warm and inviting space. But the true star of the show is the food. Goli's dishes are a celebration of culinary simplicity, elevating fresh ingredients to new heights. Get ready for innovative takes on familiar flavours, all executed with unmatched finesse.



(Cover photo: Ladóczki Balázs - We Love Budapest)