Last week my pal Dave went back to the UK, after staying an extra day just to catch up. Looked for a place to have lunch in inclement weather.
Ended up lunch at the Centrál Kávéház, mostly by accident. We were slowly making our way back to the Ferihegy shuttle pick-up location near the Vaci Útca. Snowing out, and we couldn't keep looking forever for a place to eat that wasn't a tourist trap.
Through the window the place looked a mite fancy for a casual lunch. In our boots and casual togs we felt we might get the brush from the host... sent off to the Siberia of the bar, never to be seated in hopes that we would just down a few brews and go away. This happens here, I know. But the impeccably-mannered waiter who greeted us treated us like a couple of swells, guiding us into the main dining room and giving us a fine little table near the window.
Hard to believe that this elegant place is one of the classic locations for café culture in turn-of-the-century Budapest. Like the old New York Café, The Centrál was a highly-trafficked magnet for Budapest's literary lions before WWII. It's been restored by pharmaceutical czar and philanthropist Somody Imre; a small plaque at the entrance so honors him.
Looking over the menus we found that there was some confusion about the split between the Centrál's Étterem and Kávéház areas. They serve different food in the Café part, which is the food we wanted. But it's fine to order from either menu.
The Kávéház was bustling at 1:30 p.m., the étterem not so busy as all that. This was a bonus. Quite nice to have couple of beers in the quiet of the warm and handsome dining room with a load of wet snow coming down outside.
The menu had a lot of wonderful-sounding items on it. But we didn't sample the gamut of the offerings - just had a couple of cups of Jokai Bean Soup, Paradicsom Saláta and Uborka Saláta starters. All were above average, boding well for the full dinner experience.
After the food I shot the moon and had a "French Kiss" - espresso with Grand Marnier with a big spritz of whipped cream on top. Despite the fact that it's one of the fruitiest looking coffees I've ever been served, the taste was quite fine.
After another round of Dreher Bak, we had to bail in a hurry to make the shuttle. These shuttles rarely leave on time - if they're early and fully loaded with passengers, they'll likely drive off 10 minutes ahead of schedule on the driver's whim. Sure enough, when we get to the Deák Tér pickup spot it looks deserted. Sad little travel agency window, looking as dead and lifeless as as the Bush presidency.
But then a horn honks and we turn round to see the van through a new curtain of snow flurries. Just enough time to activate the 2-second timer and get another shot to document another round of good times with me mate!