Rome | La città eterna
Rome is a city that barely needs an introduction. Walking through Rome’s cobbled streets, history oozes from every pore of its stylishly dilapidated dusky pink and terracotta buildings. It’s a city that is intimate yet grand and is in absolutely no hurry. With evidence of occupation in the area of Rome dating back 14,000 years, Rome truly earns the moniker La città eterna, the eternal city.
We started our all too short trip to Rome with lunch at a small Taverna, frequented by locals and clergy, steps away from the Saint Peter’s Basilica. What we thought would be a quick lunch before launching into sightseeing, turned out to be a superb ten-course affair only the Italians know how to do. Plate after plate arrived at our table; risotto, ravioli, grilled seafood including lobster, sorbets, desserts, wines and digestives, traditional dishes simply presented yet utterly mouth-watering, and at very reasonable prices.
Along Rome’s ancient cityscape two of many iconic landmarks attract tourists amass: Vespasian’s Colosseum is the beating heart of Rome, and one of the most recognised ancient monuments in the world. Vespasian–the eighth emperor of Rome–wanted to show his devotion to his people, and so sponsored the Colosseum as a great venue for entertainment. As the centre of Catholicism, the Vatican has for centuries been a place not only for Christian pilgrimage but also an artistic pilgrimage. The lavishly decorated Vatican museums, including its halls and corridors, house the largest collection of ancient Roman artefacts in the world, plus works ranging from the ancient Egyptians through to the Renaissance.
With centuries of history surrounding you, Rome is a living, breathing museum; a place of classic ruins, stunning baroque fountains, outstanding art, architecture and places of worship, both early Christian and more recently the Mosque of Rome–the largest Mosque in western Europe. Rome is a city that deserves your time and unwavering attention. It should be absorbed very slowly, little by little.
Where to Eat and Drink
This was a meal I had when I first arrived on the Zanzibar archipelago. And although it is quite a simple dish, it was a very welcoming lunch after a long flight from Germany. You could call this dish a Tanzanian version of egg and chips; but eating this while looking out across white sandy beaches and crystal blue seas under glorious sunshine, gives these rudimentary ingredients a different character altogether.
This dish is very popular all over Zanzibar, and indeed mainland Tanzania. Eggs and fried potatoes are the base ingredients, but occasionally finely chopped red peppers and onions are added for a bit of variety.
For my version, I’m substituting the usual yellow potatoes with sweet potatoes, and garnish with fresh coriander and Thai basil, herbs which are used in abundance across the islands in a variety of dishes. The use of these delicious herbs teases out the sweetness of the potatoes, and also adds a hint of complexity to the flavour.
Although its a very simple dish, I’m sure you will find it incredibly satisfying and, of course, it’s really easy to make.
You will need
1 medium sweet potato
4 large eggs
2 spring onions
a handful each of Thai basil & fresh coriander leaves
2 tbs sunflower oil
black pepper & sea salt to season
Pre-heat oven at 200 degrees celsius.
Peel the sweet potato and cut into thin chips. Place in a bowl of cold salted water for 10 minutes. Drain and pat the chips dry with paper towel, place them evenly on a baking tray, and brush with 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper, then pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. When they are done, set aside and pre-heat your grill or broiler.
Chop the spring onions, crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk with a fork. Take a few basil and coriander leaves, roughly chop and fold into the eggs. In a heavy based frying pan (20 inches in diameter or so) add the remaining oil, and over a med-high heat fry the spring onions until tender but don’t brown. Add the sweet potato chips to the pan in a single layer, then pour over the eggs leaving it to settle. When the eggs start to set around the outside of the pan, place it under the grill for just a minute or two.
Garnish with the remainder of the herbs, and serve with a chopped salad of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions and drizzle with a little oil and a squeeze of lime juice.
Split | Croatia
A weekend in Split
We arrive in Split, swept in by coastal winds, which signal the start of autumn. It’s late afternoon, and although only partially visible through altostratus cloud, the sun still offers its welcoming warmth.
The romance of Split’s distinctive location has seen film crews arriving in hordes to capitalise on the sparkling seas, beautiful coastlines, sun-drenched beaches and pristine historical architecture, culminating in world recognition and a huge boost in tourism.
