Right in the middle of Budapest centre, close to the Basilica, there’s Borkonyha Winekitchen. Its cooking style is a combination of the French bistro style and contemporary Hungarian influence. The restaurant is stylish inside, and in summer you can also find a place to sit outside on the roomy and attractive terrace. The restaurant already has a Michelin star and simply has to go on any foodie’s “must visit” list for Budapest.
Wonderful wines, sublimely matched
As the name suggests this restaurant has a wide and varied range of wines. More than 200, in fact, the majority Hungarian. You can choose a bottle from one of the better known wineries or try something from one of the smaller producers, maybe something organic. So, let’s start this report with the thing we normally conclude with – the wine list served with the degustation menu.
Creative, flavoursome, inspired by local influences
All the same, Borkonyha Winekitchen is most definitely about more than just wine. Chef Ákos Sárközi continually surprises his guests with creative dishes made from a variety of ingredients, fresh every day. He likes cooking to have intense flavours and is open to influences from all over Europe. As a result he adds modern interpretations of Transylvanian and Hungarian fare to classic dishes from France, Spain or Italy.
Although it appears most people here eat from the à la carte menu, we preferred the five-course degustation menu. With Borkonyha being a wine restaurant, of course we were happy to have the wine suggestions that go with the menu. We were delighted to let ourselves be taken on a voyage of discovery through the Hungarian “wine-scape”, especially seeing that we didn’t know much about it. It proved to be a very good choice, because the pairing of the wines with the food was quite simply sublime.
Royally entertained in the Hungarian way
In Hungarian restaurants things often happen at a swinging pace. The courses usually follow each other at high speed, the portions tend to be large and the wine flows copiously. That goes for this place too. In no time at all we found a glass of Hungarian bubbly (Kreinbacher Prestige) in our hands. A bowl of bread appeared on the table instantly. The day’s choice of bread included some with raisins and cashew nuts, bread flavoured with cumin. And black bread, coloured with squid ink, which in spite of its remarkable appearance had a subtle and well-balanced flavour.
Five finger-licking courses
For the first of our starters we got grilled duck liver with creamed broccoli and broccoli pieces, apricot compote and pistachios. A rich and creamy dish just right for the mineral, fruity wine (Gizella, Barát, Tokaj, 2015).
There followed a surprising creation. A creamy maize and celery soup with a slightly sweet taste. It came filled with sweet corn, plain and purée, popcorn, grilled prawns and sponge cake. It was an unusual and rather daring dish full of intense flavours, and we loved it. It showed audacity as well as understanding of the ingredients. The wine to go with it was a Chardonnay (Experiment Burgund 2013). From the Balaton area, it had notes of caramel and vanilla, almost like a dessert wine but without a dessert wine’s typical sweetness.
Time for a fresh dish. Blue-fin tuna, grilled rare and served lukewarm with melon salad and lumpfish caviar. The fish was as soft as butter and the spicy sauce went so well that together they were a match made in heaven. The suggested wine was Sauska, Kadarka Ördögárok Villány 2013, a light but fruity red. The strawberry notes made for a playful freshness.
The final course was a fillet of venison with sweet potato purée, cherries and swede. The meat was really tender and had a beautifully balanced flavour. A Cabernet Sauvignon went with this, Vylyan Dobogó 2009, a strong, full-flavoured wine with lots of tannins. Perfect thanks to its intense taste developed during its maturation in oak casks. .
Today the Chef had selected lemon cake as our dessert. It had structures of yoghurt (cream, sponge cake, ice cream) with blackcurrant crumble. The wine with that was a 2010 Tokai, good to drink for the sweet-tooths among us as it contains 240 grammes of sugar! At first tasting it reminded us of raisins and apricot, after which notes of lemon and pineapple take over.
After so much delicious eating and drinking we headed back to our lodging in Budapest to let our meal go down. The next morning we went back to the restaurant to take some pictures of it from inside. While we were there we enjoyed a glass of Don Zsolt 2015 (Strekov 1075). It’s a lightly sparkling naturally fermented Slovakian wine, free of added sulphites. No better start to the day and the best possible finishing touch to our visit to Borkhonyha Winekitchen.
Our conclusion? Borkonyha Winekitchen combines the French bistro style with modern Hungarian influences, Expect creative dishes and sublime pairings of wine with them. Definitely more than worth a visit!