Szabó Ervin tér [map]
Pest South, VIII, Kalvin tér (M3), 2 min
The triumph of this location is that the path opens out into what is nominally a square. In other words, you can sit outside comfortably, without feeling like you're sitting in the road (and with a fine view down Reviczky utca, above.)
So for summer, Fecske's landed on its feet. The problem is when it runs out of outdoor seating, or when the summer runs out of sun.
Inside, it's a real step backwards. Opening up a second room doesn't stop it feeling pretty pokey, and putting up a few posters, sticking a blackboard on the ceiling and throwing books on the shelves, doesn't do enough to turn it into a cool hangout. It's still Archivum, a nothing-special cellar bar, albeit with improved service.
Fecske Terasz (Rating: 9.0/10)
Árpád Fejedelem útja 8 [map]
Buda North, III
(B86/160/260/923), 0 min
If outdoor seating is Fecske Presszó's strong point, it's Fecske Terasz's raison d'etre. Only open for the spring and summer, Fecske Terasz makes you feel like you're on holiday, overlooking the pool on one side and the Danube on the other. Unlike Corvintető, it's clear that you really are on the roof.
There are some nice touches too: silly bar stools made out of bicycles, a swing, a patch of sand, ping pong and a giant chess set which I've actually seen people playing. You should too: you're on holiday. Except no one's really on holiday because a bus-stop north of Margit hid doesn't show up on the tourist radar.
Fecske Terasz hangs onto the sun while the rest of the city is already bathed in darkness, but when the night does finally fall, there's a chilled-out, intimate atmosphere. It's not party central but it's a nice place to be. The only drawback is that when you want to leave, Margit hid will seem miles away, even though it's only a five minute walk. There is, however, a night bus, that goes every half hour and follows the 4/6 tram route through Pest.
In the winter, Fecske is a name you can forget but in summertime, it's synonymous with relaxed outdoor drinking. Both bars have the same reasonable menu too, so a quick beer at the Presszó can easily become lunch, and an afternoon at the pool can turn into a long, lazy day out.
fechke, fechker, fetchke, fetchker, kert
Erzsébet tér [map]
Pest Centre, VI, Deák tér (M1/2/3), 1 min
As the weather picks up, people arrive in droves, crowding the steps leading down into the "ditch." Loners with books, gear-heads with their bicycles, and friends hanging out in the sun, blanket nearly every inch of space, inside and out, day and (especially) night.
Gödör occupies the space that was supposed to be the car park for the Hungarian National Theatre (eventually built elsewhere), and they've converted it into a teeming cultural pit. All this space allows it to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of some. What the outside lacks in the dead of winter, it makes up for with the happenings inside. One of the most revered programs is Balkan Beats, a monthly event that sees Balkan fusion bands from around the world coupled with DJs of the same genre. The turnout is pretty epic.
It’s easy to catch the best local musicians and smaller international acts, with shows often free or bearing a reasonable ticket price. Performance art and theatre is a mainstay, and art/design exhibitions regularly take place in one of the many rooms. I recall seeing a rather large group showing of innovative performance pieces in a cellar room – akin to a brand new empty warehouse – which I never knew existed.
The cement supports and many exposed walls give Gödör a minimalist feel that you might expect with a converted space. However, there is little pretense floating around, making it the perfect spot for anyone, regardless of age or background.
Although neither Instant nor Szimpla could really be described as a “meat market” (that being reserved for Morrison's), Gödör is one step further away. Sure you can troll for prospective hook-ups, but that never seems to be the primary fixation. It’s just about hanging out.
As close to the center of the city as they come, Gödör also makes the perfect gathering spot, without having to actually go in! Though drinks are moderately priced, (around 400 forint for standard beers) if you’re going to be doing the majority of your hanging outside, it’s smart to bring your own libations. Beware though, the 24-hour Match located at the end of nearby Király utca seemingly runs out of beer by ten in the evening. The same goes for the surrounding 0-24 shops, so grab your drinks early if you’re drinking on the cheap. The smart choice is cans of Arany Ászok because that's exactly what they sell inside!!!
