Each Sunday is different to every other when you partake in Sunday Brunch at the Danubius Hotel Gellért. The difference is in the food selection, to make sure things stay as varied as possible, and a few Sundays each year are particularly distinctive…
Sunday March 8, for example, coincided with International Women’s Day, an annual event that began in 1911, and at the Gellért this meant the ladies received a few surprises. Before the day, women could send the chef their favourite recipes, and he selected a few to prepare. A winner was chosen, with the prize including a ticket to the famous Gellért Spa and Thermal Bath. The next such themed Sunday Brunch will be on Easter Sunday and others will happen throughout the year.
The Gellért’s Sunday Brunches are held in the first-floor Duna Térem, a long, long, room that can hold around 120 people in differing configurations, from square or round tables that seat four, to circular eight-seaters in the window alcoves, to elongated refectory tables that can hold parties of two dozen. On this mild winter day in February we enter to a scene that is buzzing and bustling with activity, and it is obviously advisable to book first, especially for large groups.
The great room runs parallel to the Danube, and window tables are prized for their views of the green metal Freedom Bridge over the river (a more impressive construction than the “iconic” Chain Bridge, don’t you think?) and the Corvinus University and “Whale” on the far bank. Immediately outside in the street, all is busy, even on a Sunday, as trams clank past and boats ply the water.
At the far end of the deep room an open but private area for parties looks out to the almost sheer face of Gellért Hill, where cruel pagans, according to one account, did their party trick with the bishop in a barrel all those centuries ago.
Now, Sunday Brunch is oriented to families and such celebrations as birthdays, and on this Sunday, in the 90 minutes or so that we are there, the pianist strikes up “Happy Birthday” no fewer than four times, as a sizzling indoor firework is delivered to the celebrating table and the other diners add their applause. The piano player is placed right inside the door, so if you want to have a quiet lunch, ask for a table which is bit further in, away from the jaunty music.
Of course, the food and drink is mostly what it’s all about and, after the breakfast session has finished, Chef and his team supplemented by the pastry staff and servers have had 90 minutes to prepare for the Sunday Brunch noon opening.
A choice of two soups is available to launch the proceedings: Beef bouillon with vegetables and spiral pasta, and Broccoli cream soup with white wine. We opt for the latter, and it is quite acceptable, thank you.
A fresh fruit selection comprising oranges, apples, grapefruit, banana, kiwi fruit and green grapes has been prepared, likewise much healthy salad is on offer. There are both brown and white bread rolls (but only white bread) and various sliced cheeses are presented with scattered pumpkin seeds,
The cold selection received most of our attention, and we gorged a little too much on the poultry (the chicken was especially MITM (melt-in-the-mouth) and the fish (smoked salmon, herring and trout, which comes from Szilvásvárad). We also found it hard to resist the red pepper ends stuffed with fresh cheese marinated in olive oil.
Moving on to the heated items, after dipping into the Barramundi with coloured pepper sauce and steamed vegetable, our stomachs were already starting to fill and we could not do full justice to the Sesame seed oil Asian turkey bits. The potato chips and Turkey cordon bleu had to be passed over entirely.
But wait, there’s more! Off to the side were six of those silver containers on legs with sliding rounded lids and these contained further goodies, such as Baked poppy seed-milk loaf, Beef ragout with plum and pearl onion, Meat balls with tomato sauce, Herbed rice, Parsley potato, Duck thigh with steamed beetroot and Creamy spinach with eggs sunny-side-up.
Unable to do more than sample here, and needing to leave just a little space for one or two of the 16 or so spongy and creamy mini-desserts, we realised that a second visit must be arranged to complete the tasting.
As restaurant manager Tamás Antal pointed out, though, they like to change the selection almost completely from week to week, and, with spring approaching, other seasonal offerings will become available, such as asparagus, strawberries and stone fruit. As he points out, the art nouveau Gellért is a bit of a charming old-fashioned hotel and, while they try to follow culinary trends such as lighter food, they will never abandon their mainstay of Hungarian cuisine oriented to families.
In spring the terrace will open and, even if it’s still a little on the chilly side the fresh air coming in changes the atmosphere in the big room. One of the chefs will be out on the patio with a grill.
Finally we should mention that the price includes unlimited draught beer, wine (Galagonya 2013 Fehér and Vörös, Skizo Rozé and Etyeki Kúria 2013 for us), Törley Gála Sec sparkling wine, non-alcoholic beverages and various coffees, but fresh juice is an extra price.
Just outside the room is a play area for children. Have you noticed how misguided youngsters think they can punish their parents by refusing to eat? They’ll learn how silly they were when they’re older, we think, as, replete, we stagger off into the afternoon to walk it off.
Szent Gellért tér 1, District XI
All-you-can-eat Sunday Buffet
Reservations: (+36-1) 889-5500
HUF 5990 plus 10% service charge.
Children 6 to 14 years pay 50%, under-6s free. Hotel guests 15% discount.