The city of Split is the largest in the Dalmatian region, laying on the eastern shore of the Adriatic sea linked to the Adriatic islands and the Apennine Peninsula. This beguiling city is small enough to be walkable, yet large enough to fill a long weekend. Old Split is dominated by the Palace of Diocletian, which forms about half of the old city, and is the main point of attraction for the tourists and history buffs who now flock here.
Split’s small marina and port is a cruise ship stop-off, bringing cruise tourists into the city in droves. From the promenade, looking out to sea, the marina extends out to the right, where I see yachts and boats, large and small, bob and roll with the increasing swell of the incoming storm. As the winds whip up, the vendors batten down, and our tour is cut short by gusts reaching 35 mph, and waves breaking forcefully onto the promenade. We head down narrow alleys to Galeria cafe to wait out the storm.
Venturing through the labyrinthine streets of the palace and old town, you are met with pure visual pleasure. The architecture of the old town is a mix of Roman palatial and Venetian. Narrow alleyways lead into tiny courtyards cast deep shadows and protective shade from the oppressive heat in summer.
On our last day, the winds calm and sun rays break through the cloud, twinkling its buttery, autumn light over the Adriatic. Although the weather wasn’t favourable during most of our trip, it in no way lessened our enjoyment of Split. We head to the promenade for coffee and a very Croatian pass time: fjaka, the fine art of doing absolutely nothing.
The Palace of Diocletian
The original ground plan of the palace, an irregular rectangular design sits on a small bay, latitude 43.5086 N, longitude 16.4403 E, in the Roman province of Dalmatia. The Palace of Diocletian is a stunning, well-preserved example of Roman palatial architecture representing traditional half Greek and half Byzantine styles. Built for the Roman emperor Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus who found himself this nice little spot in which to retire from Roman imperial life. Built between 295 and 305c, the palace forms about half of the old city.
Thick stone walls are punctuated by four magnificent gateways: Porta ferrea (iron gate) on the western side, Porta argentea (silver gate) on the eastern side, and Porta aurea (golden gate) are on the northern side and the site of the giant statue of medieval Croatian bishop, Grgur Ninski. The southern, fourth gate is less elaborate and said to have been used mainly as a service entrance. Abandoned after the death of Diocletian only ten years after its completion, the palace was left in ruins for centuries until, in the 1700s, Scottish architect Robert Adams happened upon the ruins, bringing the palace once more into European awareness.
Mayan Forest Park
Take a walk up to the Mayan forest park lookout point where tourists begin to peter away, and take in the stunning views over the city, the harbour and across the shimmering Adriatic all framed by a mountain backdrop. Venture further up and you will come across the tiny church of St. Nicholas. Head into the forest, and you will eventually stumble upon caves and churches built directly into the rocks.
Cathedral of St. Domnius
For top-down views across the red-tiled rooftops of Split, a climb up the bell tower is worth vertigo. The stone steps at the base of the tower are fairly steep and narrow, so expect a bit of a climb.
Head to the open-air vestibule next to the Peristil, and enjoy a choir singing beautiful traditional Dalmatian Klapa songs.
Gallery of Fine Art
Founded in 1931 the gallery contains works from the 14th century up until the present day, exhibiting paintings and sculptures from major Croatian artists.
Take a seat on the steps of the Peristil, order your favourite beverage from a waiter at Lvxor restaurant, and be entertained by musicians. This is a perfect way to end an evening. Music starts at 8pm until midnight every night.
The food of Split is a beautiful menage of the cultures which have dominated this city at one time or another. Venetian, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek and Roman are all characterised in traditional Dalmatian cuisine.
Makarun was recommended to us by our host, and I have to say the best restaurant we ate at in Split. Freshly grilled local seafood, amazing Croatian wines, succulent meat dishes and great service.
Fantastic selection of Croatian wines, accompanied by a stunning tapas style menu.
Paradox Wine and Cheese
If you are remotely intrigued by Croatia’s wine and produce industry, then head to Paradox to be educated. They have a vast selection of Croatian wines and cheeses on the menu, and your sommelier will recommend a perfect match for you.
Uje Oil Bar
Offers a unique concept based around olive oil, local and worldwide. Their menu is tradition Dalmatian regional cuisine with a modern twist and every dish from appetisers to desserts contain olive oil. Oil tasting classes and boutique shopping are also available.
Coffee and cocktails
Located in a quaint narrow courtyard close to the Golden gate (see our cover image), this was our favourite place for coffee and pre-dinner cocktails.
We stayed at the Grisogono Palace Apartment, a beautiful apartment in the heart of the Diocletian Palace over looking the Peristil.
