While we love the ever-changing, vibrant atmosphere of the Hungarian capital, we cannot live with blinders on. It’s important to explore the increasingly vibrant art, design, and gastronomy scene in the country towns and cities, where endearing stories, quality products, and fantastic concepts are being created precisely to showcase something more and better farther afield. Something worth traveling for, but also exciting for the locals. The first stop in our new series is Veszprém—so let’s head to the Bakony!
The history of Veszprém goes back a long way; one of the country’s earliest towns, today a county seat and university town. At its center are the Veszprém Castle and the surrounding castle quarter, where winding cobbled streets lead us to the top, rewarding the visitor with a view far beyond the Bakony mountains. There is no other Hungarian county seat at such an altitude, lending the city’s skyline a unique grandeur, further enhanced by the 48-meter-high Fire Lookout Tower. Along the bends of the Séd stream, one will find various districts of the town, each with its own distinct character. Veszprém has a population of around 60,000, but thanks to its idyllic location, the town also attracts a large number of tourists. The distance to Lake Balaton is 11 km and to Budapest it is less than 100 km, but Székesfehérvár is also close by, making it an easy detour by car or train. The fact that Veszprém-Balaton was awarded the title of European Capital of Culture (ECOC) in 2023 is a further boost for the region in terms of marketing and tourism. Thanks to the resulting tendering opportunities and increased visibility, the city has recently undergone a number of transformations (some of which are still ongoing), having an undeniable impact on gastronomy.
The first spot, and one that is perfect to start the day with, is the bakery named Makmoiselle Pékség. It’s not hard to find, just follow the smell of the cocoa rolls and the queue at the Megyeház Square—as the flow of customers never stops here from morning to afternoon. This is despite the fact that founder Gabriella Hegyesi as well has only recently arrived in Veszprém. Gabi used to work as an accountant, but as her children say, she “ran an outstanding home kitchen” and was also interested in bread baking before it became a trend. Since information was harder to come by at the time, she browsed French and English blogs, bought books, tasted and experimented while traveling abroad.
Back then, she lived with her family in the village of Tárnok, near Budapest, and in 2018, on a whim, she decided to participate in the amateur category of the Kenyérlelke Fesztivál (a festival built around home baking—the Transl.), where her baguette won first prize. Gabi’s sons urged her to capitalize on what she’d accomplished, which put an idea in her head, but she set a few conditions: she didn’t want to go public until she could bake croissants as good as the French, and she was willing to work only with organic flour, no additives, no leaven, only yeast. Once this was all done, she and her family started to look for a place, but Budapest felt saturated, and the suburbs not commercially secure enough. Finally, they found a shop in Veszprém, which seemed ideal due to its distance from the capital and the town’s atmosphere, so they started renovating.
By April 2020, everything was ready, only the door needed to be opened when her son called to tell her that he had been sent home from university due to the pandemic, and everything was closing. She sat in the middle of the shop with her small team, but after the initial shock, she decided not to give up. They did a trial run and then opened at the end of the month, except they put the counter in the door and customers could only ask for takeaway while wearing a mask. Makmoiselle (a name she chose because she wanted it to suggest femininity, while also being an unabashed fan of ‘mák,’ which means poppy seed in Hungarian) became popular overnight, with the news spreading by word of mouth and a strong clientele developing among the locals. When the restrictions were loosened, guests could finally take over the newly opened indoor area and the terrace, but it is just as common to see a customer stepping out of the shop and breaking off the tip of a roll or baguette before they have even turned the corner.
The most popular products are clearly the various cocoa rolls and croissants (plain or filled with something, like salted caramel), but the crunchy Tesz-Vesz bar or the poppy seed-filled bun are also big favorites. Belgian butter and organic pastry flour from Pásztó prove their worth, the latter also in sourdough breads, which can be plain, einkorn, or rye, depending on your fancy. Gabi dreamed of a place that would be cozy not only for the guests but also for her team of 6, so no late nights or crazy tempo, no dozen partners. Sundays and Mondays are off and they open at 8 am on other days, but the shelves are still constantly stocked. They only supply one place, making buns for Bitang Burger in Alsóörs—the result of careful consideration, as she only associates with people who share her passion for high quality, humble work, and mouth-watering delicacies. It’s the daily feedback that keeps her going, even when she’s tired from commuting all day with big sacks of flour, and it is what inspires her to slowly sketch in her mind the vision of another Makmoiselle.
