Stuffed pigs trotters? Starchy dumplings? Goulash? Forget the Hungarian food stereotypes, these days Budapest hosts a dining culture that’s as lively as it is urbane. It helps that the country’s native ingredients are exquisite to start with: from foie gras to mangalitsa pork to, yes, paprika, Hungary’s natural bounty is being put to delicious use. For those after a high-end and unforgettable dining experience, it’s hard to do better than these 11 top restaurants in Budapest. From the baroque Gundel to the inventive Olimpia Etterem and the Michelin-starred Borkonyha, you’ll be wonderfully well fed – whether you choose to sup on goulash or not.
To get started on your epicurean adventures in Budapest, you don’t even need to leave the Corinthia: the hotel’s Bock Bisztró has much to tempt the visiting gourmand. Having earned the Michelin Guide’s coveted Bib Gourmand designation three years in a row, the food is high-end and yet playful; Hungarian ingredients and flavours are presented in tapas form. On the menu, foie gras ‘sushi’ rubs shoulders with porcini veal knuckle, while the wine list is ranked among the city’s best.
Run by Hungarian chef-couple Szabina Szulló and Tamás Széll, Onyx is another of only a handful of Michelin-anointed Budapest eateries. Amid a gloriously over-the-top neo-baroque interior, diners sample locally sourced fare – the Hungarian Evolution Menu, which puts special emphasis on native dishes, is an especially good introduction to the cuisine.
In 2010, Costes was awarded a Michelin star – the first restaurant in all of Hungary to earn the accolade. Five years later and this chic, savvy restaurant is better than ever. Its exemplary fare is best sampled in one of its prix fixe menus, which range from four to seven courses. For a real treat, opt for the wine pairings, which emphasise exceptional local vintages.
Even if you don’t speak Hungarian, ‘Borkonyha’ is a phrase you should master – it translates to ‘wine kitchen,’ after all. Though the restaurant’s French-influenced fare is certainly exceptional, the region’s wines form the heart of its mission statement: with a menu of local bottles stretching 200 deep and with 48 wines by the glass, it’d be a serious misstep not to indulge.
Within Budapest’s trendy district VII, Olimpia Etterem serves its inventive, avant-garde fare to the city’s plugged-in set. While the attractive dishes look thoroughly contemporary, they’re rooted in a philosophy of slow cooking – dishes like marinated lamb ribs with pumpkin and chicken roulade with radishes and sesame crisps are as comforting as they are photogenic.
When it comes to décor, Vintage Garden does exactly what it says on the tin: thanks to its rustic furnishings, its striped shirt-clad waitstaff, its Mason jar cocktails and its selfie-worthy flower wall, the restaurant looks like a Pinterest page come to life. But its appeal goes more than just skin-deep. Thanks to its menu of French-tinged dishes, from rosy duck breast to grilled goat cheese with a summery salad, this garden is also welcoming to gourmands.
Named after its Italian-born owner, Fausto Di Vora, Fausto’s Ristorante has long been a haute cuisine luminary on the Budapest dining scene. Here, the angle is Italian, though those Mediterranean flavours are interwoven with local tastes as well in dishes like duck breast with eggplant cream, octopus carpaccio with kohlrabi, and veal fillet with foie gras in puff pastry.
Awarded its first Michelin star in March, Tanti is the newest – and only the fourth – restaurant to join this glittering club in Budapest. Unlike the decorative schemes of many of the top restaurants in Budapest, which skew towards either the lavishly continental or the rustic and homely, Tanti’s high ceilings and wide windows make it a bright and lively affair; that energy extends to its colourful and captivating menu.
Gundel can rightly be considered the grand dame of the top restaurants in Budapest, and the experience here is as traditional and refined as they come. The restaurant was originally opened in 1910, and has served guests ranging from Archduke Otto of Austria to Angelina Jolie. Not much has changed in the ensuing years: if you’re seeking a restaurant where you can dine like a Hapsburg, this is certainly the address.
The charming, idiosyncratic and family-owned Zeller Bistro is situated within a brick cellar. Don’t let that description turn you astray, though: illuminated by candles and warmly guided by staff, the space is nothing but inviting. Rest assured that the Hungarian staples on offer here, including the near-ubiquitous chicken paprikash, are some of the best renditions in town.
Managed by a father-and-son team, Csalogány 26 wears the guise of an unpretentious bistro, but make no mistake: some serious cooking happens here. Located within steps of Buda Castle, across the Danube from bustling Pest, it summons even the most provincial of locals to the other side of the city with dishes like roasted suckling pork served with sour cream.
Image credits: Olimpia Etterem 1 & 2 © Olimpia Etterem, Onyx 1 © Onyx, Zeller Bistro 1 © Zeller Bistro