Fine dining can mean many things these days beyond dimly-lit dining rooms with soft background music, white linen tablecloths, and foam techniques. One thing is common though, these are the highest-end restaurants in Budapest, some even with Michelin stars. Traditional Hungarian tasting menus, French-influenced cuisine, Transylvanian flavors, and Nordic-inspired cooking are just some of the options available. The bad news: expect prices comparable to top restaurants in other major cities. (See also Budapest's Bib Gourmand-awarded restaurants, which offer lower prices.)
In Budapest, Onyx comes closest to offering a traditional European fine dining experience. The opulent interior with two enormous crystal chandeliers hanging in the dining room along with white-glove-wearing waiters somewhat predetermines the dishes that can realistically be served inside this fancy space. The pan-European menu features playful textures, beautiful visuals, and elaborate plating at this two Michelin-starred downtown restaurant (Onyx is the only Hungarian restaurant currently with two stars). .
Costes was the first restaurant in Hungary to receive a Michelin star in 2010. And even though Budapest now has four Michelin-starred restaurants, Costes remains in a league of its own. The same is true when it comes to prices, making the restaurant prohibitively expensive for locals; on many nights, there isn’t a single Hungarian patron in sight (the 5-course tasting menu with wine pairing comes out to over €150 per person). .
Costes Downtown is a 2015 offshoot of Costes, the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Budapest. It's a slightly more casual version of its sister restaurant: instead of a formal setting with white tablecloths, here a sleek, rustic look complete with wood finishes and an open kitchen dominate the atmosphere. Although they try to separate the restaurant from the posh hotel whose ground floor Costes Downtown occupies, the dining area closest to the lobby does feel a bit corporate, so try to ask for a table by the windows. .
Borkonyha (Winekitchen) is a high-end bistro located in Budapest's downtown, serving a pan-European menu and over 200 types of Hungarian wines. The executive chef, Ákos Sárközi, begins with traditional dishes and adds contemporary, inventive techniques, while packing plenty of unexpected ingredients and colors on the plates. .
Fáma is a 2016 venture of Hungarian celebrity-chef Krisztián Huszár. It was a bold move to open a fine dining restaurant in a residential Buda neighborhood, away from the well-trodden tourist paths of downtown Pest and the Castle Hill. The owners spared no expense to create a tastefully chic interior, featuring a dimly-lit dining room with a dozen or so tables, and grey-painted walls accented by industrial pipes overhead. The dinner tasting menu is a four-, five-, or six-course option selected from twelve pre-set dishes.
Babel is one of a small number of classic fine dining restaurants in Budapest. It's a dinner-only tasting menu venue located in the heart of downtown with a dimly-lit dining room that has only a dozen tables, all set with white tablecloths. Babel prides itself on delivering dishes inspired by Transylvania. Although this is more of a catchy soundbite than a real commitment to Transylvanian cuisine, Babel's young head chef, Istvan Veres, delivers some of the best food in Budapest.
Mainly thanks to 27-year old head chef János Mizsei, MÁK Bistro is one of the best restaurants in Budapest. The genius of Mizsei, who trained at restaurants in Denmark and Sweden, is to extract intense flavors from seemingly simple ingredients, in line with the contemporary Scandinavian cooking style he is so fond of. He is known to go out of his way to find unlikely suppliers, like a farmer who collects birch sap in a Hungarian village. .
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..
Tucked away on a steep Castle Hill side street lies one of Budapest’s most expensive fine dining restaurants, Golden Caviar. Furnished with maroon and golden tapestry-like walls and heavy drapes, the exquisite dining rooms exude an air of opulence. In addition to a range of high-priced caviars, Golden Caviar offers two types of tasting menus: a “Hungarian Fish” and a “Traditional” Russian. Plenty of chilled vodka and premium wines are also available for pairing.
Independent restaurants located inside luxury hotels face a common challenge: they need to juggle between satisfying the not-always-so-sophisticated palates of the hotel residents while also luring discernible diners looking for a fine dining experience. Impressively, KOLLÁZS - Brasserie & Bar, occupying part of the ground floor at the exquisite Four Seasons Hotel Budapest, meets the challenge. The tastefully designed neo-Art Deco interior harmoniously blends a grill bar, a bistro, a fine dining restaurant, and a cocktail bar into a common space. .