Whether the weather permits, January or June, Gödör is a place for everyone, with a real range of entertainment. It's a bear that welcomes you no matter what he's up to, no matter what the season, and he won't even be too concerned about whose soup you're eating!
To see what's happening at Gödör, check their official website here.
Value for money: 8.5/10
What people we know think: 9.5/10
godor club, gudur club, godoor klub, goddar klub, godor klub, goddoor club
To find Gödör, simply surface at Deák tér and look for the grassy patch. You should see the stairs that descend to the club.
Petőfi hid [map]
Buda, XI, Petőfi híd (Budai hídfő) (T4/6), 2 min
That however, couldn’t be further removed from Budapest’s own version of a party boat, the A38. This vessel is a not-particularly-glamorous-sounding ‘former Ukrainian stone carrier,’ moored firmly to the foot of Petőfi hid in Buda.
Principally a concert venue, there’s also a restaurant on the top floor. Because of the large windows, this is the only place you can really tell you’re not on dry land. Below deck, the bulk of the ship is a large, dark, and loud auditorium.
Aside from and Petőfi Csarnok, Dürer Kert and Merlin, A38 is one of the few places in town that can host gigs of a certain size, by bands who are popular, but not that popular. The ship’s program is commendably eclectic - local heroes sit alongside internationally recognised artists such as Horrace Andy, Sisters of Mercy, DJ Krush, Erik Truffaz and The Melvins. Big concerts tend to sell out quickly.
One criticism I’ve heard levelled at A38 is that the atmosphere can be a little flat. While there is truth in this, it’s an argument which can be made about most venues here. As ever, a lot depends on the way foreign artists feel about playing in Hungary and how the crowd respond. Catch it on the wrong night and you’ll be disappointed. Catch it on the right night and the room shakes, perhaps to the point where you vaguely question the wisdom of what you're doing and wonder if there's any precedent of party boats capsizing.
Anything remotely Balkan (Fanfare Ciocarlia, Gogol Bordello) is guaranteed to go down well. Tickets are available from the boat or at tex.hu offices.
838, 8 38, a 38, eh 38, the boat, concert boat,
Get off the 4,6 tram at Petőfi hid, Buda side, and walk back towards the river. Go down the steps by the bridge and the boat is in front of you.
838, 8 38, a 38, eh 38, the boat, concert boat,
Ajtósi Dürer sor 19–21 [map]
Outer Pest, XIV, Zichy Géza utca, (Trolley 74, 75), 1 min
More often than not, Budapest seems to slip off the radar of renowned touring acts. It’s an up-and-coming city confronted with a new found sense of capitalism. Inevitably, touring bands looking to stop where there’s an audience are starting to give Budapest the time of day and Dürer is proving to be the go-to venue. As the weeks pass, the number of international acts performing here burgeons. Dürer may not be exactly the best candidate for such a rapid succession of concerts night after night, but it has stepped up to the plate and there’s something admirable in that.
While A38 tends to be the venue for larger bands and an audience with an income to match, Dürer is the opposite. Plenty of the shows hover around the 1000 forint mark; the program varies night to night and is oft eclectic, much like the wide-ranging and changing style choices today's youth tend to cycle through. I’ve seen a Norwegian experimental/noise outfit on a Sunday evening, American underground rock and roll, and a Brazilian cultural carnival. Bands that only teenage Goths in black trench coats should [not] see come through at a fervent pace, while Hungarian local outfits and international hip-hop have also featured. Everything is fair game.
While Dürer isn’t in the most convenient of locations, it’s not that far off either. Located at the southeastern edge of City Park, it's on the fence between “too far” and “close enough.” If it were your neighborhood bar, you'd be pumped to have such a place nearby. The beer is cheap (less than 400 forint for most draught beers), there’s plenty of palinka and the bartenders are friendly enough. Aside from the performance space, the area to lounge and have a few drinks is akin to the living room vibe of Mumus, Szimpla Dupla, and other Budapest bar staples. If it were located within the limits of the fifth through eighth districts, otherwise known as “cool town,” it would certainly be mentioned in the same breath.
