I wish I had started my days earlier in Budapest so I could have consumed more pastries.
I’d heard about the city’s multitude of fancy coffee houses, but still I was unprepared for the amazing pastries and lovely places I encountered. During the 19th century, at its peak, Budapest had more than 700 coffee houses. Now, that’s a lot of coffee!
My first stop was at the Alexandra Bookstore, a modern-looking bookstore cum wineshop, until you ascend the escalator to Lotz Terem Café on the second floor. Your eyes immediately gravitate toward the breathtaking ceiling, painted in a bold Renaissance style by Károly Lotz in 1910. (His paintings also decorate the rooms of the Parliament building.)
I could imagine plunking myself down in one of the café’s armchairs, nestled in a corner with a good book and a strong latté and spending a whole afternoon here. Nearby, a handsome Hungarian man was playing classical piano music. This place is the ultimate bookstore!
At Lotz, I ordered a latté and a slice of the infamous Hungarian Dobos torte, a five-layer sponge cake with chocolate buttercream and garnished with a hard caramel glaze. The cake was invented by Hungarian confectioner József C. Dobos, introduced at the National General Exhibition of Budapest in 1885 and presented to the Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph I and his wife. Now, this cake is definitely one for royalty!
On my second day strolling around Budapest’s Fisherman’s Bastion and Buda Castle, I dragged hubby to the nearby historical, quaint coffee house of Ruszwurm. This is one of the city’s oldest pastry shops, opened in 1827 by Hungarian confectioner Ferenc Schwabl. The interior of this cozy and always crowded shop, named after its owner Vilmos Ruszwurm, from 1884 to 1922, even has some of the original 1840s Empire-style furniture.
Ruszwurm isn’t a place to linger long as plenty of other tourists are waiting to grab a seat and sample another decadent bite of Dobos torte. However, I think it’s worth waiting for a table to taste a delicious bite of history.
|A decadent chocolate cake for hubby and another slice of Dobos torte for me at Ruszwurm in Budapest.|
My most expensive coffee house visit was at The New York Café (New York Kávéház) located on a picturesque boulevard inside the luxurious Boscolo Budapest Hotel (formerly the New York Palace). One of my Istanbul friends, Elaine, had urged me to go to this café, telling me that I would love it. She was right!
As soon as I walked inside, I took a step back in time and was greeted by gorgeous frescoes on the ceiling, gilded columns and stunning crystal chandeliers. This café, originally built by the New York Life Insurance Company as its local head office in 1894, once served as the local hangout for Hungarian writers, newspaper editors, poets and artists. Luckily, the building survived World War II, Communist rule, a sporting goods shop conversion, neglect and finally was restored to its original splendor in 2006 and converted into the Boscolo Budapest Hotel.
|Interior of The New York Café in Budapest.|
Since I was solo, I treated myself to a fancy lunch of mixed greens with grilled rabbit, a glass of Hungarian white wine and of course, dessert, a sublime piece of “crunchy nut cake.” This sweet confection contained layers of a hazelnut dacquiose cake, a praline mousse and caramel glaze – at least that’s what I determined. This is the type of dessert I would have made at any of the restaurants I previously worked at in the U.S.
Service is a bit harried here, but I took it all in stride and enjoyed my 90 minutes of people watching and leisurely lunch. The atmosphere and delectable dessert was well worth the 10,000 HUF ($45) price tag!
My only complaint is the nearby table of five older women that only ordered pasta and coffee drinks. If you’re going to visit the New York Café , you damned well better order dessert. You’d be crazy not to!
Budapest has dozens of coffee houses throughout the city, but these were three I visited and would return to in a second.
Alexandra Bookstore, Andrássy út 39, near the Oktogon metro stop, Budapest
The New York Café (New York Kávéház), Erzsébet körút 9-11, Budapest
Ruszwurm, Szentháromság St 7, near the Buda Castle, Budapest
|The amazing pastry display case at the Lotz Terem Café in Budapest.|