Zeller is a wildly popular restaurant in Budapest's downtown. Upon arrival, all guests are handed a complimentary Prosecco - albeit slightly flat and presented without much enthusiasm - before being led to one of the four indoor dining rooms. The best place to sit is in the light-filled interior courtyard topped with a sky window and featuring plenty of greenery. All tables are covered with doodle-inspiring paper and colored pencils.
So, does Zeller live up to the hype? The short answer: not entirely. The dishes are reliable, but slightly overpriced (mains are in the €15-range), and far from memorable.
Zeller prides itself on preparing internationally recognizable dishes made from local ingredients. Think: wild board stew, duck liver brulee, and mangalica pork. The mushroom soup (€3) is a mainstay on the menu: it's creamy, aromatic, and imparts an earthy flavor. Zeller’s signature dish is the duck rose (€13). While not as pink as some might expect, it's a flavorful dish with a crunchy crust that arrives with a side of fried cabbage strudel. The rest of the seasonally-changing menu revolves around hit-and-miss meat dishes paired with vegetable creams. The wine list consists of bottles sourced from small local wineries.
The ratio of waiters-to-patrons is unusually high. While attentiveness is always a plus, a view without a server is rare, taking away from what otherwise could have been a more intimate dining experience. The crowd at Zeller is largely international as it comes highly recommended on various travel sites, and it's near St. Stephen’s Basilica, one of Budapest’s most frequented tourist destinations. Advance booking, therefore, is a must.