It’s not likely anyone would venture out so far just for just a moderately priced beer and a spot to chill without the option of other bars and restaurants nearby. However, if a concert is your motive and you're feeling a bit pubescent, then Dürer is an asset, necessity, and a welcomed addition to Budapest’s music scene.
To see what's on right now at Dürer Kert, check their official website here.
Value for money: 8/10
What people we know think: 8/10
durer kert, duer kurt, durer cert, durer cort, durer kort
Once at the Zichy Géza utca trolley stop, simply cross the street, the entrance to Dürer is easy to spot.
Labels: Outer Pest
Rumbach Sebestyén u. 9 [map]
Pest Centre, V, Deák Ferenc tér (M1,2,3), 3 min
RS9 is both kávézó, occasional concert hall, and fringe theater, boasting an impressive resumé of Hungarian language productions that includes everything from Shakespeare to Beckett. It's also probably the only place in town where you'll be shamelessly shushed when a play is going on behind the big red curtain in the other room. But for the less theatrically minded, or at least linguistically limited, RS9 at times feels more jack of all trades and master of none.
But lacking the usual pomp that adorns Budapest's more popular hangouts is not necessarily a bad thing. For starters, you'll be hard pressed to hear a lick of English, and for an early evening stop, the humble vibe is far more comforting than the superficially hip. RS9 feels like a söröző with erudite charm or a tiny, unpainted Pótkulcs without the cult status.
Not to be overlooked if you're looking for casual and cheap, RS9 is more than worth your while on a slow weekend evening. Who knows, it may even awaken latent theatrical tendencies...
- Spring has come, with all its gentle showers. Methinks RS9 is but an abbreviation of the street and number, wherein it lies.
- You're so right, love. 'Tis I who overlook'd what lay naked in mine eyes.
Value for money: 9/10
What people we know think: 7/10
Bercsényi utca 5 [map]
Buda South, XI, Bertalan Lajos utca (T47/49), 1 min
Entering Café Ponyvaregény is like wrapping yourself in a huge quilt; the walls and ceiling look like they’re made of meringue and they have a cosying effect. Like all the best traditional cafes, newspapers (Hungarian only) hang from “carpet-beaters”, which in turn dangle from a hatstand. High shelves are laden with books, not exclusively Magyar: an English copy of Hesse’s Steppenwolf caught my eye.
On a Sunday afternoon, 'bustling' would be overstating it, but Ponyvaregény was mumbling and murmuring away very comfortably. The Scrabble and Catan (don't ask me!) were enjoying time off the shelf, and elsewhere, pencils scribbled busily on the sketchbooks that lie provocatively on every table. (Someone had drawn a cowboy in mine.) With rétes and focaccia available if you get a little peckish, efficient service (if a little formal), reasonable prices and free Wifi, Café Ponyvaregény is a practical choice too.
A pretty flash website is further proof that the owners are no Buda hillbillies, and reveals that they also have a restaurant of the same name - open from April - in the up-and-coming Kopaszi Gát park, south of Lágymányosi híd. While the café on Bercsényi utca is most definitely a winter retreat, it would seem that they have summer covered too. And it's also in Buda!
So budaphobes take note: Pest may have so much charisma that you overlook her quieter, prettier sister but places like Ponyvaregény show that she has a personality too. Go on, give her a try. When you get back home to Pest, you can always say you were working late.
Value for money: 8.0/10
What people we know think: It's in Buda; too far.
Take the 47 or 49 tram from Deák or Astoria and you won't believe how close Buda is!
