Alabárdos Restaurant

Opened in 1964, Alabárdos is an iconic fine dining restaurant perched on Budapest's Castle Hill, just a stone’s throw away from the imposing Matthias Church. The restaurant is located within a medieval residential home complete with 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.

Head chef Gábor Mogyorósi updates traditional Hungarian and Central European dishes with unexpected ingredients—think a foie gras-laced goulash soup. He is also fond of Asian ingredients, which, very subtly, appear in many plates: camellia leaves are soaked in the beef consommé; pike perch fillet is stuffed in a spring roll-shaped amuse bouche. Alabárdos serves three types of 5-course tasting menus that cost €60 per person, without wine. Note that except for Saturday, Alabárdos is dinner-only.

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