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When the best things fuse—WAKA Budapest & 101Bistro

Genuinely good things are created when thanks to the fortunate constellation of stars and a sufficient amount of openness good people and good ideas cross paths. Even though last summer the WAKA Budapest boat has already welcomed sunbathers with its chill atmosphere and panoramic view, in 2022, they upgraded to the next level with Marci Keve and a menu provided by the 101Bistro.

There are many pros and cons of the Danube promenade. It’s busy, crowded, and traffic is regularly disrupted, but if you can get past the hassle, you can arrive at a place that you will not want to leave for many hours. The genre of stationary boats is nothing new along the Danube, foreign tourists often spend their evenings on board, but previously, there were few options that appealed to a domestic audience, apart from the A38. That one has however been mostly calibrated to hosting parties and concerts for a long time, which limits its availability for the general audience. So it was a refreshing change when WAKA Budapest appeared on the ‘surface’ last summer on the Jane Haining quay, halfway between Vigadó Square and 15 March Square. There was no loud opening, no blaring marketing campaign, just a nice quiet event of friends showing each other how they’d imagined a relaxing summer evening.

The word ‘waka’ might be familiar from Maori language—it is the name given to traditional boats, and in Hawaiian mythology, it is also used to denote the name of a goddess. During the creation of the interior, the aim was to evoke the atmosphere of the Caribbean and Tulum, but not only that, small ideas from Asia or the Middle East are also part of the mix. Owners Márk Pap and Dániel Andrusch are no strangers to the catering industry—Márk has been working in bars since his teenage years, working his way up the ranks (his other current project is Gin Corner Bar, the largest thematic gin bar in the region), while Dani breathed new life into the iconic Róma Ételbár a few years ago. They both knew they wanted a place that offered a real experience rather than being a tourist trap, and that could be a hangout for anyone who wanted to get away from the daily grind.

They wanted to stand out, starting with a condition that they’d only sell selected, premium quality foods and drinks, or present a range of artists that is different from the mainstream. Their high reputation spread by word of mouth, so this spring they decided to take their cuisine to the next level, replacing the usual bar snacks. They had a few potential partners on their wish list, but when they tasted Marci Keve’s food at the now cult 101Bistro, all of their doubts disappeared. The 101 team was also thinking about expanding at the time, so they quickly found common ground and started this season by planning a fusion menu together.

They dreamt up food that would fit the place, which means fused, daring, and cool, while presenting the usual WAKA quality. It was also important that the long drinks and other beverages would be properly matched, as the main crowd tends to drop by late in the afternoon, or the evening, bathing in the setting sun. Similarly, it had to be taken into account that there is no time or facilities available for service like in a bistro (as the place is noisier and one has to order at the counter), so the food has to be relatively easy to understand, yet with a twist. The menu is designed to cater to the more adventurous and the comfort food seekers as well, but the ’wow factor’ is always guaranteed. Ingredients and favorite street food dishes appear like words in a language, with different combinations telling different stories.

You can try the famous golden kimchi and tapioca crispy, or as an alternative burger, bao, slightly larger in size, with pork bacon or chicken. Those looking for meat-free dishes can opt for the spring rolls with Singapore mayonnaise, for example, in which the ingredients strike a perfect chord. They’ve sought a happy middle course without compromise, and of course, they’re always listening to their customers’ feedback, which is why they’ve recently fine-tuned the menu even more. They say, anyone who tries a bao with oyster ketchup, for example, doesn’t know why it’s special, only that it works and that they never want to eat anything else. Of course, there is a challenge, as the prepared ingredients come from 101 manufacturing kitchens, which means plenty of logistics, but they’ve gotten quite good at it now. The guys are full of ideas, so anything can happen until the end of the season: as long as the weather is good, the WAKA deck is always full of joy, great food, and a real beach vibe.

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