Csengery Utca 65b [map]
Pest Centre, VI, Nyugati/Oktogon (T4/6),
Back in the day, when Budapest was much cooler than you could ever possibly imagine, people from all over the world came to Hungary to share their unconditional love. You could rummage around under a brick or a flower pot outside anyone's house, at any time of day, find the key and let yourself in. Then, after helping yourself to a beer from the fridge, you could lie back on the nearest sofa and chat to Treehugger Dan about what things would be like in the 21st Century.
Cut to present-day Pótkulcs: the keys are safely behind the bar, the beer costs 490Ft and the people sitting over there heard about it by leafing through the EasyJet in-flight magazine.
Pótkulcs has the kind of mystique that tourists crave and many expats pooh-pooh. On your third or fourth visit, the garage-door entrance can still be difficult to spot, mainly because very little light escapes from the bar itself. "Cool" is the inevitable exclamation of the uninitiated, and many a visiting friend will be impressed at your knowledge of underground bars, even though, in reality, you wouldn't know an underground bar if it opened up in your own cellar.
The fact that Budapest's newest recruits are fond of Pótkulcs, is hardly a crime. Being on a quiet street outside the körút gives it a mellower mood than the bars over in the seventh district. The bar-staff are actually friendly. Put them in a line-up with the staff from Szimpla and you could pick them out in a second (no protruding fangs). Meanwhile, the clientele are more likely there for a civilised drink than a wild night.
That's not to say, however, that nothing ever happens. Left of the bar is a large basement room which hosts bands every week. The staple act, Rekontra, plays on Tuesdays, and is a superb introduction to the Hungarian Folk Music revival. It's a far cry from the violinists employed to bother you in restaurants. On other nights you might get mellow jazz, gipsy swing or "cafe punk" - a decent cross-section of the local music scene, all from the 'comfort' of a ropey old sofa.
A rarity in Budapest, the cellar is non-smoking; the main result being that when there's nothing on, everyone stays in the other room unless there are no seats or they want to play csocsó. (On special occasions, there is, in fact, a second bar upstairs - turn right before the toilets.)
Outside, there's an ample 'kert', or to put it less glamorously, a former garage. There's plenty of blue sky but plenty of shade too, which ensures that it's bustling throughout the summer. A modest menu saves you from having to give up your prime piece of bench: the chili con carne being the informed choice. But don't, whatever you do, wait until you're hungry before ordering. A secret pact requires that they keep you waiting for at least an hour.
Whether Pótkulcs can sustain itself as one of your favourite bars might depend on how keen you are on the music, how much you're willing to pay for beer or how long you can stand to wait for your dinner. But it's clear that its far-reaching reputation is built on more than past glories. Its continued popularity with foreigners and Hungarians, many searching for a piece of the real Hungary, is testament to a certain "nem tudom quoi."
Value for money: 8.5/10
What people we know think: 8.5/10
pot, pót, potch, kulcs, kulch, kult
Csengery utca runs parallel to the körút (4/6 tram route) and is a few minutes' walk from either Nyugati or Oktogon. From either direction, walk along the körút as far as Szondi utca, then walk for two blocks (crossing Eötvös utca) and turn left down Csengery. When you see this garage door, you're there.
Bajcsy-Zsilinszky ut, 36-38 [map]
Pest, V, Arany János utca (M3), 2 min
More often than not you'll find fixed-gear bikes lining the walls, and their dread-locked owners loitering, smoking cigarettes around the sizeable open café area. The staff are relaxed, maybe because there's no table service, and come around with votive candles for each table as dusk settles in and the crowd grows larger.
Toldi’s ideal for a coffee (250Ft for a cappuccino) or a beer (under 400 for a korsó of Zlaty Bazant) and is pretty chilled out. It's good for reading or working during the quieter early hours, and it's maybe even a decent starting point for a date (after all, you are at the movies). The theatre aspect feels almost secondary, in fact, which is just fine.
