If something is typical of Budapest, it is the many winding streets that fill the city center. Walking through these, one can easily walk in front of a shop window, although if we wander slowly, we can come across real surprises. In our monthly recommendation, we show real “hidden treasures” where you will find an atmosphere that is guaranteed to captivate you!
Mantra Specialty Coffee Bar
1053 Budapest Veres Pálné Street 17.
The area around Fővám Square and Kálvin Square has undergone an amazing transformation in recent years, but in addition to the bustling tourist attractions, there are also shops that serve their core audience with fantastic quality and heart and soul, even if it is much quieter. I came across Mantra completely by chance last summer—more specifically, I was browsing Google Maps looking for a coffee shop. However, as I saw the photos (I was just going through my yellow-obsession period), I felt I had to go here.
However, the history of the café did not start today: Krisztián Pálvölgyi opened his first store in 2014 with a lot of barista experience, then in 2017 they moved to the current, larger place, and they also bought a micro-roaster in Kecskemét. The name became Mantra as a means of meditation, and indeed, for them, coffee becomes a healing drink. I immediately fell in love with it, because in addition to the incredibly peaceful atmosphere inside, there is an offer like nowhere else, while they still retain the character of the coffees they roast. My favorite is the homemade almond butter, almond or oat milk latte, but the hot chocolate is also unspeakably delicious, made from the almond oil chocolate of the Hungarian Fabric bean-to-bar, especially when they end up with a warming bear latte art.
Hokedli Pottage Bar
1065 Budapest Nagymező Street 10.
We all have traumatic memories of eating vegetables, but once we visit Hokedli—by Andrássy Avenue—and ask for a coconut milk brussels sprout pottage or a colorful delicacy pottage with one of the vegetarian or meaty toppings, maybe a refreshing beetroot soup or light green peas, then the past is immediately forgotten, and instead we spoon the food with a smile from ear to ear. Hokedli is a real success story, and its dreamer is Bori Sinkó, who left her finance profession and started cooking, while also striving for sustainability and teaching disadvantaged children how to cook. Eventually, it all grew into a small food bar, where pottages became the mainstay.
The menu is different every day and reflects the seasonality, and the dishes are born from the free play of vegetables and spices, while the real taste of everything comes to the fore. It’s a bit like having a cool grandmother who uses famous recipes just for inspiration, and we do not have to do anything else, but sit on a stool (hokedli in Hungarian) and have lunch. In addition to pleasing guests, Bori is constantly working to help as many people as possible—for example, during the pandemic, she prepared hundreds of meals for the homeless every day when her own turnover dropped significantly because she felt that if she could somehow help, this is the way.
1072 Budapest Nagy Diófa Street 32.
Baklava can now be easily tasted all over the country, in virtually any (more or less authentic) kebab places. However, the puff pastry filled with honey-syrup and oily seeds has thousands of faces, much more exciting than we’re used to, not to mention other Middle Eastern cakes. Fortunately, the masterpieces of Persian confectionery are also available in Budapest, thanks to the work of tireless Iranian hands. Raheban Freedon opened the first Iran Confectionery in late 2018. He used to live in Norway for a long time and then came to us from there as a refugee. Since he originally had a confectionery, it was evident to continue the tradition, featuring an incredible repertoire.
Thanks to the success and hard work, he also opened a second store, but the epidemic came and he had to close both. Last year, however, it reopened for much encouragement, much to the delight of the area: since he is in the shop and cooks from morning to late evening, the counter is constantly full. Sponge cakes and donuts-like cookies rich in seven kinds of baklava with pistachios, ginger or cardamom, saffron and cream, oil-fried donuts (bamia) and gluten-free sweet and savory biscuits made from rice flour. Everything smells of spices and is sticky due to sugar syrup, and that’s exactly why it’s amazing. The owner says he uses 10 kg of honey a day, but before the epidemic, there were days when he used 20-25 kg. The hospitality is always very attentive, he is happy to answer any of our questions in English, so come and discover the new world of sweets.
Iran Confectionery | Facebook
Photos: Krisztina Szalay