What to do on holiday when it’s lashing out of the high heavens and your hotel room is way too small for comfort? Some would head to a museum or an art gallery. Others might go shopping. Me? I’d get lost in the nearest big supermarket. I find other country’s supermarkets fascinating. From the near-empty shelves of Bourgas, Bulgaria, to the bountiful ones in Carrara, Italy, I have whiled away many a wet hour walking the aisles. I’d take a good supermarket over a designer clothes shop any day.
Sadly there are far more of the latter than the former, especially in Hungary. I was a fan of Waitrose when I lived in the UK and am partial to SuperValue in Ireland. But choice in Budapest is limited. I prefer Auchan over Tesco. I’m not a great lover of CBA. And simply walking into Culinaris is enough to bring out parsimonious me in hives. So stumbling across the upmarket Príma in Kolosy tér on my trip across the river last weekend was a bonus.
They have real beef, beef that has been aged for 28 days. Granted it has come all the way from Brazil and Uruguay and the USA, but it’s real beef. And they have real lamb. And yes, it’s more expensive than the lamb in my local halal butcher, but it, too, looks lovely. And there’s a fresh fish counter, wide aisles and shelves stocked with myriad herb-infused olive oils, designer milks and all sorts of other treasures that had me oohing and aahing for the bones of an hour. The large helping of foreign foods is nicely balanced by cheese, fish and meat from domestic producers. The baked goods are a step above most offers in the city and the chemical-free bio fruit and veg would warm the cockles of any eco heart.
It’s right next door to the Buda Gourmet restaurant. I knew there was some link between the two but I wasn’t quite sure what it was exactly so I checked the website. Together they are called Buda Gourmet Bistro & Market by Príma. And lo and behold, it’s a market designed with the foreign resident in mind. When recruiting staff, those who speak English and German have an advantage.
The idea is that budding gourmets can eat at the restaurant and then shop for the ingredients of their favourite dishes in the market. How novel is that?
Eschewing the a la carte menu, we’d booked in for Saturday brunch, us and a host of designer families: young-ish, trendy parents, with even younger, trendier kids, all very well behaved. The restaurant itself is very stylish and designed to within an inch of its sleek life. The all-you-can-eat buffet runs to HUF 3990 but you can pay a supplement of HUF 1270 to avail of the grill. And from that grill you can have lamb cutlets, rib-eye steak, crocodile and kangaroo … and that’s what I can remember.
If you’re a coeliac with a lactose intolerance and a preference for paleo dishes, you won’t be disappointed. But if you’re a vegetarian, you might struggle to find something interesting in the buffet. The food is very tasty and there’s plenty of variety. Not as much perhaps as what the downtown upmarket Sunday buffets run to, but every bit as good.
The drinks menu is extensive with a nice selection of whisk(e)y including Miyagikyo, a 15-year-old Japanese single malt that will set you back about HUF 12,000 a shot. I was a tad disappointed in the limited gin offer, but that said, it does stock one of the most un-gin-like gins on the market – the French G Vine Floraison, so I wasn’t complaining. The wine list acquits itself well and the service is friendly and attentive. Sure what more could you ask for?
If you’re in the neighbourhood, both are worth a visit.
First published in the Budapest Times 1 July 2016