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The present and the future of a heritage—the COFFEE GROUND experiment of Onyx Műhely

Since its launch last year, Onyx Restaurant’s new chapter, Műhely, has been creating some of the most exciting experiments in Hungarian gastronomy, to the benefit of both the profession and the public. At this year’s Gourmet Festival, as part of the Gerbeaud Group, they showcased their heritage in a sustainable, playful way: it was the COFFEE GROUND.

As we have written before, Onyx retreated during the pandemic because the owners felt the need for new energy and new drive. Behind the scenes, owner Anna Niszkács and strategy director Marcell Fekete forged a new team, bringing in the best professionals not only from within but also from outside the classic gastronomy world. They realized that a restaurant can only be sustainable if it’s run together as a team, rather than with one chef who is the key to success and the others are invisible. This inclusive approach has led to the creation of the Creative Community, which was launched last summer.

In the beginning, many doubted whether the story of Onyx, which had already caused quite a commotion so far, could continue in such an extraordinary way, but time proved the restaurant right. Untraditionally, in the work of the Creative Community, art, sciences and gastronomy meet, which is more than just a catchy slogan: a symbiosis of the knowledge and intents of different experts. The team is strengthened by DLA food designer Angéla Góg, for instance, who develops the concept of the menu and events as an art director or food design researcher Márta Merkl, who examines (and integrates) different methods of creating a food experience. Everyone counts, everyone’s important, and this synergy has led to more milestones than Metamorphosis dinners or METROPOLIS, a bus daytrip to exciting and iconic city sights, as an introduction to the new autumn menu.

Of course, they also held the Gourmet Festival, which reopened after a two-year break. This year’s topic of the popular event was “heritage,” the idea of learning about traditions and bringing them into the present. Műhely took the issue seriously: as part of the Gerbeaud Group, Café Gerbeaud and the coffee itself are the starting points for them. As innovation and sustainability, alongside tradition, are also crucial for them, they started experimenting, not with coffee, but with its final product, coffee ground, which is produced every day.

This was reflected not only in the flavors but the preparation and the serving processes, as well. It had been known before that coffee ground can be mixed with compost or plant soil, but using it as a medium for oyster mushrooms came as a novelty. With the help of Budafok-based Gombajó, they made coffee ground pillows inoculated with spores—the oyster mushrooms grown on them formed the basis of the starter, the HARVEST, a light mushroom salad with bread jus, celery, lemongrass and other mushrooms. The unconventional flavor pairing was also the result of research by R&D chef Péter Várvizi, who drew a flavor map for the coffee and found that certain flavor compounds were common to mushrooms and lemongrass.

The main course, the PROCESSING was a formally surprising Zichy wagyu round prepared soft with anise carrot purée, salty lemon, coffee and roast juice, offering rich flavors and light textures. The complexity of the flavor notes made it difficult to differentiate between what exactly was sweet and what exactly was savory, which was helped by the umami, defined as the fifth base flavor, also found in coffee (and of course mushrooms). Staying loyal to Gerbeaud style, the dessert, called SOAKING was a molasses-nut sponge cake, homemade citrusy coffee ground liqueur and white coffee ice cream, creating an exciting harmony of smoky and citrusy.

It also turned out that the coffee ground has the potential to become a 100% biodegradable, environmentally friendly bowl and cutlery, so they collaborated with Hungarian company Wopla to create compostable bowls and spoons with 50% coffee ground content. These single utensils were suitable for all three dishes, which were presented as scoops, served with Gerbeaud’s old ice cream scoop. The menu was a raging success at the festival, with practically every day sold out, which is no wonder, as the flavors were outstanding alongside the likable and ecologically and morally important idea.

Photos: Tamás Kőrösi

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