St. Andrea Wine & Gourmet Bar
Location is unfortunately a challenge for St. Andrea Wine & Gourmet Bar, a fine dining Budapest restaurant. It occupies the ground floor of a luxury office building, just off the reception area. As a result, high-power executives from the offices upstairs make up the core of the patrons, which leads to an overly corporate atmosphere, particularly at lunchtime.
And the upside? It's the food. Ádám Barna seems to have found his culinary voice at St. Andrea Wine & Gourmet Bar. He is one of the few fine dining chefs in Budapest to offer a tasting menu based on traditional Hungarian dishes, as many of his compatriots feel uneasy about serving pricey, countryside peasant fare to discerning foreign diners. Barna's 6-course "traditional innovation" tasting menu doesn't try to reinterpret old Hungarian classics, rather, he presents them through a fine dining prism.
The beef stew at St. Andrea comes with wonderfully tender and flavorful cubes of braised beef chuck paired with egg dumplings, and crunchy, acidic slices of cucumbers. The crispy sourdough breads in the bread basket are imploring to mop up the paprika-based leftover jus (the waitstaff kindly reminds diners of this Hungarian custom). The other standout is the rooster soup, whose rich broth contains different parts of the bird: a creamy testicle, a chewy meat ravioli, and a soft comb, offering playfully contrasting textures. The final course, sweet cottage cheese filled palacsinta, hits all the right notes - it's crispy, creamy, and delicious.
One shouldn’t leave before trying Barna’s lecsó when in season: this traditional peasant fare popular in Hungary and Serbia comes with a variety of paprika, tomatoes, pearl onion, and thinly sliced Csabai sausage, all drenched in its own juice.
The waitstaff at St. Andrea Wine & Gourmet Bar is kind, positive, and informed - they're one of the best service teams in Budapest currently. Another benefit of St. Andrea is that the prices are a notch below the Michelin-starred restaurants of Budapest (the 6-course tasting menu here runs at the equivalent of €65 per person, not including wine pairing).