Whether you’ve spent the day exploring the famous castle and Fisherman’s Bastion or simply want to get a taste of Buda, the quieter, more upmarket District I of Budapest has plenty of outstanding dining options to try…
Restaurant, Contemporary, $$$
Halászbástya Étterem, Budapest
It would be remiss of us to start this list with any other restaurant than the Fisherman’s Bastion Restaurant – which is what its title means in Hungarian. It comes with a high price tag, but, along with the high quality, meals are served alongside perhaps the best view for dining in all of Budapest; it’s hard to not feel it isn’t worth it. And since it is literally on the site of popular tourist destination Fisherman’s Bastion, it’s an easy choice to opt for.
Overlooked by the grand green copper dome of Buda Castle, the Várkert – or Castle Garden – makes for a lovely stroll in the evening. Bárkert is a high-walled, high-windowed swanky but unpretentious bistro attached to these gardens. The surrounding area is mostly pedestrianised and has very little traffic, which is handy since the terrace of Bárkert means its blend of international and Hungarian cuisines can be enjoyed in the sun without disruption.
If you’re interested in eating Hungarian while exploring District I, then 21 is certainly one of the better options to pick from. It’s popular because of its authentic menu with truly traditional tastes yet still manages to prepare these otherwise heavy, starchy dishes with healthier, more modern methods. The aesthetic of the restaurant follows suit too, so it’s certainly one to add to the list for a day in Budapest.
If you don’t mind a little bit of the ostentatious with your dining then Vár: A Spiez might be a good place to stop off while exploring the Castle District. It’s humbly decorated and hidden away from the noise of the world, though there is a lot of arguably unnecessary artistry to its creations. While it spends a lot of time on the presentation of its dishes, this bistro’s contemporary take on delicious Hungarian food means you won’t need to suffer the traditional cuisine’s knack for large portions of excessive meat.
For something a little more homely, however, there’s Marvelosa. It has it all, really, a grand location near Chain Bridge, chic decor and seating, well-made and traditional Hungarian dishes. But what’s most interesting is how much heart this place has, still owned and run by the same family that opened it in 2011, even the paintings on the wall were created by someone in the family. You can’t get more homey than that.
There’s a lot of prestige to Fáma, one of Budapest’s newest fine dining restaurants. A lot of this falls on the shoulders of Krisztián Huszár, a renowned Hungarian chef who uses his travels in Asia to inspire his menus. There’s a mix of flavours that go far beyond the typical Hungarian fusion, which makes it one of the more fascinating places to eat in District I. The interior decoration isn’t one to sniff at either, elegant and trendy but equally simple and restrained. It may be new, but it’s already stirring up a buzz, with many claiming it to be Budapest’s next Michelin-star restaurant.
A Michelin star doesn’t have to mean stuffy waiters and showy dishes, and that’s something Csalogány 26 proves spectacularly. Its food is simple yet elegant in a setting that is equally so. It’s particularly worth trying the tasting menu with wine to really experience everything the restaurant can provide, especially since it stocks some often hidden Hungarian winemakers in its stores.
With three menus to choose from – Evolution, Inspiration and Tradition – the menu at this quaint restaurant in the Castle District is one of the more interesting thanks to their different styles. Alabárdos aims to present a taste of Hungary from before the arrival of paprika, utilising the likes of saffron, ginger and simple pepper – but presented with a modern spin. It’s an elegant set of dishes, made all the more inviting thanks to its outdoor seating in a quaint side street.
With the master chef of Marc Meneau – winner of two Michelin stars – in charge of this place, you can be sure any of its menu items will be prepared with perfection. But even more alluring than Pavillon de Paris’s Hungarian-French cuisine is its location, creating a sense of a secret garden, near the Danube but hidden away in a delicately draped courtyard and sheltered from the world.
With its history as the first cafe to open to those on the Buda side, Dérnyé has a lot to live up to. But boy does it manage it. A loose but eclectic decor gives the interior a unique feeling; great, attentive staff; and a selection of dishes that is at once varied and intricately put together. Many would rather visit here at lunch, but with a special menu for breakfast up until 11:30 it may be worth considering two visits while staying in Budapest.