It’s been a few months since I popped my “Drunk In…..” series cherry in Tokyo and it’s about time to bring you the next edition. This time we get tipsy in Budapest – an excellent city to continue the series.
Budapest is a very old city bursting with youthful exuberance. It is a most charming blend of classic (architecture, culture) and contemporary (street art, night life). So whilst David and I most definitely delighted in a healthy dose of cultivated entertainment (Danube Symphony Orchestra, yo!), we also really enjoyed the more down to earth, rustic pleasures the city had to offer. And those consisted mostly of something called ruin bars (or ruin pubs).
A ruin bar is what it says on the label. It’s a bar set in a ruin (of which the city boasts many). Essentially, they are derelict buildings converted into watering holes. It is the diametric opposite of the type of bar that blooms in Dubai, where everything has to be huge, shiny, new, glistening and glamorous. These ruin bars revel in being as crude, rudimentary, homespun, makeshift and DIY as possible. They are outfitted with various bric-a-brac, found objects and second hand stuff. They are a tonic to my soul.
The very first ruin bar was Szimpla Kert (kert means garden in Hungarian). Rather than allow the demolition of an abandoned building back in 2001, a group of entrepreneurial, young, free thinkers managed to convince the city to leave the vestige standing and allow them to open up a bar/open air cinema which they outfitted with whatever furniture they could find. It stands today, not only as a monument to the progressive and tolerant ways of this European city, but as an inspiration for an entire subculture of taverns that remain unique to Budapest. Why allow these abandoned buildings, relics of a painful past, to stand empty? Why spend money to demolish them, simply to build new, garish constructions? And why not allow their historic bones to be fleshed out with the spirited liveliness of youth and enthusiasm. Why not, indeed?
We tried several ruin bars and these are our favourites.
This was the least well known but our very favourite kert. It was ultra relaxed – an unkempt dive-bar in a back yard, strung with fairy lights and odd garden furniture (including a boat!!!). One of this place’s strong points is that they make VERY strong, cheap drinks. There is a nightclub attached to it but we just went to the beer garden, which was great. Very relaxed.
This place can apparently get super busy on weekends and late at night but we went in the afternoons and it was very chilled out. It was another favourite because again, it was very easy going and laid back and it was literally a five minute walk from our house. Always service with a smile (not something you get at all the ruin bars – I’m looking at you Szimpla!!!) and again, super cheap.
This great ruin bar is part of a hostel complex – so there are always backpackers slouching around, but that’s cool. The wonderful, thing about this bar is the gorgeous garden. It feels like a real escape into a garden of Eden (where they just happen to serve cheap drinks). It’s a wonderful place to spend a few hours reading a book and enjoying the chirping of the birds while drinking $2 beers.
So, apart from ruin pubs there are also a few other types of drinking establishments. Two of our favourites are both very nice, and very different. The first is a craft beer bar and the second a high end cocktail mixology den.
Kandallo Artisinal Pub
Budapest is renowned for its cheap beer (and seriously, it’s fucking cheap) but this place serves not just cheap beer, but artisinally made craft beer, along with the kind of food that is perfect for soaking up an afternoon of being drunk in Budapest. Wonderful chicken wings and an assortment of burgers. If you’re feeling game, try the cherry beer (it’s a unique flavour, popular in Hungary).
AMAZING cocktails. Very intricate recipes and exotic ingredients – high end mixology. The first night we went, we managed to sneak in, just as they were preparing to close (the owner/manager was sweet talking a young lady who was sitting on a stool in the corner of the bar and I think we interrupted his smooth moves). The second night, we were greeted like old friends. This place is not for everyone, but for the travelling drinker that appreciates fine cocktails, you will find a home at Bar Pharma.
Eat & Meet
Not necessarily adjunct to the drinking experience of Budapest, but most certainly one that I would highly recommend anyway, is an interesting pop-up restaurant called Eat & Meet (which is a godawful name, but a really wonderful concept). Suzie, a young Hungarian woman with a love of food, entrepreneurial spirit and pride for her city, hosts up to ten guests at a time for dinner in her parent’s apartment. Suzie’s parents serve up delicious, home-made Hungarian food and local wines while Suzie sits at the table and entertains. It’s a truly unique experience and one that I’d highly recommend. If you are interested, Suzie also does foodie tours of the city.
Retro Bufe Langos
Langos is a typical Hungarian snack of fried bread (oh yeah, baby, I said fried bread!!!!) topped with various ingredients. Hungarians eat it with just cream cheese and cheese, but other offerings are available too. This is very, very naughty food – but soooooooooooo good. I’d say this particular langos shop is the best one in Budapest (going from my research and how damn delicious it was!!!).
My Little Melbourne
Anyone who’s ever been drunk anywhere knows how important coffee is the next day. My regular readers will know how much I love coffee (and how I despair at the crap coffee found in Dubai). So whenever we travel I compile a list of the “best” places to get coffee and we make an effort to try all of them before settling on a favourite. For me, My Little Melbourne was the best coffee in Budapest, hands down. Espresso Embassy is supposedly ranked up there, but it tasted like they made the coffee with long life milk (which is unacceptable to me). The owners of My Little Melbourne aren’t actually Melburnians but a Hungarian couple who went to Melbourne on a vacation and loved the coffee so much, they brought the style and ethos back to Budapest. They do perfect lattes and flat whites.