The concept of apartment restaurants have always intrigued me, so when I found out there is a pop-up restaurant in Budapest called Eat&Meet I knew I had to go!
I met Zsuzska, aka Suzie, Goldbach at a Travel Massive meeting. She passionately talked about Hungarian cuisine and how saddened she is that local restaurants offer a caricaturised representation of Hungarian cooking dominated by the goulash. So Suzie took matters into her own hands and started her very own pop-up restaurant in Budapest. Welcoming guests into her family home, Suzie’s mission to share homecooked Hungarian food with anyone looking for an authentic dining experience is definitely a success.
Hosted from their condo on the banks of the Danube in the upper part of the XIII District, travelling to Chez Goldbach might seem off the beaten bath a bit. My Uber driver chastised me for choosing the more scenic route over Margit Bridge, instead of taking the more utilitarian Árpad Bridge further up. In my dash to make it to the place on time after finishing work, I had no idea which bridge was better, and picked the first he offered. Even then I was 10 minutes early. For other visitors, the apartment block is only a few minutes from the blue metro line 3, so easy to access from the centre.
But I got the chance to chat a bit with Suzie’s mum, who is the head chef at this pop-up abode, and her father, who personally selected the wines to go with the dinner. Soon the guests arrived en masse, an international bunch mostly comprised of Italians and Americans. The idea behind this pop-up restaurant in Budapest is not only to serve good, home cooking, but to have people meet and mix from all walks of life.
To get the tongues lubricated, Suzie offered us all an aperitif of home made pálinka, a strong Hungarian clear fruit brandy. In this particular case, the weapon of choice was made from apricots they grew themselves in their country garden and aged for 16 years. Some pálinkas have the horrid tendency to burn on the way down and you’re lucky to taste the fruit. However, this particular palinka was aromatic, and the fruit was easily guessed by the guests in a matter of seconds. Suzie told us the aroma came from having aged the liquor for such a long time.
“Pálinka helps open your stomach so you’re ready for the food,” Suzie continued us as we sipped from the dainty tulip shaped glasses the family handed. Although, the smell coming from the kitchen had already done enough to whet the appetite even without the help from pálinka. Although, pálinka is always welcome.
In the next room, the long dining table was set out with the evening views over the Danube, and the guests were encouraged to sit next to people they don’t know, in a bid to stimulate conversation. The dinner is not called Eat&Meet for nothing, since meeting new people is all part of the fun.
Soon, we could tuck into the first course. The starring actor of the salad was pumpkin grown by the family in their country house, the last batch of the season in early December, coming wrapped with ham drizzled with balsamic reduction and accented by the local butter radish.
“We only use local and seasonal ingredients,” Suzie continued, “This radish, which translates into English as a ‘butter radish’ is a vegetable that can only be found around Hungary. It’s a delicate radish that’s in season right now, and goes really well with pumpkin and ham, which is also seasonal at the moment.”
All the dishes came paired with local Hungarian wines that have been selected to accompany each course perfectly. Unlike your usual restaurant, asking for a refill is not something that’s frowned upon, instead Suzie’s father will happy fill up your glass, sometimes even encouraging you to drink more!
The atmosphere relaxed into casual banter and the discussion of food. Suzie told us tales of her family and their passion for food and wine. The room, scattered with photographs from previous dinners and family shots offers a more personal touch than your usual restaurant.
The second course also delighted the crowd: a delicious partly braised and roasted duck leg comes with a braised sweet and sour red cabbage prepared with quince and ételecet, a strong Hungarian vinegar used in local cooking, potatoes mashed with onions accented with fresh sprouts that are perfect for a cold winter night. It’s so good, many of us asked for seconds. The main course was also served with a local red wine made from the Kadarka grape, a type of grape indigenous to the region that can’t be found outside the Carpathian Basin. It’s a delicate red, that is perhaps best compared to a Pinot Noir. Quite a few, myself included, requested a second glass!
The final course is another dish that is unique to Hungary – we’re treated to a poppy seed and cherry cake served along side a sweet Tokaj dessert wine, Hungary’s most famous and revered wine.
“Poppy seed is an ingredient we simply can’t live without in Hungary,” said Suzie, “We use it in all kinds of desserts, but what’s funny about poppy seed is that it actually shows up in drug tests. If you were to get tested after this dinner, it would show up in a blood test.”
Good thing none of us are professional athletes then.
We rounded off the dinner with a small gift bag of local chocolates and slowly the party began to disband with full stomachs and even warmer souls.
Definitely different to the usual restaurant experience, at 35 Euros a head the dinner is a a good price when you factor in all the courses (with seconds included!), wine, chocolates and pálinka, but even more than that is Suzie’s passion and knowledge and the welcome her family gave their guests. Suzie took great lengths to explain all the ingredients, entertaining us with little vignettes about her family, about their country house where they run open air dinners in the summer and grow their own vegetables (which feature in the dinners)! Eat&Meet combines the best side of both dining out and dining in en famille.
See more about Eat&Meet pop-up restaurant in Budapest and the dates of their next dinners on their website: http://eatmeet-hungary.com/