Puskin Kávéház (Rating: 8.5/10)
Kossuth Lajos utca 18 [map]
Pest, V, Astoria (M2), 1 min
With a separate entrance, Puskin Kávéház sure feels like an entity in itself, although you can also enter through the cinema lobby. One thing that sets this place apart from most art mozi cafes is the amount of choice on the menu. Coffees start at about 300 forint; there are cocktails, loads of exotic teas, a whole page with a long list of spirits, and even drinks for the kiddies. Beer is a bit steep (in comparison) at 470 for a korsó Dreher. A short list of snacks consisting of sandwiches and the like, as well as a few dinner options like spaghetti Bolognese and generic meat dishes should satisfy any stomach grumbles.
Puskin is cozy despite being pretty spacious, with dozens of little tables. The clientele is pretty diverse: amorous couples, families with small children, students soaking up the WiFi, and literary types reading and smoking. Just don't expect quiet: conversation waxes and wanes but there's always a healthy chatter. There’s even a piano in the corner if you’re trying to channel your inner Elton John or Stevie Wonder, but I’m not too sure the rest of the crowd would be behind you.
Treated as a proper kávéház, Puskin is a fine choice, if a little smoky, and you needn’t feel guilty for spending a relaxed afternoon or an early evening enjoying some drinks without buying a cinema ticket.
Uránia Kávéház (Rating: 7/10)
Rákóczi út 21 [map]
Pest, VIII, Astoria (M 2), 5 min
The vast expanse of the second-floor room can be a bit empty, however. The homogeneous tables and chairs give a prim and proper feel: it's not the kind of place you can hang around all afternoon and kick your feet up. But this goes hand in hand with an air of refinement and thankfully, prices remain perfectly reasonable. There's Budvar on tap, and plenty of bottled beers to choose from, starting at 350Ft. Coffee is cheap enough and the standard café fare follows suit.
Uránia Kávéház may not be a big hit on its own but it's a world apart from your modern cinema cafe. Ideal for chewing over a complex plot or holding on to that silver screen feeling for just a little longer.
Dob utca 53 [map]
Pest Centre, VI, Király utca (T4/6), 5 min
By day, Ladino attracts an interesting mix, separated by two generations: bronchial pensioners play cards while the WIFI-enabled gather around the plug sockets. In the evening it becomes a chat-with-friends kind of a place. It can be quite tricky to get a table but it’s in the right part of town to choose alternatives if you fail, or if you want to make more of a night of it: Szimpla Dupla, Elláto, Fészek, Mumus and Lámpás are all in the neighbourhood.
Ladino’s great strength is its menu: basic but decent food at a decent price. The burgers aren’t bad – better when they don’t serve them in a shiny bun – and the 3-course lunch at 990Ft is a godsend, which even has a choice of 6 mains. When you’ve finished trawling the streets looking for that place your friend told you about, and you’re not sure it’s even lunchtime anymore, you can rely on Bar Ladino to help you out – they serve lunch until five!
It’s not often that I think “Let’s go to Bar Ladino!” but I do tend to end up there an awful lot. They may have put ice in my brandy the other day, and service can be a bit lackadaisical when you want the bill, but these I’m willing to forgive. Bar Ladino may not be the perfect plan A but it’s a really good plan B.
Value for money: 8.5/10
What people we know think: 8/10
Take a 4 or 6 tram to either Király utca (or Wesselenyi utca) and walk down (or up) the körút until you get to Dob utca. Then walk in a Deák tér direction for two minutes, and it's on your left. .
laddino, aladino, alladino, aladdino
Well, being in Budapest doesn’t necessarily mean you have to rely on internet live streams (maybe this one) or minute-by-minute reports on the BBC website. Eurosport 2 have exclusive Premier League rights for Hungary this year, and there are a number of bars that subscribe to Setanta and Sky... just in case you were worried about missing a single second of Jamie Redknapp‘s verbal diarrhoea.
Last season, we dealt with Beckett’s, the Manchester United of Hungarian sports bars (review here), but not wishing to take out a loan to finance a small beer, we looked elsewhere...
