With its 25th anniversary upcoming, Gusto Café near the Buda shore of the Danube is one of the veterans of the local gastronomy scene. However, while other places were stuck in history, the small café in the Frankel Leo Street managed to find the balance between tradition and innovation. Its mixture of bourgeois comfort and a variable and high-quality gastronomic offer satisfies the guests even today.
When you enter Gusto Café you can already feel a spicy coffee note in your nose and smooth jazz and blues melodies in your ears. Even if the small café with its elegant wooden interior and classic café tables has a rather traditional charm, everything is new here and corresponds to the most recent technological standards.
There were times when Gusto Café was almost forgotten. Founded in 1992 as the first Italian-style café in the Hungarian capital, the once-magnificent café slowly started to decay in the storms of time, until just three years ago entrepreneur Márton Brády took it over.
Renaissance of a traditional café
Brády, who is known in Hungary as an event organiser who brought here bands such as the Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi, ordered a so-called “general facelift” (in his own words), so that the café would regain its old glory. “It was high time,” he said, and he brought in an interior designer for the renovation.
However, not only the interior design was updated, the restaurant was also expanded and equipped with a new kitchen, which meets the most modern requirements. For Brády it was also important to preserve the original atmosphere: “I wanted to make sure that regulars would still feel familiar here.”
By the way, the place has a lot of regulars, not only because of its excellent location in the quiet side-street just a few steps away from attractions such as Margaret Island, the Király and the Lukács Spa, but also because of its culinary offer, which has an even better reputation than the café itself.
Gusto Café has been well-known since its foundation for primarily these three dishes: Tiramisu, Carpaccio and goose liver. However, these are not its only specialities: there is a broad and favourably priced breakfast menu from 8am Monday to Friday, and the daily changing lunch menu for a fixed HUF 990 is also very popular.
“There are always five to six dishes to choose from,” Brády explains, “And guests are especially happy about the option that they can put together a tasting platter from all the available offers.”
The dishes are based on recipes from all around the world and the experienced kitchen staff – some have been working here for more than 20 years – composes them from the seasonally available fresh ingredients.
You can order à la carte dishes at Gusto Café from 2pm. The selection is broad and contains numerous sandwich and baguette variations, cold meat and poultry specialities, fish dishes, salads and cheese plates, among others.
Top wines and spirits
The really good mood kicks in in the early evening. “This is when people take the time to accompany the delicious food with some nice drinks,” Brády, who often frequents the restaurant himself, says.
The gastronome is especially proud of the broad selection of wines. Almost two dozen different wines are available from HUF 5000 to 150,000 (a Chateau Cheval Blanc from 1997) per bottle. The offer includes selected Hungarian drops, such as from the awarded Hungarian Malatinszky winery and the famous Rókusfalvy estate at Etyek.
A similarly well-planned selection of spirits is offered, for example the different kinds of pálinka.
Brády takes into account that the selected drinks are in the upper-medium price segment. “Top quality is always the most important factor for me,” he says.
The familiarity with higher quality is somewhat represented in the average age of the guests, which is around the mid-40s. However, more and more young people are discovering the place since its increased presence on social media. Young people are attracted rather by the street terrace, which is open all-year-round, and the coffee specialities, according to Brády.
Gusto Café proves even after 25 years in the business that it can keep up with today’s requirements without turning its back on its old regulars. Not everyone is able to do this as well as the elegant small restaurant can.
However, besides loafers and night-owls, Gusto Café could also prove interesting for business people. In 2015 Brády expanded with a private event room, which holds up to 20 people. This room has a modern interior, as opposed to the other parts of the café, and is just the right scene for company breakfasts and celebrations, or even business meetings.
As Brády tells us, there have already been some politicians who have learned to value the private sphere of the “back room”.
Budapest, District II,
12 Frankel Leó utca
Open Monday to Saturday 08.00 to 23.00
Breakfast: HUF 390 to 990
Sandwiches and baguettes: HUF 490 to 1490
Main dishes (cold and warm): HUF 1690 to 3900
Desserts: HUF 590 to 890