Fortunately for Fortuna utca, and no doubt deliberately, the three managers who are breathing down each others' necks haven't been seen trying to strangle each other yet, for they are in many ways catering for different clientele. Each restaurant has its own clear-cut personality, both in food and design.

At 21 Hungarian Kitchen the offering is traditional Hungarian cuisine as it was in the "good old days" but updated to the 21st century. The original real taste remains very important, but the dishes are modern and lighter than in the old-fashioned way.

Right opposite, Pierrot is perhaps the most upscale of the three, boasting a list of famous visitors (Sir Roger Moore, Robert De Niro, Marcello Mastroianni, Antonio Banderas, Jeremy Irons, Harrison Ford, Eva Mendes, AC/DC and others) and with Michelin Red Guide and Gault Millau credentials. It is in a 13th-century old bakery house and dubs its menu as Cosmopolitan Cuisine of the Monarchy.

And then there is Pest-Buda Bistro & Hotel, down the road a little, where the attraction is "Grandma's Kitchen with Love and Care". As the sign outside proclaims, the history of Pest-Buda goes back to 1696, when it opened its doors as an inn. It is the country's oldest hotel and the ground floor has been a tavern or restaurant for some centuries. Up above, the boutique hotel has 10 designer rooms.

Nowadays, Pest-Buda Bistro & Hotel promises that Grandma's home-style Hungarian kitchen uses the very best ingredients. The courses begin with a choice of three soups: a traditional goulash with nipped pasta, or chicken with vegetables or, our selection, Hungarian fish soup to their own recipe. After these can come the starters: Baked Camembert in filo pastry with marinated pear and caremelised peanuts, or Hungarian Bistro Plate with homemade mangalica pork terrine, crackline cream, sausage and merket pickles, or Homemade Duck Liver Paté with brioche and golden raisin chutney, or Hortobágyi Chicken Crépe with paprika sauce.

For lubrication between bites, four Hungarian craft beers are on offer alongside the Belgian Leffe and Hoegaarden. A wide range of Hungarian wines has been selected as being rich with personality, and these include the recognisable names St. Andrea, Konyári Pincészet, Vámos Attila, Sauska, Jófajta and Pultalóli.

Moving on down the menu to the classic Hungarian section, Grilled Filet of Pike Perch and crunchy seasonal vegetables with a light Bearnaise sauce is selected, leaving at least one visitor at our table in ecstasy. It means passing up the Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage with sour cream, Crispy Duck Leg with braised purple cabbage and grilled potato noodles, Catfish Paprikash with homemade cottage cheese pasta, Braised Pork with paprika and fried potato cubes, Grilled Homeade Tokaj Wine Sausage with French fries and even more selections.

In the Tradional Hungarian Bread-crumbed section we find Crispy pork tenderloin, Wiener Schnitzel and Fried chicken thigh. Desserts run to Apple strudel with vanilla sauce, Hungarian nut pastry with sabayon, Chocolate soufflé, Plum dumplings with cream cheese and cinnamon crumble, and Grandma's crepe with homemade jam.

Alternatively, there is always the Chef's – or perhaps it is his Grandma's – Offer, on this day comprising French onion soup, Beef tartare, Confit pork chop, Chicken supreme and Twisted doughnut. Overall, it is a simple kitchen such as Grandma had, earning a recommendation from Gault Millau Guide.

Thirty metres up the road at Hess Andras tér is the Pest-Buda Terasz, which is operated and supplied by the Pest-Buda Bistro & Hotel, giving waiters some gentle exercise back and forth between the kitchen and the triangular (!) square. Diners here sit outside the Red Hedgehog House, one of the oldest buildings in the capital, dating back more than 700 years. For centuries, right up until 1805, it was an inn called "To the Red Hedgehog", the venue for many balls and plays.

The hedgehog is up there on the wall and the square/triangle has chestnut trees, a statue of Pope Innocent XI and a direct view to the almost adjacent Mátyás Templom. The terrace is closed at the moment, reopening in mid-March, if the weather is up to it, until mid-October.

Come out of the Pest-Buda Bistro & Hotel and turn left to Szentháromság tér and then right towards the Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum, and you will find one of the other two restaurants in the Zsidai Group's Buda Castle Gastronomy Quarter: Jamie's Italian, the brand founded by English celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and Italian chef Gennaro Contaldo in Oxford in 2008.

Come out of the Pest-Buda Bistro & Hotel and turn right to the National Archives and then left towards Kapisztrán tér, and this brings you to the fifth component of the Gastronomy Quarter, the Baltazár Bar, Wine Bar, Grill and Hotel. Whichever way you go, it's all UNESCO World Heritage territory, and has been since 1987.

Unlike 21 Hungarian Kitchen, where diners can look into the actual kitchen and watch the chefs toiling away, Pest-Buda Bistro & Hotel's kitchen is unseen, down some steep stairs to basement level. But we know Grandma must be down there, hard at work.


Pest-Buda Bistro & Hotel
Fortuna utca 3, District I
Open daily 7.30am-midnight
Tel.: (06-1) 225-0377
E-mail: hello@pest-buda.com
www.pest-buda.com
www.zsidai.com


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