Video of Split by Madame Marmalade Food & Travel
I’m not sure whether or not this recipe can technically be called Ladoo–Indian sweet snacks made from dried fruit, nuts or Gram flour–as the method I’m using doesn’t involve cooking with condensed milk or ghee.
Instead, I’m using orange juice to bind the ingredients together, and a splash of Cointreau to give these snacks a bit of boozy zing. Simply omit the Cointreau if you are making them for children, it takes nothing away from the deliciously zesty, marzipan flavours. They also make quick and easy edible gifts for the holidays.
You Will Need
150g Almond Meal
5 tsp Fine White Sugar
3 tsp Cointreau
1 Small Orange – Juice & Zest
4 tbs Desiccated Coconut
2 tbs Confectioners/Icing Sugar
Put the almond meal, white sugar and zest of half the orange in a bowl and mix well. Next, add the Cointreau and a tablespoon of the orange juice and combine. Add another tablespoon of orange juice and start forming into a ball. If you need to add a little more juice do so slowly adding a little at a time, so as not to make the mixture too wet.
Spread the desiccated coconut and confectioners/icing sugar onto a plate (leave a little extra for dusting). Take a tablespoon of the Ladoo mixture, squeeze together to form a paste, then roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Roll the ball around in the coconut covering completely. Repeat the process until you have 10-12 Ladoo. Dust with a little extra confectioners sugar just before serving.
Simply double-up on all of the ingredients to make more. The Ladoo will keep in the fridge, covered, for about a week.
Here’s a seasonal punch recipe you might also enjoy.
The most beautiful Village in Provence
From the western side of the Gorges du Verdon, heading towards the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence sits a little village on a hillside plateau said to be one of the most beautiful villages in all of France.
Famed for centuries as a producer of Faïence pottery, Moustiers Sainte Marie is a village with a dwindling population which was once in the thousands, but now in the hundreds. The village is a tourists magnet where visitors are romanced by the quaint boutique shops abundant with local crafts, charcuteries selling fabulous vine wrapped cheeses, locally cured meats, wines and olive oils and, of course, the cutest little restaurants.
Ascending the sloped streets of this quintessential Provençal village, you are met with a soft colour palette, charming shuttered dwellings and a cascading waterfall which threads right through the centre of the village.
Take the precarious path up towards the Chapelle Notre Dame de Beauvoir to get top-down vistas of the village, surrounding countryside and Lac de Sainte Croix in the near distant Gorges du Verdon.
During sunset, this beautiful village is awash in the most stunning shades of peach and pink sustaining its reputation as a place of alluring beauty and romance.
Creamy Chestnut Soup with Mushroom Croutons & Fried Sage Leaves
Although I’ve been living here in Hamburg for a couple of years now, I find that I rarely cook German recipes.
German cuisine, much like British, gets a pretty bad rap. And that’s a real shame, because there is a tantalising selection of traditional German dishes just itching to be discovered: Labskaus, Spätzle, Veal Schnitzel, and, of course, Sauerkraut, whose health benefits are equal to that of the popular Kimchi, are better known German foods, and are as tasty as any of the more popular cuisines.
Chestnuts are also included in traditional German cooking. Often foraged during the cooler months, these versatile brown gems – which were introduced into Germany by the Romans along with grapes and asparagus – are an integral part of traditional German home cooking, Hausmanskost. Roasted as a snack in winter, served with Brussels sprouts or braised red cabbage, made into jams, ground into flour for baking (try my Chestnut flour Walnut bread) and, added to stews and soups.
This is my interpretation of the traditional German chestnut soup. It’s comforting and incredibly simple to make. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken, and you will create an equally delicious vegetarian version. Guten Appetit!
You Will Need
1 Can Chestnuts Drained – 280g or there about
1 Celery Stick – Chopped
1 Shallot – Chopped
2 Portobello Mushrooms – Chopped, half for the soup, half for croutons
2 Cloves Garlic Crushed – 1 for soup, 1 for croutons
12 Sage Leaves – 4 Chopped for the Soup, the remainder left whole for frying
300ml Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1 tsp – Celery Salt
1/2 tsp – Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp – Ground Nutmeg, plus extra for garnish
100ml Cooking Cream
Heat a large heavy based pan over a med-high heat, then add a generous glug of olive oil. Add the chopped shallot, celery and 1 crushed clove of garlic to the pan, cook until softened but not browned. Add half of the chopped mushrooms and cook for a few minutes more before adding the chopped sage leaves, nutmeg, celery salt and pepper. Add the chestnuts and combine them with the other ingredients and cook for a few minutes more. Next add the broth, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes to allow all of the flavours to infuse. Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and set aside to cool for a minute or two, before blending thoroughly with a stick blender.