Mozsár utca 9 [map]
Pest Centre, VI, Oktogon (M1,T4/6), 3 min
A reasonable bet is this wee Scottish pub in a street behind Oktogon. With a friendly owner and a predominantly ex-pat crowd, it also happens to be one of the few places in the city where you can get bitter on tap. Given the current transfer market (yes, prepare yourself for relentless football metaphor), 500 forint for a korsó seems pretty reasonable to me; 660 for a pint of Best is fair play too.
Slightly officious table staff, however, tend to sully the atmosphere. On a couple of occasions last year, I had stern looks shot at me for not ordering enough cokes! Having said that, the Caledonia has plenty of screens, English commentary, and a British ’pub’ feel that's almost convincing. Worth a shot.
Champs (Rating: 7/10)
Erőd utca 22 [map] Buda, II, Mechwart Liget (T4/6) 1 min
Dohány utca 20 [map] Pest Centre, VII, Astoria (M2), 4 min
If you can’t see Premier League games at Champs, then you're probably not looking at the right screen. They have more televisions than you could ever need, and boast a quirky menu which relates every dish to a famous Hungarian athlete.
With a number of extra German channels, branches on either side of the river, and an enthusiasm for all kinds of sports, they have slightly more strength in depth than the competition. A bit too flashy for my taste though… a bit too Chelsea.
Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út 15 [map]
Pest Centre, VI, Arany János utca (M3), 2 min
Still, the complete absence of big match atmosphere is made up for by the fact you can always get a seat, and 520 Ft for a korsó is just about acceptable. (You may have to ask them to switch on Eurosport 2, if it isn’t already on though!) Football without the ceremony.... Middlesborough, perhaps.
Café Vogue (Rating: 8/10)
Teréz körút 41 [map]
Pest Centre, V, Nyugati tér (M3), 3 min
Cafe Vogue is right up there this season and may just edge out the others. Firstly, it's not an ex-pat pub, so there's nothing of that ersatz atmosphere. But unlike Ezaz, there are enough other people in the bar, to stop it feeling like a non-event. There are several screens, one of which is only visible from the gallery, allowing the unique possibility of an unobstructed view, without even having to crane your neck.
The only issue is the beer price. The standard price is 630Ft a korsó, which would usually have the hub running away as fast as Aaron Lennon. But during the day, until 8pm, in fact, there's a ten-hour happy hour, with beer down to 490Ft a pint! Just one thing: you may have to point at the blackboard when you get the bill, just to make sure that they understand that you understand the deal.
Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út 21 [map]
Pest Centre, VI, Arany János utca (M3), 1 min
And finally, before the referee blows his final whistle on this particular Saturday afternoon, I feel compelled to mention one other popular sports bar/restaurant: Box Utca. Owned by a famous middleweight Hungarian boxer, it’s a reliable place to watch the Premiership (and, indeed, the cricket), but gosh, it's posh, and the over-dressed waiters are a little too eager to refill your glass. What is this, the directors' box?
It seems from the walls, that it has indeed attracted a rather well-to-do clientele - Paul McCartney, for example. No doubt, the prices weren't a problem for him. But price is what you pay; value is what you get... and 690Ft for a korsó is like paying 16.5 million for Darren Bent!.
Andy T and Andy Sz.
Gerlóczy utca 4 [map]
Pest Centre, V, Deák Ferenc tér (M1,2,3), 3 min
Looking at it from another perspective, the fact that Merlin doesn’t stick to just one thing allows them to accommodate a varied list of events and an even more varied clientele. It’s the only place in Budapest I’ve been for coffee and to make use of their Wifi hotspot, for a Slovakian exhibitionist theatre performance in English where all the actors ended up naked, and to catch international bands perform as well.
