Gundel is a renowned old-fashioned European restaurant here in Budapest which rose to prominence at the turn of the century and has since seen a few ups and downs. It has recently been bought and revived by international restaurateur George Lang who was born and raised in Hungary and also owns New York's CafÃ© des Artistes.
Click for a pic of the entrance
The first thing you have to realise about a place like Gundel is that it came of age during a period that is astonishingly different than our own. A review of Joseph Wechsberg's Blue Trout and black Truffles refers to that era as a time when: "twenty-four varieties of boiled beef could be ordered, [at fancy restaurants] and in Vienna a person who couldn't talk learnedly about at least a dozen different cuts of boiled beef was "beyond the pale" - no matter what titles had been conferred on him by the Kaiser." The food and the service at Gundel still have this quality of being from another time. No, they don't serve twenty four varieties of boiled beef. But things like wild boar soup and roast suckling pig are on offer alongside more modern dishes such as salmon with mushrooms. Other things you should know about Gundel. The service there is better than anywhere else in the universe. They put on a nice lunch every day on the back patio in the spring. They grow their own herbs. And Gundel is right next to Bagoly VÃ¡r or "The Owl's Castle", which hires only women and serves an alternate and cheaper version of the food at Gundel.
Beer? Oh yes! My beer was the Czech lager, Pilsner Urquell (which translates roughly as 'original' pilsner). My Hungarian friends were a little put off by my choice of beverage. It may have been because they're not sure if women should drink beer (less likely) or because it's the wrong setting for beer (most probably). The brunch comes with a drink and most people have champagne or orange juice. However, I once had Chinese food with some Hungarian cousins who told me that women shouldn't drink beer (I had already ordered one and I drank it anyway) so the former option is not entirely impossible. I forge ahead. It's a nice light beer. The lunch is buffet style. I have cold roast beef and tomatoes with dill and smoked chicken breast as a starter from the 'salad' table. For the entrÃ©e I have the salmon with mushroom sauce. The beer went especially well with the chicken and the salmon. I had SomlÃ³i Galuska for dessert and one of those nice cappuccinos that you get in central Europe. I have since learned that Pilsner Urquell is supposed to be among the best Pilsners. It's the model for many Pilsners that you can buy in the US, but orders of magnitude better.