Alabárdos Restaurant

Opened in 1964, Alabárdos is the longest-serving restaurant in the Castle Hill and an iconic fine dining establishment in Budapest. Just a stone’s throw away from the famous Matthias Church, the restaurant is located within a medieval residential home featuring original Gothic tracery and ogee curves. The dining room, which has less than a dozen tables, is startlingly impressive: they serve dishes on Herendi porcelain plates set with real silverware.

Gábor Mogyorósi, one of Hungary's leading chefs, runs Alabárdos's kitchen. He likes to revamp classic Hungarian and Central European dishes with unexpected ingredients, such as the goulash soup which he laces with foie gras. Mogyorósi is also fond of Asian ingredients, which, very subtly, appear in many plates. For example, he soaks camellia leaves in the beef consommé, or fills a spring roll shaped amuse bouche with pike perch fillet. Alabárdos serves three types tasting menus (if needed, patrons can select dishes across the three). All 5-course meals cost around €60 per person, not including alcohol. Note that except for Saturday, Alabárdos is open only for dinner.

It’s unfortunate that Alabárdos's service staff doesn't stand up to the food. As an example, when I asked for tap water, the waiter simply brought an expensive bottle of water, and, to my look of surprise, explained that the water pipes are old, and hence tap water isn’t safe to drink. This, of course, isn't true (does Alabárdos then use dirty water for cooking?) and this type of gimmickry evokes the communist-era and casts a dark shadow over the entire operation despite the exceptional dishes.