GUSTO13 Bistro & Delicate
If you feel like wandering off a bit at lunchtime, a few minutes’ drive or an easy stroll from the heart of downtown will bring you to the sign for GUSTO13. Finding a restaurant in this suburban area, on Antal Csermák Street, is nothing new, as its predecessor, Chianti Restaurant, opened in 2002. At the time, Chianti’s character was dedicated to fine dining, even making it into Gault&Millau’s recommendations, but over the years the concept has tired a little, the clientele has worn thin and it has become apparent that the strictly white-glove gourmet line can no longer be maintained. Zsolt Martonosi, who also ran a chain of Italian delicatessen under the name Gusto in several parts of the country and the Baricska Csárda in Balatonfüred, invited Bálint Szakál to join the team as his successor as general manager—the rebranding and transformation into a bistro started at this time, with new goals being set. In 2017, a new chapter was started with a big breath of fresh air, and Gusto13 opened with a renewed menu and a more relaxed attitude.
They wanted to create a casual but high-end ‘fine bistro’ that was both welcoming to the local crowd and inviting to those hungry for Mediterranean delicacies and atmosphere. The restaurant also has a small deli section where they sell the ingredients they use (plus they set up a shop in the city center called Gusto Delicate). Their offer includes Italian butter, chees, or even flour, which they use to make pizzas, as one of the steps to loosening up was to abandon the degustation menu and bring back the pizza oven. In that the San Daniele or Quattro Formaggi pizzas are baked deliciously crispy in a matter of minutes, much to the delight of guests.
Italy also features in the risottos and pastas, but the other half of the menu represents the Hungarian side of the fusion. This is the style of chef Kornél Tarlósi: seasonal, local ingredients, lots of inspiration from nature, embellished with subtle, clever twists, but nothing overdone. A good example is how they don’t insist on trout just to “honor conventions,” but boldly serve crispy skin salmon with different cauliflower textures and grapefruit butter sauce, a light, round, soul-warming dish. Meanwhile, they try to preserve as many ingredients as possible, fermenting many things, for example. In addition to the regular menu, you can also request a lunch menu that promises a different fusion dish every week—after all, why not couple a risotto with breaded meat if it’s done creatively enough? Everything is just as colorful as the team, with many of the 11-12 members being foreigners living in Veszprém, proving that a love of food can be a common language anywhere, anytime.
Füge Fagyiudvar és Kávézó
After lunch, it’s time for dessert, and you couldn’t pick a better place than the café and ice cream ‘court,’ Füge Fagyiudvar és Kávézó. There is something to get excited about on every square inch of Old Town Square (Óváros tér), but it’s hard to miss the pastry shop in the vicinity of the Pekedli grocery—especially in the summertime when crowds of people are happily licking away at their ice cream in the shade of the trees. The café was the shared dream of four people: Márton Dobos, his wife Anna Penovácz, master pastry chef, her brother Roland Tremmer, and his partner Zsófi Hakkel, pastry chef. They all worked in iconic Budapest locations in the past (e.g. Déryné Bistro, Erdős és fiai Confectionery), and also gained experience abroad, which they brought back to the home base. Though initially they just wanted an ice cream stand, they fell in love with the shop and the courtyard, so they ended up staying open all day and all year round. Füge is a cake shop, a breakfast place, but also a community space, sometimes doubling as a playroom or an exhibition space.
Everything on offer is made from quality ingredients, be it traditional or freefrom, so the delicacies blend the genuine flavors of fruits such as raspberries, and seeds such as pumpkin seeds or pistachios. It’s hard to stop at just one slice or scoop, but then again, you don’t have to, especially as the selection changes from day to day, so it’s worth trying different flavors if you don’t want to miss out. They’re also thinking about the future, this summer, for example, they will be showing up at various festivals with a mobile unit, bringing the flavors of Füge all over the country.
We couldn’t fit any more in today, but we’ll be back next week!
Makmoiselle pékség | Facebook | Instagram
GUSTO13 Bistro & Delicate | Web | Facebook | Instagram
Füge Fagyiudvar és Kávézó | Web | Facebook | Instagram