Put 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil into a heated frying pan, add the remainder of the garlic and mushrooms, and fry over a highish heat until the mushrooms are dark golden brown and slightly crispy. Set aside.
Pop a clean pan over a high heat, add a generous amount of olive oil, when the oil is hot fry the sage leaves. This will only take a minute or two.
Ladle the soup into four individual bowls, and carefully spoon on the mushroom croutons. Serve with the fried sage leaves and a generous sprinkling of nutmeg.
This past summer has been long, hot and extremely humid here in Hamburg. So much so, that I have found myself brooding for cooler evenings and the chorus of rich autumn colours that beckon cosy and comforting food. Which brings me to this recipe.
Whilst browsing the food stalls of Budapest‘s great market hall – Nagyvásárcsarnok – the oldest and largest market in the city, I came across this savoury strudel nestled among the more well known sweet strudel flavours of apple and sour cherry. I know a savoury cabbage strudel doesn’t immediately look or sound as appealing as the sweet varieties, but surprisingly it tastes really good.
Strudel has a long history in Hungary dating back, it is believed, to the Habsburg empire. The traditional filo-like dough used for strudel has a high gluten content which gives it enough stretch to allow it to be rolled out super thin, a technique borrowed by the Turks.
There are numerous filling options for strudel; from meat to plum to Quark (German for cream) to hazelnuts and poppy seeds. And here is my interpretation of one of Hungary’s best-known foods. Instead of filo pastry, I’m using shortcrust pastry ready bought for ease. And, although it’s not necessarily associated with one season or another, as far as I’m aware, it seems to fit the autumn menu quite nicely. Jó étvágyat!
You Will Need
Savoy Cabbage Finely Shredded 400g
Medium Onion finely chopped
1 Sheet Shortcrust or Puff Pastry
Caraway Seeds 1tsp
White Pepper 1-2 pinch
Hungarian Sweet Paprika 1 pinch
Salt for season
Butter 50g approx.
Pre heat oven to 160 Degrees Celsius.
Finely shred the cabbage removing any firmer pieces and place in a pan of salted water. Par boil until just tender, but don’t over cook. Drain in a colander removing as much water as possible and set aside. Place most of the butter in a large non stick frying pan (put a little aside to glaze the pastry), add the onion, paprika, caraway seeds and a pinch or 2 of white pepper according to your taste. Saute over a low-medium heat for a minute or 2 before adding the shredded cabbage. Thoroughly combine the ingredients, cook until the cabbage is tender then set aside to cool a little.
Gentling melt the remainder of the butter, lay the pastry out on baking paper and brush around the edges with melted butter. Put the cabbage mix on the first 1/3 of the pastry, and using the baking paper to assist, roll away from you ensuring the strudel is evenly rolled. Cut away any excess pastry. Place the baking paper and strudel on a baking tray, brush all over with melted butter. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. After baking allow the strudel to cool little. Cut in to thickish slices and serve with sour cream.
We drive through the boulevards of Budapest, tree-lined and grandiose arriving at our destination, the Buddha-Bar Hotel. It had to be the Buddha-Bar. I’ve been listening to the eclectic sounds which originated in the lounges of this hotel group for years and promised myself that if I were to visit this city I would stay here.
The hotel is housed in one of two Klotild Palaces, built for the Duchess Klotild Habsburg in 1902. The buildings are a stunning example of neo-baroque architecture, the style of which is abundant throughout the city. We are shown to our room, a two storey suite with a bath-tub big enough for four. We are just two, so we bathe star-fish like, before setting out on some serious sight-seeing.
Budapest’s history reads like a fated storybook: repressed/thwarted, rising from the ashes/optimism, ill-fated choices/crushed by oppressors.
The Romans gravitated towards the abundant thermal springs of Óbuda, renaming it Aquincum. The Huns all but annihilated the population. The Turks brought with them paprika and coffee, igniting the coffee culture Budapest is so renowned for. The Habsburg empire and the Austro-Hungarian empire was the golden era for Budapest. And then came communism.
