Borssó Bistro, Budapest

9 03 2011

Just as soon as I’d snapped the photos of the lángos we ate for lunch on our first full day in Budapest, Nick noted that my camera was flashing a low battery warning.  D’oh!  I took no more pictures for the rest of the day, and I left my camera in the hotel the next day.*  But the day after that, we woke up to see Budapest covered in a light dusting of snow, with a few tiny flakes fluttering through the air.  We had already planned to warm ourselves up in the sauna before heading out, and the weather only confirmed our decision.  Once we were warmed through, showered, and bundled up, we set out to explore Budapest’s answer to Père Lachaise: Kerepesi Temetó.  (That o is supposed to have two accents, but I can’t figure out how to make my keyboard type that.)

Gravestone with ivy

The cemetery was especially silent and still with the snow falling gently on the graves.  I was surprised at how far apart the plots were spaced, and at the sheer size of some of the monuments.  The biggest ones belonged to people who had streets or metro stops named after them, but beyond that, the names were unfamiliar.  I was also taken with how organic this cemetery felt.  Many of the graves had live plants incorporated into their design, and the trees, though bare, were plentiful.  I can only imagine this place in the summer – I’m sure there are flowers blooming everywhere.

We wandered through the cemetery for about an hour, enough time to chill us down to the bone.  A big, leisurely lunch was in order.  Borssó Bistro sounded like the right place for such a lunch.  Listed as “Hungarian with a hint of French influence” by our French guidebook, and as “French” by the restaurant guide I picked up at the Tourist information desk at the airport, we took a look at the menu and decided the former description was probably more accurate.

We sat down in the cozy, warm restaurant and noted the décor – it was  interesting to see the Hungarian interpretation of a French bistro, complete with tiled bar (where’s the zinc?), chalkboard menus (they got that one right), and faux-parquet floor.  I thought I might have had enough foie gras for one weekend, so I started with the paprika cream soup.

Paprika cream soup, Borssó Bistro

The bright color and mildly spicy flavor were immensely cheerful, and the roulade of roasted eggplant strips around a center of fresh goat cheese made this soup a substantial appetizer, perfect for warming a cold, hungry traveler like myself.

Speaking of substantial appetizers, Nick got what is probably the best preparation of foie gras I have ever seen:

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Central Market Hall, Budapest

2 03 2011

I could have entitled this post “Központi Vásárcsarnok,” but I was afraid that might have been a little off-putting.  To quote from my phrasebook, “Hungarian, or Magyar, is distantly related to Finnish and Estonian, but is utterly unlike the languages of the other main linguistic groups of Europe.”  No kidding.  What that means in real life is that if your main language experiences have been with, say, Romance or Germanic languages, none of the words in Hungarian will look even remotely familiar.  Which made the long weekend Nick and I recently spent in Budapest something of an adventure.

Budapest's Central Market Hall

Budapest was once two towns, Buda on the hilly West bank of the Danube River, and Pest on the flat East side.  We stayed in Pest, in the Józsefváros neighborhood, which seemed to have a pretty good dining scene as well as plenty of cool bars for later on.  There was a bit of trouble with the hotel we had originally booked, but since it resulted in a free upgrade to the Hotel Palazzo Zichy, we weren’t complaining.  The first night we dined in a nearby restaurant, Alföldi Kisvendéglö, which served inexpensive, old-school Hungarian classics like paprikás csirke (chicken paprikash – chicken braised in a paprika-laced gravy) and töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage).  The food was hearty and flavorful, though less than photogenic.  We washed it down with a bottle of Hungarian red wine, which was surprisingly good, especially considering the price – about $18 US.

Tiled market roof

The next morning, I was itching to check out the Central Market Hall, conveniently located only ten minutes’ walk from our hotel.  (I swear I didn’t plan it that way, I just got lucky.)  It’s an impressive building, with elaborate patterns in the bricks and a colorful tiled roof.  Inside, the market spans three levels.

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