MICHELIN Guide Budapest : two typical neighborhood restaurants take a new look at Hungarian traditions

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On the cozy, luxurious and relaxing Buda side of the Danube, Stand25 is the bistro of Michelin-starred chefs Szabina Szulló and Tamás Széll, serving perfect traditional Hungarian cuisine. Across the river, in the trendy, young and vibrant district of Erzsébetváros, young chef Ádám Mede is at the forefront of fine dining, where Asian flavours bring creativity to local ingredients and recipes.

Stand25: Two star chefs pay homage to their roots

This is an airy, modern, chic bistro at the foot of Buda Castle. The lights are warm, the guests are laughing, the kitchen is open and the neon lights are flashing: booth 25. Behind the concept of this elegant and modern neighborhood bistro are two major figures in the Hungarian gastronomy scene, Szabina Szulló and Tamas Ser. In 2007, the couple, both chefs, started working at Onyx. This famous restaurant was awarded one Michelin star in 2011. This acclaim launched her international career. In 2016, they left Onyx to open Stand25 Bisztró in 2017, aiming to create a place for families to meet and enjoy traditional and modern Hungarian cuisine in a family atmosphere. In 2018, her second restaurant, the fine-dining stand, received a star just eight months later.

For chefs Szabina and Tamás, Hungarian cuisine needs to be celebrated. They have built a community of producers, collectors and farmers to ensure consistent quality. They are known for their delicious local staples such as goulash, brassói (pork shoulder and bacon cooked in a thick tomato and chilli sauce, served with fried potatoes), túrógombóc (cheese dumplings) and somlói galuska (a Rum sponge cake with custard, whipped cream and chocolate mousse) becomes an art. At Stand25, the food is generous, with a lot of salt - because Hungarians love it - and the portions are huge. As in any good bistro, the plate layout is clear. "It's not just food, it's a feeling," emphasises Chef Szabina, "We keep Hungarian traditions, we feed our family with home-cooked food. It has to feel like a traditional Sunday lunch, and we want our guests to forget Everything that happened in a week ».

The difference from a normal Hungarian restaurant is in the details. the perfect

French technology is evident. The bright red beef stew is light, and the salty lemon preserves add a welcome tartness. The foie gras melts in your mouth with some English celery and mustard seeds. The Hungarian wine pairings, led by sommelier Bence Gulyás, are impeccable. Szabina Szulló is one of only two female chefs in Hungary. Although she runs the fancy restaurant Stand, and her husband Tamás is more dedicated to Stand 25 Bisztró, she is not even as famous as he is. She swears that as a woman, she has only had good experience in the food industry.

"It's not easy to navigate in a male-dominated world, but I did my best," she said modestly. She did succeed. Her mother was the sous chef at the Buda Castle Hotel restaurant. "I liked it there and wanted to create something myself". Since her mother worked late, Szabina and her sister were happy to surprise her with home-cooked food. Today, Szabina's sister is an ingredient buyer for Stand and Stand25. The ambitious chef has plans for the future: together with chef Tamás, she wants to open a restaurant in the tourist wine region of Tokaj. They're also building their second star at the Stand. "We're just taking Hungarian cuisine to an international level," she concludes with a cautious smile.

Laurel : Hungarian terroir influenced by Asian cuisine

On the Perth side of the river, the laurel tree is a discreet gem: is it a restaurant or a bookstore? Warm windows reveal a bar dominated by natural materials and a mezzanine with books, most of which are dedicated to Hungarian author Bella Hamvas. The gourmet restaurant is hidden in a beautiful vaulted cellar, just a short walk from the bar and the Baberligét bookstore. Directed by Gergely Báthory, Laurel's concept is smart and funky, just like the vibe of the bustling Erzsébetváros district where international youth and Hungarians alike love to party. Guests can come to read or buy a book on contemporary Hungarian literature, then dine in the restaurant on the ground floor, admiring the glass-enclosed kitchen run by young chef Ádám Mede. The casual fine dining experience ends with a relaxing drink in the quiet, intimate atmosphere upstairs. Sommelier Peter Tüű is the curator of a selection of Hungarian and international wines in the beautiful vaulted ceiling next to the restaurant.

Trained in France and working in several star kitchens in Budapest, Chef Ádám seeks to preserve traditional Hungarian flavours on many levels. Local ingredients such as freshwater fish (carp, trout, catfish and zander), plums or mangalica (a Central European pig with beautifully marbled meat) are paramount. He also revived forgotten Hungarian traditions, such as regional fried doughnuts made with rose-shaped metal tools and served as appetizers. Another traditional but creatively twisted entertaining snack is gerbeaud slices (a traditional Hungarian cake) layered with duck fat instead of chocolate.

However, the young and outgoing chef loves to travel the world to learn new techniques and discover ingredients, and he is a big believer in Asian - especially Japanese - cuisine. Sudachi kosho is a citrus fruit similar to the more famous grapefruit, and its delicate, tingly flavor inspires a dish featuring Hungarian buffalo. Perilla leaves add the scent of cloves and cinnamon to a beautiful traditional plum pie made by the very talented in-house pastry chef Zsuzsanna Ötvös.

To meet the growing demand for vegetarian and vegan cuisine, Laurel's team has designed an eight-course vegetarian menu that elegantly blends Hungarian ingredients, French techniques and Asian flavors: Japanese seaweed and green tea with local apples, kumquats and tarts Ding. Whether you prefer the comfort and lush tranquility of the Buda side or the pulsing fashion of the Danube Pest side, Stand25 and Laurel are the perfect places to indulge you in modern Hungarian cuisine.

Hero Image: Laurel Restaurant.