A friend put it to me that, "it's the place in Budapest for people who want to go to the theatre, but can’t afford it.” Quite true, but with regular fashion events and DJ/dance nights, it's much more than that. Whatever your fancy, whether it be lunch and their passable napi menu (business lunch), a late-night rave, a walk down the catwalk, or just an evening of drinks with friends, Merlin caters to your every need, making it more of a butler than a magician.
To see what's on right now at Merlin, check their official website here.
Value for money: 8/10
What people we know think: 8/10
Merlin is easily spotted from Deák. Simply walk down the korut (towards Astoria) a minute and hang a right onto Gerlóczy and the maze-ish entrance to Merlin will be on your right.
Two bars in the Budapest low-life that have nothing to do with each other, except for the fact that they sprang up at the same time (i.e. a few months ago) and work on the same model: the Szimpla model, if you like. But it does now seem that if you're the new derelict building on the block, you have to enter the quirk competition, which means more than szimply juggling the furniture.
Working out where to put a bar that will fill up as quickly as you can say "there's a new rom kocsma, let's check it out!", doesn't require a great deal of thought. It just requires a large, empty building, near the centre of town, somewhere where the neighbours aren't too fussy about noise. ("Rom kocsma" or "ruin pub" - you can either sound like an over-seasoned expat or like you've just read the easyJet magazine, there's no getting away from it.) As far as getting custom is concerned, there's no real trick - people will show up, as long as they think it's cool. And dilapidated buildings are inherently cool, as long as there's a bar. The clever bit is creating the atmosphere, which is what makes Instant and Mumus different beasts.
Nagymező utca 38 [map]
Pest Centre, VI, Oktogon (T4/6), 5 min
Instant, for starters, has a large courtyard - covered, in winter - and despite the heaters is cold enough out of season to make you reflect whether you have indeed been sitting outdoors. A shoal of fish hovers above, swimming amongst multicoloured lights, against a backdrop of ivy.
So far, so good, except it's phenomenonly busy. Venturing upstairs, in search of seats, there's an ample choice of rooms, few with any room in them; one with a bar. It's here that Instant begins to disappoint. Despite a few attempts at quirking it up - a dentist's chair; furniture on the ceiling; a bathroom exhibit - there's one thing missing: Instant doesn't appear to have a soul.
Maybe it's the white light and cold, windowless walls - and that's not every room - or maybe it's these quirky things themselves. Who needs a room with a dentist's chair? And who wants to look at a small bathroom with portraits on the tiles? Why didn't they spend more time furnishing the actual bathroom? It's just not very comfortable.
Dob utca 15 [map]
Pest Centre, VI, Astoria (M2), 5 min
As the summer faded into winter (there was no autumn), a cosy, low-lit indoor bar opened more frequently, but I couldn't help casting my eyes up the gated stairs every time I went there, wondering if there was more to come...
It is here, upstairs, that Mumus has certain similarities to Instant but the feeling that ambience comes first, is for the most part, still apparent. The rooms feel warmer, and the designs, the quirks, as I appear to have termed them, work for the soul, not against it. The lighting is ambitious and atmospheric: a radial sun; a neon drop of light. There's a DJ and dancing - no dancefloor as such - just the kind you'd see at a house party. Only the tentacled television-eye in the corner of one room fits the current vogue of "what the fuck?" decor.
Of the two, Instant is larger and apparently more popular but then it is on a main road, and has prominent signs, not to mention bomber-jacket bouncers, outside. Now I'm not saying that a sign or a bouncer is some kind of betrayal but, Mumus, hiding out on Dob utca, with a couple of normal-looking guys on the door, feels a lot more human, no matter how you look at it.
For Instant, walk down Nagymező from Andrassy and you'll see the bouncers on the left. For Mumus, walk up Dob utca from Astoria and it's on the left, a little after Spinoza and Lámpás.
mummus, instanz, instance
Pest Centre, V, Astoria (M2), 2 min
"Well, I've got this big room but I don't have anything to put in it."
