At Zoltán 18, a supperclub-style restaurant, memorable meals are served at a long, communal, wooden table. Anatoli, the Canadian/Russian chef, creates gorgeous fixed-menu dinners with local wine pairings; typical menus include crab and shrimp cake followed by boar with stewed quince and hazelnuts. facebook.com/Zoltan18Gastro
Most Budapest neighbourhoods have market halls where locals rub shoulders with chefs. The city’s three-level Central Market is a must-visit, but smaller newly refurbished food halls like the Klauzaltér Market in the 7th district and the Hold utca Market in the 5th district are also fine places to browse and grab lunch. Vámház krt. 1-3
Out of town
It’s a 40-minute drive to the charming Etyek wine region. Have lunch on the patio at Rókusfalvy Fogadó and pair it with a bottle of the restaurant’s own wine (its winery is just down the street). Other local wineries include Hernyák, Kertész, and Etyeki Kúria, and are worth visiting for fine pinot noirs and sauvignon blancs. rokusfalvyfogado.hu
Its modest exterior belies the extraordinary menu at Rosenstein Vendégl, the city’s landmark Jewish restaurant. Owner/chef Tibor Rosensten and his son Róbert serve excellent matzo ball soup and sólet (slow-baked bean stew) as well as Jewish egg salad. rosenstein.hu
Unicum is a herbal bitter made from a secret recipe that includes over 40 herbs. It’s one of the national drinks, with a distinctive bomb-shaped bottle, and has a fascinating back-story. Find out more, and enjoy a tasting, at the Zwack Unicum Museum. unicum.hu
A pilgrimage to Daubner Cukrászda is a weekend ritual for many Budapest families. Don’t let the queues deter you. Once you reach the counter, and its pastry cases packed with Dobos torta, Esterházy torta, krémes and other decadent pastries, you’ll be glad you waited. daubnercukraszda.hu
Among a handful of Michelin-starred options in the city, Borkonyha (Wine Kitchen) is a must-visit. The service is spot-on, and the modern Hungarian menu changes regularly to highlight what’s at the market. Be sure to finish your meal with a glass of Tokaji aszú, Hungary’s iconic dessert wine. borkonyha.hu
Goulash may be the country’s most famous dish but don’t overlook pörkölt. At Gettó Gulyás, a new home-style restaurant, you can try over a dozen types of this paprika-laced stew as well as classic Hungarian starters (bone marrow and toast) and desserts (curd cheese dumplings and Somlói galuska). facebook.com/gettogulyas
Ruin bars have become a Budapest phenomenon. In the past they popped up in random vacant buildings and outdoor spaces, but these days they come in more manicured forms. Mazel Tov, with its lovely garden courtyard and a kitchen that turns out Middle Eastern specialties, is a grown-up version of the concept. mazeltov.hu
Budapest’s thriving cocktail scene includes tiny Bar Pharma, which can hold no more than 10 people. The mixologists always have an experiment bubbling behind the bar, but don’t miss the boozy ice creams. Flavours include one that is laced with Unicum. barpharma.hu
HOW TO DO IT
Return flights from various UK airports cost from around £80 (wizzair.com). Double rooms at Brody House start from £55, room only (brodyhouse.com). More info: gotohungary.com.
Trust olive Carolyn Bánfalvi is the author of Food Wine Budapest (Little Bookroom). She runs culinary tours (tastehungary.com), and a wine shop in Budapest (tastingtablebudapest.com).
Photography: Alamy, Paolo Giocoso/Sime/4Corners