Managed by the Hungarian Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, Carmel is one of Budapest’s three glatt kosher restaurants. Like Hanna, the other kosher meat restaurant around the corner from Carmel, it gets liveliest at Shabbat, that is, Friday's dinner and Saturday's lunch. Here too, guests must prepay the meals, each of which costs €25 per person.
During Shabbat, Carmel fills up with groups of joyful orthodox Jews from around the world, usually both Sephardis and Ashkenazis. The elaborate table settings include a silver look-alike Kiddush cup and embroidered challah cover with wonderfully soft challah breads hiding beneath it. To ensure that Carmel follows kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws, a mashgiach - an official supervising rabbi - is present at all times.
The Shabbat meal continues with meze, selections of small, Middle Eastern-inspired dishes that include excellent matbukha, eggplant, hummus, tahini (and “Jewish" egg salad on Saturdays). Though not bad, the main dishes (Fridays: gefilte fish and slow-cooked beef shank; Saturdays: cholent) are unremarkable. The dessert is babka, which, unfortunately, looks better than it tastes: it's dry and too sweet.
On regular days, a range of traditional Hungarian dishes are also available at Carmel like goulash soup and beef stew. Similar to Hanna, however, Carmel can fall short on the culinary experience. Unless you eat only kosher, plenty of other restaurants serve tastier traditional Hungarian fare in Budapest.