This year’s restaurant week, the first restaurant we tried was the Zsolnay café. When we looked at the long list of restaurants, both my wife and I were curious about this place. Because we both had great memories of it, from a long time ago. Although we have walked many times since then in front of the late Béke Hotel on the boulevard (formerly Britannia Hotel, now Radisson Blu Béke Hotel) we believed that this special patisserie was closed. It was more or less true, as we learned during lunch from our excellent waitress. What we remembered was the original Zsolnay café, which was upstairs, closed in 2004. The new one, which has been moved downstairs, and which opens directly onto the street, reopened for two years. The ornate decoration of Zsolnay porcelain has been left upstairs, but the room serves now as a meeting room for events for the hotel, so we unfortunately could not check it out this time.
No problem, the current Zsolnay café is also very cozy with its modern design. When we arrived, there were only two guests, apparently having a business lunch. Since we also regularly receive foreign partners, we are always on the lookout for high-quality places to have short business lunches that are Hungarian, but not necessarily “touristy”. This place seems like a perfect choice for such an occasion as well. Arriving in the first hour fo the first day of restaurant week we were probably the first guests of this event. Our waitress seemed a little anxious at first, but her professional and warm attitude and communication made our lunch an even more enjoyable experience. On the other hand, the waiter who brought out the main course spoke to us in manner that was a little bit too “friendly” considering the quality of the place.
During Restaurant Week one can choose from 3-4 different kinds of appetizers, main courses and desserts for a fixed price. Since I don’t eat pork, my wife was kind enough to order the kind of dishes that I could taste as well. We ordered two different kind of each courses so we were able to maximize the number of flavors to try. We forgot to take a picture of the soups so I can only describe them. However, there are pictures of most of the dishes are on the announcement page of Danubius Hotels here.
Appetizer / soup
- Homestyle ham and sausage, obazda, onion jam
- Cold pumpkin soup, fried veal legs
- Goose soup, brunoise vegetables, truffle mace
I can’t write about the first of the above three, but the goose soup was delicious. Based on the description, I was expecting a special soup. Instead, I got a very decent broth. Temperature, fatness, harmony of flavors, hardness of mace dumplings: every point was as it should be. It may be my fault but I didn’t really feel the goose in it, but it was all so good that it didn’t even bother me. There is one ingredient that can drive me out of the world: dill. Since the pumpkin soup was decorated with this, I couldn’t even try it. Judging by my wife’s expression, however, it was also hit. The fried veal leg was served on a separate plate so it didn’t bother my phobia and I bit into it. It melted surprisingly softly under my tongue.
- Beetroot risotto with Thai curry sauce and grilled tiger prawns
- Rusty beef muzzle, root vegetables, dumplings fried in a panko
- Cabbage stew with lentil-meatballs
The best dish of the lunch was clearly the beetroot risotto. It was the most surprising new flavor combination for us and a hit. The curry sauce and tiger prawns were ok as well, but the risotto stood out from the field. The beef muzzle also melt in my mouth, just as it supposed to, and the vegetables accentuated the good quality of the meat. The truth is, I usually avoid panko because I don’t think it’s good-tasting or healthy. Here it went fine with the other delicacies. However, it will still not be my favorite. I have to add that I usually consume fried things less than most Hungarians, so maybe I’m not my target audience.
- Yellow cake (lactose free, no added wheat flour, no sugar)
- Crumble, homemade strawberry jam
- Tapioca pudding with peach marrow
Yellow cake in my mind is not just a simple dish but also somehow associated with cheapness. As we were eating in an upscale place I didn’t want to eat one, although I like a good one. Maybe I should have chosen it though the because tapioca pudding wasn’t as good as the other dishes. As the picture shows it was beautiful. But the taste was a little rough and the sweet peach marrow could not suppress its roughness enough either. I usually like green, slightly unnatural colored sweets but here even that couldn’t elevate the effect. The crumble, on the other hand, made it up for both of us. By this time we were starting to get full and it was a rnics size portion, deliciously warm, with lots of superb jam. It was a worthy closing of our lunch.
Overall, our restaurant week got off to a great start: we ate well at a reasonable price, in an old-new location, in a pleasant environment with professional service. I can only recommend the place. Of course there are a things or two that can still be approved, but that’s the case everywhere.
P.s. on the way out, two sweets at the cafe’s counter seemed remarkable; hopefully will try those next time. On a small plate there were three small cubes of three different traditional sweets. This is a good introduction to the world of Eszterházy-Dobos-Zserbó for foreigners, and not a bad choice for Hungarians either. The other was the serving of Somló dumplings: 4-5 glass bowls placed on top of each other formed a cone; each consisting one of many ingredients of this great dessert. Both seem very tempting to us.