You can recognise The Imperator from afar by the snow-white limousine parked in front of its door. “We use it to pick up guests from their hotels who reserve with us, especially in the summer months,” Fredrick Rothhaar explains. The German citizen, who has also been the proud possessor of Hungarian citizenship for the past two years, is not only the owner of this restaurant but also another called The Casablanca, exactly 200 metres away, in Váci utca.


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From crisis manager to restaurant owner

Fredrick A. Rothhaar, nicknamed Faro or Rick, arrived in Budapest 27 years ago. He used to work as a crisis manager in North America, and Western and Central Europe for many years, and his former employer, the German food company Stollwerck GmbH, sent him on a mission to Hungary during this time. As a chief representative, he was supposed to take over the management of several chocolate factories simultaneously.

Rothhaar still remembers the moment when he fell in love with the Hungarian capital: “We arrived in the evening and checked in to our rooms on the sixth or seventh floor of our hotel, which is called the InterContinental today. When I walked to the window and pulled the curtains apart, I was welcomed by an astonishing view of the Danube and the Buda Castle with lights. Then I knew that I could be living here.”


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Later on Rothhaar was also sent to Russia, where he met his wife, Tamara, but he did not let go his dream of Hungary. This is why the German businessman decided to stay here after he became a pensioner, and he opened his first restaurant, The Casablanca, in 2001, which, as Rothhaar explains, used to be the most popular meeting point for foreign business people in Budapest for many years.


Old-school style

Business was going well, and more and more guests were asking him to recommend other restaurants to visit in Budapest, Rothhaar began to think. Why should he send his guests to the competition if he could serve them himself? So he opened his second restaurant, The Imperator, in 2008.

There is one thing that can be safely said about The Imperator, namely that it’s a unique place on the Budapest restaurant landscape: When you enter, you immediately get the impression that it is an oligarch temple, the ones that you can see in documentaries about the life of rich Russians at the end of the 1990s.


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At first sight you will be overwhelmed by the fancy interior – the noble wallpapers, balustrades decorated with golden details, huge mirrors, baroque painting and steps covered with heavy rugs give you the impression that the old-school-class style is followed here. According to this concept, Rothhaar requires his guests to wear outfits matching the ambience. He is not a big fan of torn trousers, “even if it counts as trendy nowadays”, and he has considered introducing a dress code.

Bizarre details such as a knight’s armour or a Kalashnikov hanging over one of the tables make the restaurant really interesting. As Rothhaar explains, these are left over from a museum that he once operated.

The Petőfi Square location means that diners can enjoy the window seats offering a romantic view of the Danube and the nearby sights. For a more private experience, we suggest taking one of the places at the rear section of the guest room or the upper floor of the restaurant.


Specialities from the hot stone

The Imperator’s menu primarily contains traditional Hungarian and Russian dishes. You can find goulash soup, fisherman’s soup, pörkölt and goose liver in the selection, and Russian classics such as pelmeni, haring and caviar. Caviar is offered in numerous variations – both for the smaller and larger budgets – and they make an excellent appetiser too.


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Still, the main culinary attractions here are the specialties from the hot stone. Especially steaks – made both from beef and pork – are served prepared by this special method, but they also offer poultry, fish and seafood. The special thing about this is that the actual cooking procedure takes place on your own table. You will be served filet pieces already lightly toasted on both sides on a thick stone plate that has been pre-heated up to 400 C in the oven. At first the meat is still a bit raw, but the guest can fully control how the meat, poultry or other food should be done: juicier or crispier.

As oils and other kinds of fat are not used during this preparation method, the dishes contain fewer calories and therefore are healthier. You will be served steak potatoes and home-made sauces on the side.

It’s hard to pick a favourite from the wide selection of house specialties, still, Rothhaar especially suggests trying the T-Bone Steak, the Five-Star-Meat-Surprise and a combination of seafood and steak, known as Surf ’n’ Turf. If you would like to top off these delicacies with a light dessert, try the lemon sorbet, which can be prepared with champagne or vodka too, if you wish.


Live music and dancing

Besides your well-being they care about your entertainment at The Imperator. Every evening at 18.00 two musicians play violin and piano to provide a matching musical background for your dinner. Between 20.00 and 21.00 you can see a folk dance show each evening.


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Recently, if you are in the mood, you can try your skill on the dancefloor yourself too. They have removed a table from the guest room on the ground floor so that people have enough space for dancing. Rothhaar got the idea as he was celebrating his 77th birthday at The Imperator. In his opinion there are too few dance rooms oriented to the more mature public in Budapest. You can do the salsa and other standard dances at this restaurant and at later hours even rock ’n’ roll.

To get to know The Imperator and its owner better, and learn a bit about his exciting life and career, take a look at the self-published books and all the titbits lying around. Rothhaar has published seven of his books to date, sharing his ideas on management and life, and telling stories about his years spent in Italy, North America and Russia. He also offers an overview of the history of the Carpathian Basin. Writing is his hobby and he is working on his next book, about the search for the true religion.

The Imperator

Budapest, District V, 2 Petőfi Square

Open: daily noon-midnight

Reservations at (+36) 30 403-3665

See www.theimperator.hu/

Prices

Appetisers: HUF 2300- 4600

Soups and salads: HUF 1300-3900

Mains: HUF 2700-13,900

Desserts: HUF 1300

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