Present day Budapest is 3 cities in 1 – Óbuda, Pest and Buda – inextricably woven together by the Danube river. Streets are flanked by opulent, elegant and graceful architecture which alone will make you want to visit. On the Buda side of the Danube, a funicular ride will take you up to the hilly heights of Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion, where stunning views up and down the winding river, and across to Pest and the impressive Parliament building await you. Budapest has the largest number of thermal springs in the world, and so was officially named City of Spas in 1936. And if this weren’t enough, there is the food, the exquisitely gilded opera houses and coffee houses, a fashion avenue-Andrássy Út-elegant enough to match the Champs Elysées, Paris. And, most surprising of all, is Hungary’s best-kept secret, its wines.
Hungary was once one of the most prestigious winemaking countries in old Europe. But an outbreak of Phylloxera, war, and communist rule saw the demise of Hungary’s viticulture. Thankfully though Hungarian wine is on the up and up, and turning out some intriguingly beautiful wines. A mix of limestone and volcanic soil, hilly topography and sweet-spot latitude make for exceptional wine growing terrain in the regions of Tokaj, Pannon, Eger and Észak-Dunántúl to name just four.
So unleash your adventurous side and head to this lesser known wine country via a fabulous stay in Budapest. You’ll be pleasantly, very pleasantly, surprised.
Where to Eat
Borkonyha Wine kitchen
This superb Michelin starred wine restaurant offers up the most amazing food with up-to-date versions of some of Hungary’s classic favourites. They have a tasting menu where each course is matched with a Hungarian wine. This menu can take over 2 hours, so book well in advance. We arrived a little late for this menu, however, we enjoyed 3 superb courses and our sommelier matched each dish for us with a selection of equally amazing local wines. You might like to try the flat-iron veal steak with sage and apricot, followed by a delicious raspberry dessert with liquorice French Macaron.
Doblo Wine Bar
Any serious wine fanatic will not want to miss this gem of a wine bar. Doblo has a list of no less than 13 tasting menus offering Hungarian regional wines and Pálinka (Hungarian brandy). We chose the Tourist menu, naturally, which focuses on wines mainly from the Tokaj wine region, a region which was awarded UNESCO world heritage status in 2002, and home of the worlds oldest Botryized wine (noble rot grapes). The knowledgable sommeliers will give a thorough history of each wine, plus, you get a selection of tapas-style Hungarian hams and cheeses to accompany your beverages. Entertainment is provided by local Jazz musicians which make for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Where to Stay
Even if you don’t stay at this hotel, you can enjoy a cocktail in Buddha-Bar’s totally gorgeous lounge-bar. They have a guest DJ most Saturday evenings but check their website for detail.
If the Provençal cuisine alone weren’t enough to entice you to this region of France, then perhaps the soft, buttery light, the scent of jasmine carried through towns on delicate breezes, the glistening blue sea, and fairy dust pinks of the local Rosé wines, might just tempt you.
Provence is a place to relax, surround yourself with serene, timeless beauty and experience clear, clean light unencumbered. The light that has inspired and captivated artists past and present.
Food as art plays no small part in Provence. Thick bundles of pungent herbs; rosemary, basil, marjoram and thyme all synonymous with the voluptuous Provençal plate, grow wildly all over the region, releasing their aromatic perfume which only this kind of climate can allow. Dishes such as Daube – a beef stew slowly cooked with oranges, herbs and juniper berries; Bouillabaisse – a famed seafood stew from Marseille made with fish from the Mediterranean sea, simmered in a broth of onions, tomatoes, garlic, saffron and herbs. Even the most simple dishes taste more sumptuous here. An omelette with chèvre or black truffles dance on your palate sending your taste buds on an exotic odyssey of their own, washed down, of course, with a refreshing glass of Absinthe-like Provençal Pastis.
Sunkissed, salty sea breezes, and aromatic fragrances from herbs and flowers wafting through the air, the local terroir seems almost too spoilt for inspiration. Lesser known than other wine producing regions of France, Provence produces some very respectable wines. Rosé, of course, is more widely associated with this region. A glass or two of peaches and cream Rosé is a must for sipping on balmy afternoons whilst partaking in some serious scenery gazing.
Because of its close proximity to the Mediterranean sea, the crisp white wines of the Cassis area contain a smooth, subtle saltiness making it a beautiful pairing with local seafood. The reds too. Try a glass of Provence Rouge from one of the dozens of producers in the small wine region of Bandol. Bold, fruity and intense and definitely worth exploring.
