Unless, of course, you stumble upon Big Fish. The self-described “seafood bistro” in a prime location on Andrássy út is filling that gap in the market, serving up seafood dishes that locals would only usually be able to eat on holiday. It opened in 2013 to roaring demand, and on the second Saturday they had sold out by 3pm.

The business venture started out when a group of friends, one of whom is a seafood expert with connections to the seafood market in the suburb of Budaörs, got together and decided to open a restaurant.

Co-owner Peter Papp talks me through the concept of Big Fish. “The basic idea was a mission to move away from the red meat that is so popular in Hungary,” he says. “We realised there are no really good options for Hungarians to enjoy this type of food, so we wanted to give them the option in Budapest. The other aspect of this is the rise of healthy eating.”


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Papp prides himself on his business model: “Providing a standardised product is very important to us, as is keeping our brand active on social media.” Fresh fish is collected on a daily basis from a reliable partner, The Fishmarket Kft., based in Budaörs. The Fishmarket Kft. supplies seafood for Hungary’s best restaurants, and one of the co-partners of Big Fish is himself in the trade.

A big part of the brand is the décor, which has been meticulously designed in a maritime style. With its large spacious and high-ceilinged interior typical in Budapest, the bistro has an airy feel.

Chairs are blue, tables are wood and surfaces are steel grey, and there is a mix of high and low tables complimented by low-hung lamps. There are additional seaside-themed motifs on the walls.

The large outdoor terrace is open during the warmer seasons, giving the perfect vista of the bustling heart of the city.

“We wanted to build a brand, not just a restaurant,” Papp explains. “It was crucial that the design elements and the interior should be unique and create a good atmosphere.”

First I peruse the starters menu and opt for a seafood platter, which includes thinly sliced braised tuna, baby octopus ceviche and monkfish liver. It’s the perfect hors d’oeuvres, crafted by the bistro’s corporate chef Attila Áman, a man passionate about seafood.

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The oily tuna gives me an instant hit of Omega 3. The ceviche is tart and fruity, a mixture of sea and citrus that works well. I follow up with a plate of giant prawns with fresh crunchy salad, which the chef grills lightly behind the seafood cabinet.

The indoor dining area is dominated by the seafood cabinet, constantly refreshed with bursts of cold steam. The wood-lined cabinets house a large fresh selection that diners can peruse and pick from at their leisure. The majority of diners choose food this way, the manager tells me.

Fish varieties – sea bream, sole, sea bass, trout, mackerel, swordfish, salmon, tuna and monkfish – are available whole or in fillets. Mussels, crabs and oysters are further options.

My companion opts for sea bass, which comes stuffed with rosemary and garlic. Along with tuna and salmon fillet, this is the customers’ most popular choice, I am told.

For those with more time on their hands who are feeling more extravagant, lobster is also an option. Other platters are available for those with more of a carb craving, such as English-style fish and chips and Spanish-style paella.

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Seafood from the cabinet is sold by weight in the traditional fashion. “Finding and keeping good staff is important. The other challenge is keeping our prices consistent with the changing prices on the fish market. Salmon prices have risen over 100%.”

No good fish is complete without an accompanying white wine, and this is something the managers have thought through. The delicious house wine is the perfect tipple and it comes straight from a vineyard in Etyek.

Papp is optimistic about the future. “We plan to expand and open a new restaurant in Vienna. It’s also a landlocked country with a similar culture. It’s challenging because it’s very close but it’s a different culture.”

For those who want healthy, minimalist and fresh seafood dishes prepared with light seasonings, Big Fish is a perfect option.

The Big Fish

Budapest, District VI, Andrássy út 44.

Open every day noon to 10pm

Reservations at (+36-1) 269-0693

See: www.bigfish.hu


Prices:

Cold starters: HUF 690 to 2100

Sides: HUF 670 to 980

Mains: from HUF 2550

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