You do not need to go far away to enjoy a genuinely complex gastronomic experience: you can find the town of Tata with the famous Esterházy Palace just 50 km from Budapest. Platán offers everything a traveler seeking relaxation could dream of, and even more. So, no surprise that last year, Platán’s team was awarded two Michelin stars.
Tata’s Old Lake has been a popular destination for centuries, with the shores’ shade trees, clean air, and peaceful environment. The place belonged to the noble Esterházy family from the 18th century, who built a two-towered castle and several smaller buildings providing accommodation for the staff. The palace became state-owned after World War II and was used as a hospital; later, it became abandoned, leaving the empty historic building to decay. The owner of Platán discovered the building’s potential in 2007 and thought its former glory deserved a new future with fresh energy. It first opened as a restaurant and guest house in 2009, but by 2018 the owners wanted to give a different style to it: by adding something that pays tribute to the history of the estate but also brings contemporary elegance and luxury. This is how the Udvarház (manor house—the Transl.) has been transformed, designed by architect Zoltán Varró and his team.
Given the location and the diversity of functions, this could, of course, only be achieved in synergy; and there has been no question that gastronomy should be included. István Pesti already worked for Platán at that time; he was asked to be a consultant by László Jakabffy, a prominent figure in the sector. István and the owners of Platán became friends when he was still at Tanti, where his work became pretty intense after winning a Michelin star. He already felt that he needed to change when eight years ago, he was offered the position of executive chef at Platán. He wanted to create an entirely new concept, and conscious but very challenging work began, which had no visible results for a long time. But István trusted the law of attraction, and the brand’s message began to emerge: the Platán restaurant has tempted people to take a culinary trip for the experience the fine bistro offers.
However, the experiments in the kitchen, and the quest for perfect quality, increasingly pushed the restaurant towards fine dining. As a result, the in-house patisserie offering has also been upgraded, filling the counter with higher-quality desserts. The chef also designed a degustation menu later, which was available on demand alongside the à la carte menu, but this concept became too cacophonous for their guests and even for themselves. So, it was time to sit down together and plan the future: but rather than choosing one way or the other, they thought Platán was ready to continue with two parallel concepts, as a bistro on the one side and as a gourmet restaurant on the other, with two separate teams, kitchens, and spaces, but with the same ethos. And this plan involved the aforementioned 10-12 room Udvarház building and its redesign.
This May will be the second anniversary of the Platán Gourmet Restaurant’s opening, which happened at a globally quite challenging time. Much work had been invested into it, but immediate success was not guaranteed as the doors opened: Still, István worked as he usually does, with humility and deep trust, with confidence in the fruits of his labor. Their constant experimentation has had its ups and downs, but last November, the breakthrough was made in the eyes of the culinary world’s elite: The Michelin inspectors visited the Hungarian countryside for the first time, and Tata’s Platán was immediately awarded two Michelin stars, to everyone’s surprise, and delight.
Their success was far from certain. Of course, the whole team is truly honored by the award, which also strengthens their financial position, but they are not changing the concept. Many restaurants fall into the trap of seeing the Michelin star as pressure, meaning they start to play it safe and stop progress and innovation to avoid potential failure. But in Platán’s case, provocative experimentation is the chef’s signature; he is unwilling to compromise, and this professional evolution continues: changing menus every three months, incorporating new ingredients, and stepping out of the comfort zone wherever possible. For years, he has collaborated with designers such as APLI Design to enhance or make the dining experience more casual. What is more, he even lectured on food design at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest. Although the main focus is now on the design of the dishes, the essence of the above elements is also infused into the gourmet restaurant’s tasting menu.
Meanwhile, the parallel stories did not stop either: the bistro, the cinema, the restaurant, and the theater. The courtyard is now home to a promenade, a bakery, and a separate pastry shop, and during summer, there is also a kiosk serving strudel and ice cream. If we combine dining with a stroll around the area, we can stop at the Esterházy Palace for their coffee, but a pause in the shade of a plane tree is also a must. Who knows, maybe some stars will smile at us too.
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