Part of the fun of being a tourist is being able to get lost in the novelty of things. As a tourist, you're usually up for something different, especially if you get to come away with an interesting story to tell. To me, these two spots in Budapest had that element of fun - afterall, how often do you get to sample cakes from a 153 year old establishment or have a food tower come to your table?
Vorosmarty Ter 7, Hungary
I had read about this iconic cafe on the train-ride to Budapest. Expecting a tiny shop tucked away in a little corner, I was completely blown away by the sheer size of the actual Gerbeaud Cafe. Perhaps it's the Malaysian in me that automatically associates anyhing old and famous with something tiny and tucked away. The strategically located cafe is all elegance with its ornate chandeliers and old-school charm but it wasn't the beautiful interior that caught our eye, it was the large "50% off with the purchase of 5 slices of cake" sign that immediately got our attention. We picked out our slices of cake, hopped on our bicycles and rode carefully back to the hostel with our precious cargo.
The display counters are full of pretty, yummy looking desserts that aren't cheap so the 50% off promotion really helped keep our cake shopping within the student budget. Not quite knowing which cakes to go for, we picked the ones that had the most interesting names and came away with a variety of cakes including the famous Dobos and Esterhazy Tortes. My favourite, though, was a lemon basil slice that I thought was absolutely divine even if my holiday pals didn't share the same sentiment. I don't often come across basil in desserts but I'm a convert - I thought the herb lent a lovely flavour to the otherwise common dessert.
I have to admit that while the cakes were well-made and quite delicious, they didn't quite live up to our expectations but I suppose that's that thing about expectations - it's always nicer to go unprepared and be pleasantly surprised. Still, it's a must-visit for every tourist - it's not often one gets to enjoy a taste of traditional opulence and in a place that has seen the likes of Franz Liszt, no less.
Vaci utca 67., Budapest 1056,Hungary
We had walked passed the restaurant many, many times on our way out of the little lane that our hostel was located on but it wasn't until we saw a huge platter of food being delivered to one of the tables that we thought it might be worth a visit. It was our last night in Budapest and we wanted something quick but memorable before we set on on our cruise down the Danube.
Vetrece soup - cream of chicken with tarragon, served in a crusty bread roll. As you can probably gather from the picture, the bread roll isn't really a bread roll at all but more like a loaf of bread. I love the use of herbs in soups in this part of the world and this soup was no different - the clever use of tarragon cut through the richness of it.
The Fatal platter - for the child in all of us. Made up mostly of sinful, indulgent, deep fried chicken, potatoes and mushrooms, this isn't for the faint-hearted and definitely not to be tackled alone. The greasiness of it all gets to you after awhile but it still doesn't stop if from being a "wow" worthy, fun platter to share between friends. We saw couples trying to tame the beast of a platter, envying their skill and stomach capacity - we struggled between the four of us and were ultimately defeated by the mountain of potatoes.
The restaurant isn't all about their humongous portions (though I can imagine that to be part of the attraction), they serve up some nice traditional Hungarian dishes as well. The key is just to share, share, share.