10. The meal: Menza
Twenty-eight years after the collapse of communism in Hungary, there’s a certain Soviet-tinted nostalgia brewing in the capital. Entrepreneur Vidák László brought back the Tisza trainers – the Adidas of footwear behind the Iron Curtain in the 1970s – that now encircle the feet of every discerning young local, and he’s also behind one of Budapest’s most inventive restaurants: Menza. Drawing its name and inspiration from Soviet canteens, it takes its design inspiration straight from the 70s, with an orange, green and brown colour scheme, and features involving verneer, formica and brass panels. The food is somewhat more sophisticated; this is very much a modern take on Hungarian cuisine, with tangy cucumber salads, tender beef goulashes packed with flavour, and mulberry soup elevated with red-wine ice cream. Cheerful staff happily share stories of childhood family dinners, along with post-pudding pálinka brandies – if this is Soviet living, we’re signing up.
11. The local’s tip: Szimpla Kert
“There are so many ruin pubs here and I like to share the local side to them. One of my favourites is Szimpla Kert. In the evenings, Szimpla is very touristy, but every Sunday morning they have a famers’ market with only local produce, from marmalade to sausages – and locals go. I love the atmosphere. I can try the food, buy the food, listen to the live jazz band playing, and just relax.”