Dinner parties

Art deco 1920s dining table
Art Deco 1920s dining table. 190x95 as is. 260x95 fully extended

The first time I brought an American boyfriend home to Ireland, in 1996, we went to dinner at my friends’ house in Dublin. The N-Ms  have a great big dining table and eight of us sat around until the small hours of the morning, talking, laughing, eating, drinking and having a ball. It was the first time I met my now sister-in-law; my brother was home from a UN tour in Bosnia; I hadn’t seen the N-M’s since they’d gotten married and moved house; and I was hoping to persuade M&M to come visit me in Alaska. The lovely TW was in his element drinking pints with the lads; it was a great night. I loved it. So much of life is transient but memories like this last a  lifetime.

I love to cook. I love to entertain. And I’m particularly fond of making new memories, so one of my ‘must-haves’ was a dining table that would seat at least eight people.  I found this wonderful Art Deco piece in Ecseri flea market in a shop run by the lovely Appel Péter. (In Hungary, the last name goes first!) My mate JFW has bought a lot of stuff there and he brought me out to introduce me personally. I quickly learned that you don’t just see something, pay for it and take it home. It’s more involved than that…as indeed, is life in general in Hungary. There’s a first price, second price and final price. So much depends on how much you love it, how badly they want rid of it, what else you’re buying and what the humour of the day is like. This table started out at 650,000 HUF (about £2200/€2320/$3000). And no, you’ve haven’t missed a lottery win. I still don’t have that sort of money! But we had to start somewhere.

It is a lovely piece of Art Deco, beautifully restored, dating to the 1920s/1930s. If it could only tell stories. What secrets has it heard? What indiscretions has it witnessed?  Where was it made? Did it have to travel far? I quite like the idea of it living for years in an apartment on Andrássy – perhaps in one of the ambassador’s residences.

Andrassy út runs from  Erzsébet tér (Elizabeth Square) to Városliget (City Park). It dates from the 1890s and underneath runs the first metro built in Continental Europe, the M1 or Yellow Line, which opened in 1896. Most of the neo-renaissance houses and palaces were occupied by aristocrats, bankers, landowners and historical familes by 1884. This long road was first named after Prime Minister Gyula Andrássy, and then after Stalin (Sztalin út). When he was denounced, it was changed to Avenue of the People’s Republic until finally, in 1990, it went full circle back to Andrássy út. Funny how that happens!

It’s  a long, long road. From Erzsébet tér to Oktogon is mainly commercial but hosts the State Opera House and many designer, up-market shops. From Oktogon to Kodály körönd the road widens with an allée (a pedestrian path down the centre), and includes residential areas and universities. Kodály körönd is currently being restored and it’s here, if I ever win the lottery, that I would like to buy flat. And it’s here I think my table might have lived.  From Kodály körönd to Bajza utca, Andrássy widens even more and the residential palaces (some of which have been turned into hotels, galleries and occasional restaurant), are fronted by gardens. From Bajza utca to Városliget, there are more villas encompassed by gardens, and it is on this stretch that you find most of the embassies.
One of my favourite sights in Budapest is that which greets you at night if you get off the M1 at Hősök tere (Hereos’ Square). Climb the stairs and be prepared to be mesmerised.  A little like how I feel when I open the door to my living room about midday and see the sun bouncing off this table.

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