Grandeur of a Once Opulent Temple of Delectables
The final eastbound stop in the sweet-tooth triathlon (after Angelina’s in Paris and Demel’s in Vienna), Budapest’s famous Gerbeaud coffeehouse is a neo-Baroque throwback to imperial times, and an oasis of relaxation in a city reinventing itself at breakneck speed.
But then, that’s nothing new. In the late 19th century, Budapest was one of the fastest-growing cities in the world and the city’s coffeehouses became second homes for writers, artists, politicians, journalists, and even a bit of royalty in the person of Empress “Sissi” Hapsburg. Opened in 1858 and at its current site since 1870, Gerbeaud survived the bleak period of Communism and is now back on the tourist circuit – ensuring its survival, but making it impossible to find a late afternoon table in the vast, mansionlike interior, with its heavy velvet curtains, silk wallpaper, crystal chandeliers, and marble-topped tables.
Throughout its history, Gerbeaud has been a nirvana for chocoholics. Astounded by the dozens of ultra-rich confections made daily on the premises, wide-eyed, sweet-toothed, first-time patrons are hard pressed to choose between delicacies such as Gerbeaud’s signature seven-layer chocolate cake (the original Hungarian rhapsody?) and its famous cherry or apple strudel.