Art Mozi Triple Threat

What? Cinemas in the bars section? Are you nuts? No, no, no, these aren’t your Palace Cinemas or huge brand name theatre chains. Budapest has art cinemas (art mozi) dotted throughout the city, and aside from showing indie flicks and the occasional mainstream feature, they tend to have cafes that have a personality and charm of their own. They’re often worth a visit, even if you have no intention of actually seeing a film.

Toldi (Rating: 8/10)
Bajcsy-Zsilinszky ut, 36-38 [map]
Pest, V, Arany János u(M3), 2 min

A newly revamped Toldi reopened at the tail end of the summer with the Ian Curtis/Joy Division biopic, Control, setting the tone for an offbeat crowd. The modern, whatever-goes style might cause you to make faces here and there if you’re left with a lacklustre choice of furniture to sit on, especially the exercise balls or the low-lying bean bags. The prime spots are the jungle-patterned couches and a few standard café tables and chairs that sit by the windows. Art pieces made from black ribbed tubing hang from the ceiling and double as dysfunctional and dim light fixtures.

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)

Walking upstairs from the ground level entrance to the cafe, you may feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine and landed in a flapper-era cinema (if Hungary even had flappers.) The beautiful deep-blue patterned wallpaper, gold trimmed walls, antique chandeliers and ornate ceiling all contribute to a unique atmosphere.

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.

Jacob P.



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