Ferenc Bodó of Cafe Gundel has been cooking professionally since he was 12. Cafe Gundel serves Hungarian classics from his homeland, such as seafood soup, matzo-ball soup, dumplings, schnitzel, goulash and cheesecake.
The food is overwhelmingly hearty. Of all the stomach fillers in Hungary, goulash and lángos, a deep-fried flat bread, are the most well known.
The dough for the latter is made with sour cream to give it extra chew and a slightly brittle skin. At Cafe Gundel it’s served with sour cream and minced garlic.
In winter you’ll find heavier soups with meat, potatoes or even matzo balls, and in warmer weather try a fisherman’s soup or meggyleves, a sour-cherry soup made with lemon, red wine, cloves and cinnamon.
The goulash here is a veal stew served with stodgy, handmade galuska – pasta dumplings. Because it is less fatty and has caraway seeds, it’s more reminiscent of Middle Eastern soups than heavy Eastern European gravies.
Also try the schnitzel or the roast veal shank, which is tender and, due to a long reduction, richly savoury without being particularly heavy.
After a final few sips of Hungarian beer, the last thing to try is one of Bodó’s homemade desserts. There’s plum dumplings and strudels, but Bodó says the most Hungarian choice is vargabéles, a cheesecake full of cranberries and strands of baked noodles.