Grand cafés used to be very fashionable in Budapest in the 19th century, however their splendour may seem somewhat old-fashioned today. These days it seems they are no longer meeting places for artists, journalists and revolutionary minds but rather for tourists and wealthy pensioners, who like to hang out at New York, Centrál and similar places. Café Liberté is updating the concept.
Just a few steps from Szabadság tér and the Basilica, a stone’s throw from Parliament and a few minutes from Nyugati Railway Station – the area around Aulich utca could hardly have a more favourable location. Nonetheless, the area with beautiful buildings hardly has any gastronomic offers.
It’s not that the demand would be missing – there are enough tourists walking around on the nearby streets – while the embassies and office buildings would bring a lot of customers primarily in the lunch hours. Entrepreneur Péter Baldaszti noticed this gastronomic-vacuum, so he enriched the culinary offer in the rather calm quarter in December with his new restaurant.
Classically modern ambience
Unlike its “prehistoric” café ancestors the Liberté presents an eclectic, yet all-in-all harmonious interior – without any golden splendour. The mosaic floor serves as a stage for the ensemble of warm-wooden furniture and panelling, light marble tabletops and bright orange cushions. The simple, clear shapes are predominant, reminiscent of the classic modern German style.
As you enter you can already hear the jazzy pop or swing music. Liberté wants to be elegant without being old-fashioned. This also means that they offer board games and a pool table to spend time – it’s just natural that these are of the same high standard as the rest of the interior.
The international selection on the menu of the grand café is interesting as well. Even though Liberté is a café, the dishes offered are none less than those of a restaurant, both for variety and quality.
Dishes from around the world
The menu invites you to take a small trip around the world in the culinary sense. Among the appetisers you can choose from the breaded salmon tartlets in Caribbean sauce, Quinoa salad from South America, Italian buffalo mozzarella or Asian filled wonton bags, for example.
Liberté often mixes the original recipe with a touch of Hungarian fusion. The main dishes are also international. Passionate meat-eaters are advised to try the Argentinian Filet Mignon. This is cut from the softest part of the beef; you can enjoy it even without a garnish or a sauce. If you think this would be too one-sided, you can opt for the softly salted fondant potatoes or – the little bit more exotic – garnish from corn with lime juice and Manchego cheese.
The light fish dishes prepared from salmon or seabass are complemented by rather spicy chicken dishes. On the first look vegetarians might be a bit disappointed with the main course section of the menu. However, there are plenty of meat-free alternatives. For example the Liberté Mushroom Burger, is prepared completely without meat.
When it comes to desserts, Liberté returns to the game – with French classics such as crêpe suzette, chocolate soufflé or meringue.
You can also have a rich breakfast: they offer organic muesli and fruit salads but also heavier dishes such as Frankfurt sausages or eggs benedict.
I want to become a regular here
“Our dream was to establish such a place where the Budapest citizens would like to become regulars,” Baldaszti says. It would be possible to spend a whole day there because it’s a breakfast place, a café, a restaurant and a bar all in one. Even the oft-dreaded stray freelancers and their mobile offices are welcome. “Ever since we opened the grand café I come here almost every day with my laptop to work,” admits Baldaszti.
Incidentally, the building housed a prison up until the end of the 19th century, where for example Lajos Batthyány awaited execution after he was captured during the Hungarian war of independence in 1849. Today you can find a monument remembering the former prime minister in front of the Liberté’s doors.
There was a working café there already in 1902, under the name Szabadság Kávéház (Freedom Café). This was the favourite place of poet Endre Ady, who wrote some of his most famous poems there.
8 Aulich utca, District V
Open daily from 8am-midnight
Reservations at (+36) 30 715-4635 or email@example.com
Appetisers, soups and salads:
Sandwiches, noodles and main courses: HUF 1470 to 7450
Desserts: HUF 1270-1870
Breakfast: HUF 470 to 1870