Anyone who owns a dog knows how much joy, but also how many challenges this can mean for the everyday life. Just think of simple things like going to work or getting around town. While it may not seem like much to ask, to be able to sit down for a coffee or some cake when you are in the company of your dog, one might easily run into difficulties on such a mission. But everyone deserves a warm welcome, no matter how many legs they have—which is why it’s a real pleasure that The Dog Bakery has opened its doors in Budapest.
“Dog friendly” proclaims the sign on the door or counter of many restaurants, cafés, and patisseries in Budapest. But let’s face it, many times this is just a promise, and the reality is quite different. Even if we don’t have to withstand any nasty looks or are not turned away with our dog, there are very few places where our four-legged companion is truly welcome. Sure, there are a couple of exceptional venues where some petting and a bowl of water are served almost immediately, but what’s more common here is that dogs are only tolerated for the sake of the owner. Of course, the other side has to be understood as well—many people don’t like having pets inside for reasons of hygiene (as ‘accidents’ can happen at any time) or for fear that their barking or curiosity (and possibly hunger) will disturb other guests. All of this is, admittedly, a realistic fear, as many people do not like to have a furry company joining their social or business dinners.
However, there are an increasing number of people who are comfortable with such experiences, either because they are pet owners themselves, or just keen animal lovers. These people have long been waiting for a local place that offers the comfort of a café, where they can find delicious food and drinks, and where everyone, including their pets, can have a splendid time. Ákos Léhárt and his partner László Baráth are just like that. Having lived in London and Stockholm for 6 years, they encountered plenty of good examples. Scandinavian culture is characterized by a dog-friendly attitude, and as they themselves are proud owners of two rescued dogs, Maya and Mokka, they have experienced the benefits of this hospitality first-hand. They knew there was a need for such a place in Hungary, so they moved home this year with the idea in mind.
Although they were not previously involved in gastronomy (Ákos worked as a retail manager in the haute couture industry, such as with Louis Vuitton and Chanel, while László is a well-known hairdresser to the stars), they were passionate about first-rate hospitality and thought they could create something similar here in Budapest. They didn’t want to make empty promises but dreamed of a restaurant that was truly for the dogs (and the owners, of course). László previously had a hairdressing salon in Kertész Street, but the location and space made it the perfect match for this project, so they set about renovating it with the help of friends and family. Everything was built with their own two hands, receiving a lot of help from the father of Ákos, who was responsible for all the wall-mounted furniture and wooden elements. The work started in August and The Dog Bakery finally opened in October, but the rush doesn’t show at all.
The amount of love and awareness that has gone into the task is striking even if you enter without a pet. The walls have a rough finish, and the floor is easy to clean, with just one large carpet in the middle, soft and comfortable but easy to clean. The seat cushions are also made of leather (making them comfortable, but easy to wipe down with a sponge) and the low tables are accessible to anyone—which is why there are no sweeteners or sugar placed on them (these are to be found at the counter) so that the doggies wouldn’t by chance steal any of it. This is because sugar alcohols such as xylitol or erythritol can be life-threatening for them, as they can cause an insulin shock. For four-legged friends, it’s worth picking from the counter, which offers an unusual selection of dog-friendly muffins, doughnuts, and other treats, created with the collaboration of a vet and a pastry chef. They were not feeling the colorful, decorated, scented line that is quite popular in the U.S., instead they went in a natural, simple direction. The treats are made with natural ingredients (oat flour, bananas, peanut butter), free of allergens, and even offer gluten-free choices, as more and more animals are sensitive to it. Owners can choose from Babo Bakes’ biscuits and Freyja’s pastries, even though they no longer deliver to other cafes, but they fell so in love with the concept that they decided to contribute. There’s a choice of Italian Caffè Diemme coffees to accompany the delicacies.
The Dog Bakery is a place where it’s simply nice to be—the light streaming in through the wide windows, the tranquillity of this stretch of Kertész Street, and the friendly atmosphere are hard to resist. Everyone is welcome with or without a dog. Ákos and László find that many people come alone and socialize while the doggos play, while others are not owners but just enjoy spending time in such a welcoming environment. However, the brand’s versatility doesn’t stop here, as it also operates as a pop-up shop selling products from a variety of Scandinavian designers not yet known in Hungary (such as berty, Hunting Pony, Snuffle Dog Beer), but they are keen on finding new partners in the long term. They also want to organize various lectures and adoption days with outside partners, such as shelters, as well as build a community. Being a pet parent calls for true devotion, but if you can share the experience, it will be a joyful adventure of a lifetime.