Since the reopening of Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in September 2013, the square in front of the building has recovered significantly in prestige. Gastronomically, however, this revival was limited. With last Saturday’s opening of Seasons Bistro, this has begun to change.
Liszt Ferenc Square – actually a car-free street between Király utca and Andrássy út – is known as a gastronomic centre of Budapest. However, many of the local restaurants act more as a “tourist trap” than as places of cuisine. The Seasons Bistro has therefore settled in nicely. Directly opposite the venerable music school and concert venue, the restaurant primarily welcomes those who like to eat well in a stylish setting, without having to study the menu with a French dictionary in the other hand. Regardless if it’s a snack before or after a concert, lunch or high-quality dining, patrons are well-cared for.
Owner Zoltán Juhász has returned to familiar territory with the restaurant. Until 2007 he was successful in the catering trade but decided he needed a break from the industry. The desire for a new, special cuisine eventually brought him back to his roots.
“In the meantime a lot has changed,” says Juhász. “It has become more difficult to treat the customer as king, as is my philosophy. As a restaurant owner you have to consider so many regulations and do so much paperwork, and these take up a lot of time.”
As an example Juhász mentions the legislation that during their first month of business all restaurants can only stay open until 10pm. Such things are especially difficult to understand when the restaurant is located in an uninhabited house, as is Seasons Bistro.
The originally planned opening – in May – had to be postponed due to external circumstances: there were just too many unexpected regulations to be followed during the interior design of the nearly-200-year-old building.
The result, however, can make him proud: Seasons Bistro is furnished with taste and attention to detail: these include Hungarian references on the wall (such as graphics of various Hungarikums), or Spanish tendencies in the colourful open kitchen.
There are plenty of tables on the inside but it is the terrace where one can dine in a great ambience: the facade of the Academy of Music is right there in front of you. The basement at times will function as a jazz bar or provide space for wine tastings.
The heart of the restaurant is Josper. No, Josper is not a friendly staff member but a unique – and very elegant – mixture of grill and oven; a compact, black device that stands in Seasons Bistro’s open kitchen, allowing guests to watch the chefs at work.
Josper is fired with Argentine bio-charcoal. “This is the Rolls-Royce of stoves,” says Juhász, obviously thrilled by the quality of the kitchen appliance. Josper even has a dedicated section in the menu, which includes the dishes prepared in the belly of the valuable oven.
Since the device can be heated up to 500 degrees, meat arrives with a crispy crust, while the inside remains nice and tender, explains chef Endre Ruga.
But we need to wait a bit to taste the result of Josper’s talents because first the appetiser is served: foie gras with butter and homemade plum chutney, served in an open jar with a fig slice. This entree immediately reveals the approach of the young chef: classic dishes and simple spices with insightful tricks, so as not to deprive the meal of its basic taste.
The trick with this dish is that the some orange juice is added to the Indian , which gives the spread not only a fresh touch but also prevents its oxidation.
During the main course – French baby chicken stew with peas and potatoes of the house – Josper’s moment finally arrives. In addition to the meat, the potatoes have also seen the inside of the oven, and this idea really pays off. The jus surrounding the chicken, and the delicious buttery landscape in which peas cavort, also deserve praise.
Only the arrangement poses a practical problem. Since peas and potatoes are in an indeed pretty, but separate, pot, it is a bit difficult to coordinate the consumption of both.
The dessert, a homemade chocolate cake with fresh fruits, has an equally convincing taste. The special feature here is that it is made without flour. The result: although the serving is significant in size and crowned by a portion of mascarpone as well as a little mint, it gives the impression of a lightweight.
Seasons Bistro is an asset to the entire Liszt Ferenc Square and is a restaurant for delicious yet casual cuisine. The fact that some parts of the place are still not finished does not bother, especially since the attitude of the entire team suggests that they have a great desire to bring the place in full swing. The music perhaps could be a little quieter but otherwise nothing really stands in the way of a successful gastronomic establishment.
Appetisers: HUF 1,500-2,900
Main courses: HUF 1,500-5,000
Dessert: HUF 600-1,200
Glass of wine: HUF 500-2,000