After gastronomy at the Hungarian State Opera at Andrássy út went through a slow, agonising death over long years, this month a sudden, almost dramatic resurrection happened: the new Opera Café opened. The Zsidai enterprise group developed a special gastronomic concept for the place, bringing back
the old flair of imperial times but at the same time with a touch of modern extravagance.
It is a fact that the State Opera House is one of the most important attractions of the Pest city centre. Thousands of tourists click their cameras each day in salute to the beauty of this attraction on Andrássy út.
The wonderful neo-renaissance building, built between 1875 and 1884, is one of the masterpieces of Hungarian architect Miklós Ybl. Even Emperor Franz-Joseph I, who was present at its opening, agreed without any jealousy, or at least so the legend goes, that the Opera in Vienna might be larger but the Hungarian Opera House was more magnificent.
International model wanted
The expectations for the new Opera Café were accordingly high: It had to match not only the pomp and glamour of this great jewel of the cityscape, but also the quality of international models such as the Vienna State Opera – with a head start – and its gastronomic
“We are very proud that we have been chosen and could take on the challenge to renew catering in the Opera House,” Zoltán Roy Zsidai, the director of the Zsidai Enterprise Group, said as he offered thanks for the opportunity in his opening speech at the café.
Zsidai won the official tender to develop a contemporary catering concept for the Hungarian State Opera, and accordingly it investigated other popular world opera houses and their dining facilities. Still, they managed to remain loyal to the traditional charm of the building during the implementation.
Grand Café in small scale
When you enter the reopened Opera Café from the street entrance in Hajós utca, you will find no sign that these premises were empty just recently. The comfortable red leather sofas arranged at the walls, the coffee house tables and the playfully decorated bar, emblazoned by a wall clock, looking just like a backdrop, make you feel like all of this has always belonged here.
Only the abstract posters on the wall bring the visitor back to the present, with the interior looking like it has been there since the times of the monarchy. It’s easy to summarise the first impression you receive when entering the small room: a grand café in miniature.
“This is why we call the Opera Café among ourselves our Baby Grand Café,” Emese Juhász, the marketing manager of the Zsidai Group, says of the intentional similarity to the traditional coffee houses of the Hungarian capital.
Independently from visiting the opera itself, the Opera Café is open to the public each day from noon. Especially its impressive street terrace is worth a visit on a beautiful autumn day for a light lunch, dinner or just for a cup of specialty coffee. With the Opera House at your back while looking at Andrássy út and the Ballet Institute on the other side, it’s easy to remember the grandeur of the past.
The offering of the Opera Café also fits that feeling, keeping it rather traditional: goulash soup, beef stew and Tatar, pasta dishes and salads – nothing extreme but, as we have grown accustomed to in all restaurants and cafés belonging to the Zsidai gastro family, the highest quality.
No more queuing in the breaks
Besides the rearranged café the Zsidai Group also renewed the bar on the first floor of the Opera House. This is open only to opera-goers before and after the performances and in the breaks.
The room was already impressive with its grandiose ceiling paintings and access to a balcony with a view over Andrássy. Now it has been completely renovated as part of the new design and was completed with a long bar carrying the insignia of the Zsidais on its baroque panelling and other furniture.
Zsidai stresses the importance of the innovative logistic concept for the new bar, because there were problems in the past when people stormed the bar during breaks or after the show: “People should not be spending their time queuing in front of the bar,” Zsidai says. “They should rather be sitting down with a drink and a bite to eat ,and enjoying the beauty of the building and the company of their friends.”
The modern high-gloss bar, which can be accessed from all sides, shortens the waiting time. Here you can order snacks such as sandwiches, sweet pastries and all kinds of special drops. Opera Café has an exclusive contract with the Kreinbacher winery in Somló, which provides quality wines and bottles of ice-cold champagne both for the visitors to the café and the bar.
22 Andrássy út, District VI
Open Monday to Sunday from noon (closing times of the bar depend on the schedule of performances)
Reservations at (+36-1) 800-9210