On a very good recommendation I ate at the Kiskakukk Etterem during my recent trip to Budapest. In January, in the cold, I craved the delights of Hungarian food and warmth. After trekking up to see the sights in Buda, I found it back on the Eastbank, in Pest. The restaurant isn’t necessarily easy to stumble upon if you’re without the intent to visit. But don’t miss it if you’re after some Hungarian wholesomeness.
It’s only a short walk away from Budapest’s Houses of Parliament, tucked away along the river in the direction of Margaret Island, when walking from central Budpest. Once inside I felt slightly like I was in a Vermeer painting. Dimly lit, furnished with dark wooden chairs, tables, and a chandelier out of reach except for the spiders that had dressed it in cobwebs.
I had high hopes for this restaurant because the recommendation also came with the claim that it was the best restaurant my friend had ever eaten at. The menu can come across as overwhelming – it’s enormous. There are extensive options for starters, soups, poultry, fish, lamb, game, beef and veal, plus vegetarian dishes. Even with my heart already set on a dish, I leafed my way through the menu to see the small food illustrations on each page. Black and white etchings of elaborate joints of the applicable meat decorated each page.
You can be fairly safe of complimentary starters and mains whatever you choose because its all traditional Hungarian cuisine. I went for the goose liver pate with onion chutney. The generous amount of pate and toast is enough to share between two. The pate is smooth and gamy, but offset gorgeously with the chutney. The chutney actually made the whole starter quite easy to polish off, despite the huge portion size.
As for the main, the goose leg brought me a kind of joy I haven’t felt in some time. Picture the scene from Ratatouille in which the miserly food critic is lit up with the joy of tasting a ratatouille reminiscent of his childhood. I had a similar reaction when I tasted that goose leg. I found myself almost in tears. This juicy goose leg reminded me of how dull my food consumption is in London in comparison to when my mother cooked for me at home.
The goose leg is perfectly crisp on the outside but falls off the bone as it’s cut into. It was paired with crushed potatoes and red cabbage. Again, it’s a fairly terrific size, but it felt necessary after being outside in the cold all day. Alternatively, the duck breast is equally as impressive. Perfectly tender, it comes with potato croquettes and apple puree.
There’s something about this meal that makes me imagine it a plate of food fit for Roald Dahl’s Boggis, Bunce and Bean. At the very least, Bunce would be happy. Snapping me out the state of stupor the food put me in, and gradually sending me back into it, was the Cabernet Sauvignon. Full bodied and fruity, the wine was good, but honestly, on this occasion, didn’t live up to the standard that the food set. The wine menu is easier to handle than that of the food.
With reluctance I can not finish this review as I had hoped. My realisation of how hearty Hungarian food is, meant that I regrettably did not manage a dessert. I will most certainly be coming back for one next time I am in Budapest though, and I urge you to do the same if you are in the city. No card payments, so remember to take cash out…
Words, Maisie Goulsbra
Images, Luke Radcliffe-Moore – @luke.rm.design