That night, Csendes tried to think of some things to put in the room. Tables and chairs, he thought, and lots of lamps. He thought about the blank walls and he pictured a duck eating its dinner. But the duck looked lonely so he thought of a man with big lop-sided ears, holding a cat in his arms. They can have a party, he thought. And then, one by one, other animals joined in.
Csendes was dreaming now. At the window, he saw a huge bird with a bright green head, who squawked at a piglet flying across the room. The piglet narrowly avoided a wooden elephant, who wasn't looking as he tried to get out of the way of a parachuting duck. In one corner, a crowd of animals watched a football match, while in another, a pair of legs in pyjamas got off a bicycle, climbed into a boat and sailed off down Tátika utca...
So this is Csendes: the dreams of a child turned into a cafe which turns into a bar when the skies grow dark. And although half of me thinks it's way over the top, the other half can't help but notice people's faces lighting up as soon as they enter the room. The joss-sticks, rugs, tablecloths and piano jazz add to the atmosphere, as do the waitresses, who are polite and friendly, and there when you need them.
Although it's a big room, it isn't that big, and being opposite ELTE university, it fills up pretty quickly in the evening. There is also some low-key entertainment: DJs sets, sometimes with vocals, and the occasional Jazz trio. Drinks are reasonably priced and displayed on an enormous blackboard behind the bar.
Csendes gets infinity points for trying and from the outset, looks like it has belonged in Budapest for years. In a city where many bars go for 'quirky', Csendes has trumped them all by taking it to the absolute limit. What's more, if you're waiting for your friends to turn up, you'll have some company to pass the time. "That's right!", oinked the piglet, still hovering above.
Value for money: 8/10
What people we know think: 8/10
I wonder what the owners of Café Csiga think about Metro 4. At the moment, the construction work is making it almost invisible, not that it particularly stood out before. Rákóczi tér was never the height of sophistication either – it used to be the height of prostitution – so when the Metro’s eventually completed, their location, and that end of town in general, will be that much more desirable.
But will Csiga survive it? It’s 1.30 on a Wednesday afternoon and there’s practically no one in here. It’s surprising because, as soon as I step through the door and out of the construction noise, it’s an oasis of warm colours, gentle music – Goldfrapp / Belle & Sebastian – and arty homeliness. There’s a beercan palm tree by the door and the works of local contemporary artists dominate the walls. I look up at a golden Buddha-like woman, who seems to be in the right place, along with everything else. Although Csiga has plenty of quirks, it looks like someone’s chosen with a discerning eye, rather than making do with a visit to the flea market.
Csiga should be a hive of activity at lunch time because their daily menu, at 990Ft is extremely good value. The Egyptian lentil soup is a more generous serving than I would expect for a first course and is also pretty tasty. The main, a more traditional Paprikás Chicken with galuska (gnocchi) is decent too and by the end of it, I’m stuffed. Alternatively, and if it’s not lunchtime, you can choose à la blackboard: soups at 500Ft, mains, sides included, below 2000Ft. (Shhhh... my wallet need never know that I’ve been eating out.)
In the evenings, Csiga remains relaxed and fills up quite a bit, so much so that you may find yourself milling around at the bar waiting for a table. There’s a small leafy mezzanine, which is particularly cosy. Certainly, it's a place for drinks and conversation rather than an all-out piss-up, but definitely a bar rather than a coffee shop. You have a choice of Arany Ászok or Dreher on tap too.
Csiga means snail and is pretty slow-paced to match but it’s not too far from Corvintető or Jelen, if you want to up the tempo. It has the atmosphere of a Rothko painting with a lot more detail, and is a good option for a satisfying low-cost lunch, a chat and a beer, or simply time-out from city living... at least until Metro 4 brings it out of its shell. Luckily, Hungarian engineering is pretty slow-paced too, so you may have a few years yet.
Value for money: 8.5/10
What people we know think: 8.5/10
Get off the 4/6 tram at Rákóczi tér and walk down the left hand side of the square. It's at the end, on the left.
Labels: Pest South (VIII/IX)