Overlooking Vajdahunyad Castle across the lake in City Park, Városliget Café can certainly boast one of the most romantic views in Budapest. Set in the historic ice-rink building, this café hits the right notes with its fin de siècle grandeur, jazzed up with a modern smart-casual feel and contemporary Hungarian cuisine.
From the outside, Városliget Café still exudes the classic opulence of the original historic building, but on its sunny terraces and modern interior the restaurant is a chameleon that fits into all situations, be it a romantic dinner, a casual business lunch on the terrace or a family-friendly meal on the weekends.
However, it’s not only the clientele that changes with the mood, but the restaurant organically follows the seasons in its food and layout. In the winter it looks out across the famous ice-rink, and in the summer months the waterfront decking on the lake takes on happy diners chasing the sun.
Városliget Café embraces the philosophy that fresh and seasonal is best. Everything is controlled by the kitchen from stock used in the soups and “főzelék”, a thick Hungarian vegetable purée, to the freshly baked bread that’s hot out of the oven.
For an amuse bouche, the goats cheese pudding served with an onion marmalade couples the tangy and creamy taste of the cheese with the tart sweetness of the caramelised onions. It is great to set things in motion for the main course.
The “Tányérhús” is the signature dish and manages to capture the best in Hungarian cuisine, while being efficient, filling and delicious, and is plated and served in many courses. First, the tongue, rump or rib beef cuts from Hungarian grey cattle is brought in a bowl of broth. This was slow cooked for 15 hours overnight, releasing ample flavour into the stock, and is unspoiled by salt.
The bones are presented with ceremony, accompanied with toast and garlic. The server cuts out the marrow, which is then spread on garlic toast, topped with a tiny sliver of salt to bring out the rich meaty taste.
The meat is plated and accompanied with a side dish of grated potatoes gently fried into a “pancake”, served along with an apple and horseradish relish. The sauces you can pick from are the creamed, fresh spinach leaves and, for those with a more daring palate, there is a creamy plum sauce, hinting at a summer of “fruit soups”.
Other dishes on the menu include a slice of perch with a “garden főzelék”, where the accent of “mangalica” pork flakes and crispy veg give the dish a mix of contrasting textures.
For something special, then try the roasted lamb sweetbreads with vegetable purée. Topped with sweet demi-glace-based sauce, the tender sweetbreads fall apart in the mouth after having been cooked for 16 hours. Try it with a glass of 2011 Ráspi Soproni Kékfrankos.
To round things off, there is a tantalising selection of desserts, and the Rosy Floating Island (“Rózsás Madártej”) won out with its floral rose-accented custard and light, vanilla meringue topping.
Coffee lovers must try the house “Liget” Coffee, a special handpicked blend that is freshly roasted and ground on site. The coffee is served with homemade whipped cream and confectionery and is definitely a contender for the best coffee in Budapest.
Városliget Café not only serves great food and spectacular coffee but its view and relaxed atmosphere, whether you’re in the restaurant, terrace or green-decorated champagne bar, make it a wonderful place to dine out on any occasion.
Starters: HUF 850-2,900
Mains: HUF 1,500-6,900
Dessert: HUF 800-2,200
Wine (1dl): HUF 490-2,100