Sunday brought about a slow, sunny morning, making stacks of sourdough pancakes topped with local cream, jam and strawberries. Monmouth coffee (imported from London) washed away morning sleep and soothing jazz made for a melancholic soundtrack. Mustering up some energy, we wrapped up warm and stepped out into the cold, heading towards a weekly farmers market at Szimpla Ruin Bar, where we had spent a night out earlier in the week.
Every Sunday, from 9am to 2pm, farmers, local producers and makers set up their stalls, lined with fresh produce for punters; cured meats pile high in wicker baskets and hang off beautifully crafted wooden stands. Fresh cheeses line make-shift chilled counters. Freshly baked bread, cookies and pastries waft welcoming aromas across the bar. Homemade jams, chilli sauces, mustards and vegan “living” flatbreads awaiting to be sampled, most of which surprisingly sugar-free and organic. No doubt, in my bag quickly arrived a plum, rum and walnut jam, made with xylitol, alongside a fiery, home-cooked chilli sauce, extremely delicious mustard and a link of cured deer sausage for my dad. A woman wrapped in a yellow puffer jacket sat on a low stool next to a man bearing a guitar, playing tranquil acoustic songs that reverberated through the bar. Corcovado by Joāo Gilberto came on, and I could only think how fortuitous our timing had been. Memories of Rio de Janeiro resonated as I made my way through the market crowd, sneakily sampling more products and eventually heading out back into the city’s chill.
The Jewish Quarter of Budapest is home to some of the best bars, restaurants and cafes you can find, historically being the heart of life for the city, prior to the devastation during the second world war. What once may have been ornately decorated and designed tall apartment blocks now resemble dirty and semi-dilapidated buildings. Some more ruined than others line the streets of the Jewish Quarter, and one’s mind can only sadly wander. Memorials to the community stand proudly, however, bearing memories of not just the devastation, but the better times the area had once embraced and had. Slowly walking through, we solemnly glanced at the homes and roads that once were and that now house a just as vibrant community.
Emerging at a junction, a regal, peaked white building stood tall. Yellow trams and taxis zoomed past, pedestrians entering in and out of the grand architecture; The Budapest Boscolo Hotel and famous New York Cafe. In need of caffeinated sustenance, we entered.
As we stepped in, we craned our necks back at the high ceilings, adorned with regal patterns, paintings and golden twirly protruding decorations. Tall, arched pillars supported the painted ceilings. White, flapper-style curtains swung from the ceiling-high windows, illuminated the golden halls of the cafe. The gargantuan hall was filled to the brim with tables and chairs, all occupied with the hungry, thirsty and curious. The left side of the hall was the widest and busiest. At the end, stairs lined with red carpet hosted a jazz quartet, dressed in suits and red waistcoats. The violinist at the front quickly became an oboist and switched to and fro accordingly. To the right, a lower level emerged, leaving a wide space from floor to ceiling, adding to the regality of the hall. Further right, a balcony-style level looked across the cafe, leading toward the Boscolo hotel. After a short wait to be seated, we were led to the middle of the widest level on the left, right in front of the band. A menu filled with exceptionally pricey drinks, meals and desserts was at hand; even to London price-standards, this wasn’t your usually £3 latte. But given the grandeur, should one expect any different?
Shortly, a New-York style latte macchiato arrived in a tall glass, the creamy milk froth sumptuous and alluring. A tiny plate of two shortbread cookies accompanied, free of charge. Alternately, the other half of the order was somehow the most kids-style drink on the menu; a kind of hot strawberry milkshake, whipped cream, rainbow sprinkles and all; the definition of classy.
We sipped our drinks slowly whilst admiring the live music, the low hubbub of our fellow customers adding to the elegant atmosphere. If you’ve never felt classy then get yourself over here for the time of your life. Nearing the end of our drinks, the band was smoothly replaced by a pianist on the right-hand-side “terrace”, playing jazzy-style versions of famous tunes and melodies. Soon, our neighbours began to dissipate, and our time had come to an end; back into the real world, we went.