Caviar & Bull in District VII
360 degrees of culinary adventures
The catch of the restaurant owned by the successful Maltese restaurateur Marvin Gauci is its great design, cosmopolitan atmosphere and innovative kitchen. Moreover, it houses one of the most delicious secrets of the Budapest gastro scene: “Uncensored” is a mix of a futuristic simulator, a speakeasy and a dinner, and it takes you around the world.
When you enter Caviar & Bull in the ground floor of the Corinthia Hotel Budapest, you can already feel its magic as you are led to the cloakroom, where your coat is taken – and then, a secret door opens from out of nowhere, leading into a sort of vinothek. “People think that we are joking around with them,” Tom Hegedűs, the restaurant manager, tells us. On the other side of the room that looks like a speakeasy, a culinary experience is waiting for the guests, one which they are not going to forget for a long time.
Uncensored: a multi-sensory culinary experience
Once you have taken your place, you find yourself in an audiovisual world that surrounds you on every side. There are a few dimmed spotlights but otherwise it’s dark, and a secretive piano music is playing in the background. Only a few more tables are standing on your left and right, because only ten guests may participate in the adventure each night.
A few minutes after 19.30, when all the guests have been served their drinks, the show begins, taking you around the world with the help of a unique 360-degree video technology. After a short introduction, where the video projection of restaurant owner Gauci briefly presents the restaurant concept, the travel may begin.
You begin in Budapest, where you float in the air above the bridges on the Danube, then you go around the whole world, stopping in many different countries, ranging from Russia to China, Japan, Brazil, the USA, Spain. The specialty of the travel: the magic of each stop is conjured using sounds that are typical of the country, atmospheric panoramic images and even regional scents and flavours.
“Each dish in the seven-course degustation menu and the accompanying wine suggestions are inspired by the individual countries,” Hegedűs explains. György Tivadar, the chef, is responsible for composing the menu.
Dinner is served in the presentation room, so your thoughts never leave the course of the video world. The 3D animations are sometimes a little crude but always flowing, and their quality is impressive in the category of the immersive 360-degree projections. The tables are equipped with very comfortable revolving chairs so that the guests can easily turn around to look at any detail of the surrounding situation. This is a unique multisensory experience where you not only travel the world but discover it via tastes and using all your senses. “Even for us, who are working here, it’s a cool experience each and every time,” Hegedűs tells us. The program with seven courses takes two to two-and-a-half hours.
The special “taste journey”, as the creators call it, is offered three days a week at the moment and is – no surprise – usually fully booked for weeks in advance. “We are working on extending the offer to four days a week,” the restaurant manager adds. As soon as the staff numbers allow it, the capacity of the room will be adjusted to 24 persons per night. The multisensory dinner costs HUF 38,500 per person, with the wine selection a further HUF 26,500.
Attracts the public even after four years
The star restaurateur Marvin Gauci got the idea for the gastro project, which is one of its kind in Hungary, when he went to Disneyland with his family. He visited a simulator there, as he explains in Corinthia’s internal online blog. This audiovisual experience had such an effect on him that he went on the ride three more times. “My wife and I looked at each other. We both had the same idea: We could create a similar experience in a restaurant.” The result was a new concept restaurant, Uncensored.
Time has already proven that Gauci was right to follow his instincts. Even after four years, a visit to Caviar & Bull is still an adventure even for regulars.
For one, there is the design, which is exclusive on the domestic restaurant market: the interiors of both guestrooms are dominated by shades of black and grey, lightened up by golden highlights that come into play mainly in the evening with the help of the well-planned lighting concept. The ambiance is tidy and timeless, and this is why it has managed to survive a couple of trend changes. One of the restaurant’s visual highlights is still – in addition to the captivating fishbone painting, a bull torso and the impressive bar – the lobster tank in the rear dining room. You can watch the shellfish marching cheerfully up and down before inevitably landing on one of the plates.
Lobster popcorn and beef carpaccio
And just like that, we have arrived to the reason why guests from all around the world are attracted to the restaurant on Erzsébet körút: its unusual culinary creations. The menu at Caviar & Bull contains an equally large amount of culinary fantasy both in terms of preparation and presentation.
Have you ever seen lobster popcorn on any other menu? It’s a luxurious and innovative specialty, a personal invention of owner Gauci. For the preparation of this dish they remove the flesh from the shell first, cut it into little cubes and then deep fry them. The crispy result is similar to a real popcorn both in terms of colour and shape. It’s served with a spicy-hot sauce in the cleaned empty lobster shell – so it’s a real eye-catcher as well.
If you would like to experience all the might of the kitchen, you should go for one of the degustation menus. The eight courses of the comprehensive “contemporary” menu are revolving around meat, while the nine courses of the “cosmopolitan” menu present the wonders of the sea. It does not matter which variant you opt for, both promise to beguile all your senses with their carefully composed bites. In terms of prices the menus cost HUF 22,500 or HUF 28,500 for the seven or eight courses.
As the name Caviar & Bull might suggest, the menu card combines two especially prominent virtues of the Mediterranean cuisine: besides laying emphasis on using many different kinds of fish and seafood, they have outstanding expertise in preparing beef, which is a famous dish on the Mediterranean island of Malta. The beef carpaccio smoked with oakwood, the black angus tartar and the different steaks are also very popular.
Especially for experienced foodies, the caviar selection of the noble restaurant is another must, because besides gold label caviar and Osietra they serve platinum hybrid caviar, white pearl and even rare beluga.
While many dishes have kept their place on the menu card since the restaurant opened in 2017, in the following years many new impressive creations made their way to the plates as well. The Hungarian team has Gauci’s full trust in that matter, since, as Hegedűs tells us, although he comes around every once in a while to check that everything is in order, he fully trusts chef Tivadar and his team with the creation of new dishes or the seasonal changes.
Tivadar’s new creations include the goose liver paté, which is a happy and fresh reinterpretation in a molecular sphere accompanied by Tokay caviar, the mushroom and duck terrine and the calamarata pasta, which is an especially popular dish these days, according to Hegedűs.
What next for Caviar & Bull and Gauci in Hungary? First of all, the restaurant hopes to be able to bridge the staff gaps caused by the pandemic. “We had to let go many of our colleagues during the lockdown and not all of them returned as we reopened, so we cannot work with full capacity,” Hegedűs explains. This is a problem, he says, that hit hard not only at Caviar & Bull but in the whole hospitality industry. Many employees have found jobs in other industries.
However, Hegedűs does not sound like he is giving up. Despite everything, business is very good: “We are keeping our standards high and we are getting great feedback for it. The large number of returning guests and more than 1800 positive evaluations on TripAdvisor are telling the whole story.”
Meanwhile, Gauci seems to feel so good in Hungary that he is considering opening another restaurant in Budapest, as Hegedűs tells us. Hegedűs would be managing the development of the new project as well, however he is not ready to share any details yet.
Caviar & Bull
Budapest, District VII, 43-49 Erzsébet körút
Open: Tuesday to Saturday 5-11pm
Reservations at (+36) 30 832-3232 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Degustation menus (7 or 8 courses): HUF 22,500 and HUF 28,500
Caviar (Degustation portion of 5 grammes): HUF 3300-11,500
Appetisers: HUF 2400-9900
Main dishes: HUF 7900-33,000