Opened in 1964, Alabárdos is the longest-serving restaurant in the Castle Hill and one of the most famous fine dining establishments in Budapest. A stone’s throw away from the famous Matthias Church, the restaurant is located within a medieval residential home, featuring original Gothic tracery and ogee curves. With about a dozen tables, the dining room is startlingly impressive: they serve dishes on Herendi porcelain plates paired with silver cutlery. .
If you asked around within Budapest's gastronomic circles about the key figures of the city's contemporary food revolution, one of the names invariably dropped will be Balázs Pethő, executive chef of family-run Csalogány 26 Restaurant. A whole crop of younger cooks, many of them established head chefs now, learned the ins and outs of haute cuisine under Pethő's tutelage at a time when comically backward, communist-era kitchen practices were still the norm. Pethő's exceptional skills best show through in his 8-course dinner tasting menu at Csalogány 26. .
Salon is one of Budapest’s few true fine dining restaurants. It occupies a corner inside the historic and jaw-droppingly ornate New York Café, a top tourist attraction in Budapest. Chef András Wolf oversees the kitchens of both the New York Café and Salon, which are separate. The dishes at Salon feature the usual suspects of Hungarian fine dining, with an emphasis on French-influenced cuisine that was once popular among the Hungarian nobility.
Thanks to a well-connected Hungarian businessman, Budapest is home to a Nobu, the world’s fanciest chain restaurant. Even more impressively, it's the one and only Nobu in Central Europe (the closest one is in Milan). The upscale restaurant is located inside the five-star Kempinski hotel in Budapest's downtown. Visitors familiar with Nobu restaurants elsewhere in the world should rest assured that, in Budapest too, they will find all of Mr.
Opened in 1994, Fausto’s Ristorante is a classic fine dining restaurant in Budapest with some nods to northern Italian cuisine. Fausto's claims that its dishes are “sprinkled with the latest arts of contemporary cuisine.” What this means is that instead of the standard caprese- and pizza-driven menu, Fausto's prepares meticulously plated dishes made with a host of fancy ingredients that include scallops, flatfish, and venison loin, and served in a classic fine dininig setting. Those looking for simpler Italian fare, a couple of pasta options are also available: tagliatelle and risotto plates made with rich, heavy sauces. .
ESCA is a tiny, 16-seat restaurant offering a dinner-only tasting menu in a quiet backstreet of District 7, also known as Budapest’s party district. The intimate, dimly lit space, which features sleek, dark wood finishes and plain walls, couldn’t be more different from the kitsch ruin bars nearby. This open-kitchen studio restaurant is run by young chef/owner Gábor Fehér, who gained experience in Copenhagen and at leading Budapest restaurants before setting up shop here. He is a skillful cook..
The sleepy and still somewhat gritty outer part of District 9 is the least likely of places to boast a fancy restaurant. Lying in the corner of a quiet park, Petrus is a hidden gem of a Bib Gourmand-awarded restaurant specialized in contemporary French cuisine. The food occupies the territory between bistro fare and fine dining: the 7-course tasting menu approaches the latter, the a la carte offerings the former. .
You will need to escape the heart of Budapest to unearth La Perle Noire, a high-end restaurant serving French flavors along with revamped Hungarian classics. It's located on a peaceful section of the grand Andrássy Avenue in District 6, also known as Budapest's Champs-Élysées, peppered with residential villas and embassies. The quirky modernist building from 1937 that houses La Perle Noire, now also a hotel, stands out from the predominantly 19th century street view. With a green terrace overlooking Andrássy, La Perle Noire offers a unique dining experience in the warmer months.
Prime is a downtown Budapest steakhouse that's on par with the top steakhouses around the world, not only in quality, but (unfortunately) also in price. They serve imported premium meats from the United States, Australia, and Argentina, including Prime-grade Black Angus and Wagyu. Prime doesn't dry-age its meats, instead, they are wet-aged for about two weeks before arriving in the kitchen. You can also try a Hungarian beef, from grey cattle, but it pales in comparison with the imported ones.
Baraka Restaurant in Budapest is a favorite for people who rely only on TripAdvisor for dinner recommendations. Visitors should know, however, that there are plenty of other fine dining restaurants in the city, some even with Michelin stars, that offer better dishes than Baraka at a more reasonable price point. .
Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito.