Review: Két Szerecsen, District VI
Just a stone’s throw away from the whirlwind of Andrássy avenue and right on Budapest’s theatre street, the Két Szerecsen Bistro and Café offers pleasant surroundings in which to meet friends or bring family for a leisurely drink or meal.
The café was opened in 1998 but the two turbaned heads ornamenting the establishment’s name show that the café boasts much more ancient roots. The story runs that, back in the 1860s before Andrássy avenue or the metro line that underlies it were even thought of, a coffee shop called Két Szerecsen (Two Saracens) attracted customers with promises of exotic black drinks.
Not that one should expect to enter an oriental bazaar. Multicoloured light shades, some reminiscent of mosque hangings, decorate an otherwise well-organised and functional space. The tables, dark wooden chairs and uniformed waiters give the feel of a retro Parisian meeting place. Sitting at one of the front tables, the large wooden-framed windows blur the distinction between inside and outside as one peers at passersby or at the snowflakes on this winter day. The blurring takes on an extra dimension in the summer, when shaded terraces on the front and to the side of the café allow additional seating space.
On the restaurant side, Arabic influences are almost entirely cast away, as the menu and daily specials offer a medley of Asian, Spanish, Italian and Hungarian influences. Despite the array of choice, it is not too difficult to compose a menu to one’s personal taste from among the assortments of tapas ranging from simple but attractive homemade lentil croquettes to platters with meat or fish or from pastas or risottos.
Hungarian traditions are also represented with a well spiced pork-based goulash that slides more towards the soup than the stew side of the range. To follow, the very seasonal duck breast requires some strong knife action, though the meat was well complemented by a more unusual but well assorted pairing of honeyed beetroots and layered sweet potatoes as well as by the nice Merlot Szekszárd 2008 from a wine list that covers a range of Hungarian wines.
For those less keen to sample the meat dishes, the cream soup with pumpkin, ginger and crispy vegetables provides a light but filling alternative well complemented by the delicious bread prepared on the premises. To continue with the sweet-savoury theme, the Thai green curry with prawns and jasmine rice steamed in coconut milk is one of several vegetarian options. Although it is not made very visible on the menu, waiters and kitchen staff readily cater for those with food allergies.
Though the portions were rather on the generous side, the dessert offerings are too tempting to be ignored, with the chocolate pudding teamed with sour cherries and fiery ginger ice-cream turning out to be rightly the most popular dessert among the clientele.
Tapas HUF 690-3,900
Starters HUF 1,390-2,690
Soups HUF 890-990
Mains HUF 1,390-3,190
Desserts HUF 790-990
Coffee, tea HUF 350-990
Water HUF 350-690
Wine (bottle) HUF 2,800-13,900
Két Szerecsen Bistro & Café
District VI, Nagymez? utca 14
Open Mon-Fri 08.00-midnight, Sat-Sun 09.00-midnight, breakfast available Mon-Fri 08.00-11.00 and Sat-Sun 09.00-11.30.
(+36-1) 343-1984 www.ketszerecsen.hu