Above-average food, laid-back vibes, a chic crowd, tiny tables crammed into a small space, and waitresses speaking fluent English - are we in Brooklyn or Budapest? Budapest, because service isn't rushed and diners are welcome to linger.
The food at M is a mishmash of traditional French and Hungarian staples like foie gras pate, duck breast, and chicken paprikas. The restaurant doesn't try to reinterpret these classics, and instead remains loyal to decades-old recipes. The highlights are the soft and flavorful duck breast, and the veal osso bucco paired with creamy risotto. I also enjoyed the light, blue cheese salad drizzled with slices of pears. The overly sinewy duck liver pate, however, detracted from its otherwise rich flavors.
Even though M. Restaurant looks like a neighborhood joint - small space, familial feel - most patrons are actually tourists and local expats (the place has been featured in the Lonely Planet guide). Note that the restaurant's upstairs nooks can get a little airless in the summer so try to reserve a table on the ground floor or the tiny outdoor terrace. Since the space is small, reservations are an absolute must. For curious minds, M's moniker pays homage to a book of poems written by György Petri, an iconic Hungarian samizdat poet and friend of the restaurant's owner, Miklós Sulyok, who opened the place in 2000, soon after Petri died.
M. is located on a quiet side street in District 7 which retains an element of gritty charm, and it's also within walking distance of the livelier parts of Budapest's party district.