Lunch at the Central Cafe was something special. The cafe opened originially in 1887 and was one of the grand old cafe houses Budapest was so well known for. It was a famous haven for artists and writers, so much so that a 1920s Hungarian newspaper sarcastically wrote, “There are so many real and fake writers in Cafe Centrál that Mészáros has started to build a new gallery – closer to Olympus – for them.”
Despite being an institution rich with history, it was shut down in 1949 when lands and properties were nationalized. Fortunately, it was reopened and remodeled in 2000 and is a splendor to behold again.
I was invited to go wtih Gabor Banfalvi, owner and tour host of Taste Hungary. Gabor and his wife Carolyn know the Budapest food scene inside and out and have even written two critically acclaimed books on it.
In Gabor’s capable hands, I followed his recommendation and ordered the foie gras entree:
|Kacsamáj serpenyőben sütve barackmártással és füstölt burgonyapürével||3600.-|
|Pan-fried duck liver with apricot sauce and smoked mashed potato|
The plate came out with two huge pieces, an enormous amount of foie gras by any scale. Delicate, soft, and creamy, it was expertly prepared. Paired with a sweet and savory sauce and lightly cooked apricots/peaches, I couldn’t have imagined how well it would all harmonize. Pure perfection. (If you find yourself having foie gras in Hungary, do have it with Tokaji wine, which is also an exceptional pairing).
To top it off, the dish was served with a side of mashed potatoes…ho hum one might think, but these were the best damned mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. We asked what was in them as they had a smokey, bacony, oniony, cheesy flavor. It turns out they smoke their own salt and the amazing flavor was fully derived from this one ingredient. It was so good, I’m going to go back to the States and experiment replicating.
Espresso finished off the meal, which was one I won’t soon forget. Beautiful setting, exceptional food, and the company of someone as passionate about food as I am! It was a good day!
Centrál Kávéház és Étterem
Area: 5. district
Opening Hours: everyday from 8-24h
Jen, sounds like yet another great trip! I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve shared a few of your Budapest posts with one of my co-workers who is from Hungary. She loved your commentary and I think you may have even made her a little homesick!…in a good way, of course! Safe travels! Stacy
Long time no see! I really must get to Chicago sometime. So glad your colleague is enjoying it. Let’s catch up, would love to hear how the new gig is going!
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