When in 2017 Szabina Szulló and Tamás Széll (a European Bocuse d'Or winner and celebrity-chef in Hungary) announced that they were leaving the Michelin-starred Onyx restaurant to venture out on their own, one didn’t need a business degree to predict success. From the start, the idea of Stand25 Bistro was to prove that Hungarian peasant fare can be more than a high-carb, greasy affair. The restaurant's success was immediate: a well-heeled local crowd from near and far has been flocking to the crammed tables of Stand25, which is located in the popular market-hall-turned food-court in downtown's Hold Street. In 2018, the restaurant was awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin.
Stand25's traditional Hungarian dishes, while not ground-breaking, are very good. Their reddish-brown hued goulash soup is exactly as it should be; the extra touch is the dash of chopped celery and a lemon seasoning, which adds a refreshing acidity to this hearty soup. Another signature Hungarian staple is the layered potatoes with crisped-up sausages, eggs, and sour cream. The potatoes are tender without falling apart, and the side of chopped beets with horse radish lends a touch of welcome earthiness. On the dessert front, both the sweet cottage cheese balls (túrógombóc) and the Somlói galuska, a traditional Hungarian sponge cake, are hits.
The three-course prix fixe costs HUF5,400 (€18), but many dishes have extra charges. One can easily rack up a bill for €25 to €30 (without alcohol), which isn’t exactly cheap, particularly when compared with the lunch menus offered at other fine restaurants in Budapest for about half the price. Nonetheless, Mr. Széll’s disciplined approach, which can be observed on most days through the open kitchen, sets a standard in Budapest’s still fledgling dining scene. Other restaurants would do well to take cues from Stand25's hospitality and professionalism. Reservations are a must.