Situated in the very heart of Budapest, the lavish The Ritz-Carlton hotel opened its doors exactly three years ago, alongside with an equally luxurious ground floor restaurant, the casually classy Deák St. Kitchen. Much younger are, however, the hotel’s brunch events. How do they match up with the glitz and glamour of the venue’s two other institutions? Find out from this month’s Gastro Diplomat!
Organized since the end of March, the Gin & Jazz Brunch of The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest brings back the iconic, elegant and chic brunch with ever-changing themes, wholesome dishes, phenomenal drinks, and live music that the house used to be famous for.
We arrived to the atrium of the dignified building at half past noon on a grim Sunday in the middle of April. Everything was perfect for sleeping in, listening to music indoors, and feasting on gorgeous dishes. The creamy white facade of the former Adria Palace (built in 1918 in pre-modern style by Móric Pogány and Emil Tőry for the Adria Insurance Company) hides a welcoming interior, characterized by the use of warm colours, timeless pieces of furniture, and thoughtfully selected op-art pictures.
The first thing that struck us when entering The Ritz-Carlton’ Kupola Lounge, the round and majestic hall that is going to act as our living-slash-dining room in the next couple of hours, was the giant stained-glass dome above our heads which illuminated the centrepiece of the brunch – the picturesque dessert selection – with heavenly rays of light. Together with the opulent crystal chandelier hanging down from the middle of the dome, and the smooth live jazz music that accompanied the brunch, it started to feel a lot like as if we were at the reception of an early 20th century tycoon.
As soon as we sat down, we were greeted by a delicious, gin-based welcome drink, equal parts sour, equal parts sweet, brought to our table by our kind, denim-clad waitress. For the first couple of minutes we did nothing but sat there, sip on our glasses, and enjoy the nostalgic vibes radiating from the classic Italian pop hits performed by the three-piece jazz formation, and the carefully composed vintage posters and black-and-white photographs that surrounded us.
We emptied our glasses, and just like that, we were already on our feet to start our afternoon culinary journey. In the first round, we piled our plates with palatable goose liver mousse (garnished with an unbelievably good dry fruit chutney), marinated salmon with creamy and pungent horseradish, luscious kalamata olives, Hungarian cheese mix, mini mozzarella, and sausages. Next, we headed straight to the meaty carving station; we asked for a cut of roasted prime rib of beef with oven baked baby potato, grainy mustard, and pickles. The medium rare meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender, juicy and flavourful – just like how it should be.
After studying the gin menu for a good five minutes, we asked our waitress to bring us a glass of Visit Indonesia (made from Bobby’s Gin, with Thomas Henry Elderflower Tonic, and a touch of lime juice), and a glass of An Apple a Day cocktail (composed of Bombay Sapphire, lime juice, honey water, and apple syrup). The two masterfully crafted drinks were prepared right behind our table, at the artistically presented gin corner, ensuring that what you see is really what you get.
After finishing our second round of drinks, we went straight for the mains. The stunning array of dishes included grilled sea bass, beef stroganoff, creamy potato gratin, tenderloin medallions, cornflake crusted chicken breast, and beef consommé with Matzo balls. Since there’s only so much food you can eat before you’re full, we returned to our table with “just” a plateful of cornflake chicken, potato gratin, basmati rice, grilled vegetables, some sterling coleslaw from the salad bar, and a bowl of golden-coloured, rich Matzo ball soup. The homely flavours of the dishes were accentuated perfectly by the relaxing tunes and Sinatra-esque vocals of the jazz band.
Finally, it was time for us to taste the “almost too pretty to eat” creations of The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest’s award-winning patisserie chef István Mázás. The awe-inspiring dessert corner was loaded with spring-coloured confections, fresh fruit selections, as well as István’s signature cake masterpieces, like the iconic (and playfully surprising) Royal Chocolate Cake and the hedonistic La Dolce Framboisine. We tried to get a taste of everything, but came up a few desserts shorter than optimal.
After a final round of applause for the musicians and two cups of espressos, our ritzy outing to the land of class and flavours came to a close. We took one last look around the magical room. We left our table with heavy hearts, drunk on gin, jazz, and the amazing atmosphere of The Ritz-Carlton’s Kupola Lounge.