The lady at the airport who pronounced it “Hung-gary” may have been onto something. Budapest, the capital, is split by the Danube River. The “Buda” is one side and the “Pest” is on the other. Like most of the blow-ins I have pitched tent on the Pest side. It caters more for the tourists and is the “newer” part of town.
The snow from the previous day has been shovelled away and replaced with a lighter dusting. My third day in and my confidence on the slippery stuff is at an all time high. I even pulled off a double axel, double toe on my way to lunch. Sure they were done with monotonous regularity at the recent Winter Olympics, but they haven’t been seen on Szabad sajto utca for a while (“utca” is street for those playing along at home). Now while I did the country proud in the ice, judging is done on both the technical and presentation. My presentation consists of my ubiquitious red cardigan, hidden under a big wolly jumper and a beanie and scarf. I am dressing not to impress, purely for survival. Meanwhile the locals look as if they have come off the catwalks of Milan and Paris. I look like the weirdo from page 6 of a Lowes winter catalogue.
Breakfast didn’t happen yesterday as I was trying to organise train travel to Prague in a couple of days time. Booking online saves you 75% and that money could be better utilised in my belly. The train ticketing online system was not working so a bit of face to face contact was in order.
As you could imagine I was getting peckish so as the clock in the square hit 12 I went to a place I had pencilled for a long time. Reviewers on the net had descriptions of the Blue Rose, “no fuss, tasty, true Hungarian comfort food” and “generous portions”. This restaurant is a family affair and I was whisked upstairs and given an extensive menu. The waitress, sensing my confusion suggested that she bring me “some starters”. The most pricey item on the whole of the menu came in at $12 AUD so this was not a financial decision I was going to lose sleep over. Then this happened…
Pork knuckle with boiled eggs, mustard, raw onion and raddish on one plate and chicken breast in a parprika and cream sauce with handmade Hungarian pasta on the other. She then reaches round the corner and pulls out a bread tray (“for the sauce”) and by this stage I am getting nervous. Was this a test? What happens if I explode or can’t get through half of it?
The food was best described as “hearty”, as in I feared that it may stop beating due to the sheer volume of food staring me in the face. It was wonderful but I couldn’t get through all of it and hardly put a dent in the bakery on the table. As my movements started slowing the waitress came over and removed what was left on the plates and the remaining bread. I had seen other customers settle bills at the table so I waited for her to return with the bill.
The bill didn’t make an appearance but dessert did, crepes with cottage cheese and a coating of icing sugar.
“Hungarian, very tasty” she said.
I pleaded “Ok, last one”.
I was convincing myself to eat. You can’t disrespect this hardworking women and the kitchen staff who cook with passion, I was a visitor in her country who needs to be respectful of their customs. I had my first bite and somehow found a renewed vigour. It was not sickly sweet and without thinking I had made it disappear.
If she came back with another course I would have jumped out the window. Thankfully it was the bill. Including the tip the total was less than $20 AUD. I was presented with a 10% discount card for my next visit. I would love to come back again but I might need a couple of weeks before I feel the urge to eat.