Meat on Mester

I’d heard rumours that there was a … not a butchers in the Irish definition of the word and not a meat market in the US definition of the word … but a p20140516_131720_resizedlace that sold meat to take home and cook and to eat right there and then. And yes, there are loads of them in Budapest (hús hentesáru), but this one is the only one to my knowledge decorated completely in Zsolnay tiles – those world-famous ceramics manufactured in Pécs since 1853.

I’m rather partial to a nice piece of meat and I am the proud owner of six Zsolnay palinka cups. I’m not a great woman for porcelain on the best of days (I’ve been looking for six years for the perfect dinner service and have yet to find it) but there are bits of Zsolnay that I wouldn’t say no to. And I figured that a traditional stand-up lunch surrounded by such class would be interesting.

20140516_131606_resizedThe photo doesn’t do it justice. It’s stunning. Really stunning. I was all set to treat myself to a kolbasz or two but the smell was a little overpowering and the place was heaving. The Belvárosi Disznótoros (or Downtown pigfeast) is a common enough lunch-time phenomenon and despite the best of intentions, I just wasn’t hungry enough to stomach it.

20140516_132301_resized20140516_133437_resizedFortunately for me though, right across the road, is Black Cab Burger, home to one of the best burgers I’ve had this side of Tom Murphy’s BBQ in Malahide. Excellent stuff. Basic menu. All the necessities. Quick service. Clean tables. Cute black-and-white photo prints of London with splashes of red thrown in. I was impressed. Very impressed.  The place has outdoor and indoor seating and is really serious about its meat.

Still not hungry enough to throw caution to the wind, I had a small burger and it was plenty. Sauces, peppers, onions, all cooked to perfection. Despite every table being occupied, the place was remarkably quiet. Such concentration is the sign of good food.

20140516_133809_resizedSo there ya have it. Not many people come to Mester unless they have reason to, and both these joints are worth a trip. Step outside the usual haunts and treat yourself to meat on Mester.

Wishes do come true

Back when I was still wearing a school uniform, I popped into the village butcher’s with my mother. Their conversation bordered on the inane. The pair of them were in raptures over a leg of lamb.  A lump of meat. Talk about gagging on superlatives.

Fast forward about 15 years to the only butcher’s shop in Anchorage, Alaska. I’d spotted it driving by and begged my then boyfriend to stop. I went inside and saw a beautiful leg of lamb. I nearly swooned. Delighted by my reaction, the butcher walked into the cold room and brought out a gorgeous rack.  I heard my mother speaking through me and got the land of my life. Mind you, now that I’m older, and wiser, and have come to appreciate my mother’s eccentricities, I’ve come to realise what a wonderful woman she is,. Turning out like her would be no bad thing at all.

Close to the top of my wish list for nearly five years now  has been ready access to fresh lamb. It’s not asking much, is it? Just three hours away in Vienna, market stalls have some fantastic looking lamb. But here in Budapest, I have to resort to scouring the deepfreezers around Easter and bagging what I can. The other day, on the No. 4 tram between Mester utca and Corvin Negyed, I caught sight of  a shop window emblazoned with the B word. Baranyi. Today I went to investigate.

I was like a kid in a candy store. The poor chap behind the counter didn’t know quite what to make of my orgasmic-like exuberance. And when I asked to take a photo, I know he officially wrote me off as being a couple of cutlets short of a rack. The shop is bright, airy, clean, and fresh. The meat is beaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuutiful. And it’s just around the corner. Ferenc Korut 39.  No prizes for guessing what’s on the menu  this Saturday night.