Our five-day driving tour takes us from our starting point Aix to the Alps through the countryside and along coasts soaking in the sun-drenched scenery seemingly unchanged by time.
Aix – Grand and gracious tree-lined boulevards and plazas are dotted with multiple fountains and home to many elegant cafés for a spot of sophisticated people watching. One of the finest Provençal markets is held in Aix on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. And among Aix’s many attractions is the Atelier de Cézanne, the last studio of the great artist.
Cassis – The quaint little fishing port of Cassis was once a hidden gem; but no longer. Tourists now flock here to escape the larger cities looking for unspoilt charm and a bit nostalgia. Take a boat cruise through the blue waters of the Mediterranean and absorb the stunning scenery, pausing to view the creeks and hidden bays along the jagged white coastline. Once ashore, the pastel coloured buildings surrounding the port will give you ample photo opportunities. And when you are ready for a little replenishment head to Le Patio bistro a few steps away from the busy port area for fine local cuisine.
Gorde – Ambling through the hillside town of Gorde is like stepping back in time. Sandstone buildings flank the small but elegant town square (remember the movie A Good Year with Russel Crow, some scenes were filmed here) and narrow streets casting warm, luminous light. Head to the edge of town to where the tiered buildings give way to the most amazing vistas of the surrounding countryside.
Abbaye de Sénanque – A short drive from Gorde is the instantly recognisable Abbaye de Sénanque. Monks are said to still produce local liqueurs here, and, of course, it is home to some of the best lavender fields and products in the region. After touring the beautiful grounds, enter the large shop where you can buy every Provençal lavender product you’ve ever dreamed of.
Roussillon – The town of Roussillon, unlike most others in Provence, has its own unique colour palette. The beautiful warm orange town glows vibrantly during sunset, alongside the Ocres canyon from which the clay for the buildings comes from. The quarrying of the clay in the Sentier des Ocres took place for two centuries. Walk through the stunning canyon and you’ll see how the vibrant clay changes from shades of yellow and orange into red. The greens of the trees also seem to take on more dazzling shades.
Puinoisson – This is where you will find miles of the most famous and painterly lavender, sunflower, poppy and clary sage fields immortalised in the works of the worlds most esteemed artists. There is nothing more to say. Just gaze and take it all in.
And all of this is only the beginning of Provence’s gentle intoxication. There is so much more to see, experience, taste and smell in this ancient, dreamingly beautiful region of France. Provence is chic, serene, relaxed and timeless. Our drive from Aix to the Alps through countryside dotted with pastel coloured farmhouses with shuttered windows the colour of the surrounding flora and fauna; olive green, poppy red and lavender. Whether you go for an extended weekend, a week or a month Provence leaves you yearning for more.
Where to Eat
Cassis – Le Patio
Marseille – Bistrot L’Horloge
Mezel – Le Pressoir Gourmand
What to See
Café culture has a long and prestigious history in Hungary’s capital, Budapest. Cafés and coffee houses have been an intrinsic part of the city’s social and cultural scene since as far back as the Turkish occupation of the 1600s. But it was during the Austro-Hungarian Empire that Budapest saw vigorous growth in its café culture, with almost 500 in the capital alone. It was at this time that the ‘Grand Cafés’ of Budapest became prominent cultural hubs. Notable poets, politicians, artists and writers of the day gathered in the exquisitely decorated Grand cafés not only for the sophisticated menus but also for vibrant intellectual and creative exchange, with some cafés bearing witness to Hungry’s many artistic and literary gems as well as eminent political ideas.
Centrál Café, one of Budapest’s oldest, is one such place. Situated close to Elizabeth bridge, the café was established in the 1800s. Centrál was a meeting point for writers, journalists and poets at this time. Unfortunately though, as with many cafés in Budapest, Centrál was closed during the communist regime for fear of free-thinking individuals. Reopened and renovated back to its former glory in the late 1900s, Centrál’s mission is to reestablish its illustrious tradition as a place for studious contemplation and provocative conversation, along with some very tasty food.
Sit in Centrál’s elegant surroundings and, whilst perusing the menu, if the urge should take you, follow in the footsteps of the poetic ghosts of the past. Write a poem, or perhaps two, on a sheet at your table containing a poem of the day, a pencil and a prompt to scribe something magical to a loved one or a gracious friend.