What do you get when you cross a 100 year-old recipe for traditional Hungarian pastry with a highly contemporary concept of dining and service?
The answer is the
Első Pesti Rétesház Café & Restaurant
in English: the First Strudel House of Pest.
The concept of a restaurant serving rétes (strudel), including entrees based on the flaky pastry is an anomaly in Budapest. Of course, you’ve undoubtedly had rétes before, but with duck leg, grilled venison or catfish? I doubt it. Front and center when you enter the restaurant is the strudel-making station, where you can watch the experts at work stretching the dough and filling the delicious treats.
Designed by the owners in a combination of early 20th century classicism with baroque and art nouveau tinges, the wide interior has three distinct areas. The first is the main dining room, an elegant space with arched ceilings and tables with fresh flowers lit by candlelight. At one end is a slightly more casual space with no tablecloths designed as a café, and beyond that there is a well-lit rustic and traditional dining area with long wooden tables and an authentic communal feel. Throughout the place, the walls are lined with mountains of fascinating memorabilia, from bookcases full of old tomes to ceramic pots, decorative dishes and vases to old-and-worn hand tools used in the making of strudel. The washbasins in the bathrooms are worth a look – clear glass with antique postcards and other items below them.
The back room has an additional treat: photographs from a 1936 calendar depicting the making of rétes and traditional festivities that went along with it. To gaze on them is like taking a step back in time. The past-tense illusion ends with the décor and recipes, however, as the First Strudel House has a very modern vision and gastronomic concept.
Recent trends in New York and Paris indicate the decline of the large entrée as main course, while appetizers, sides and salads and desserts have all risen in stature (and often size). Why have just one main dish when you can have three or four of them? With a range of smaller-sized entrees, you’ll have enough room to sample from the fourteen kinds of strudel on offer, or one of the salty hors d’oeuvres. Check for specials and enjoy an eating experience akin to Spanish tapas, Hungarian style.
The wine list offers a good selection of quality Hungarian vintages.
Those who have a little more time on their hands can try the breakfast meals while taking advantage of the free WiFi.
Travelers in town for just a few days will find the First Strudel House to meet many of their needs in addition to hunger, as the restaurant has an electronic tourist kiosk just next to the entrance, plus a few well-chosen souvenirs and traditional fruit jams from the countryside, plus homemade honey and pálinka on offer.
The restaurant offers small programs for foreigners, including dough-stretching/strudel making workshops. Long-term residents will also find it appealing as a great place to get any of the aforementioned meals, and the main dining room makes a great spot for a date, while the back room is perfect for larger parties and company events.
Welcome to the World of Strudels!
The First Strudel House of Pest started its operation in 2007, uniquely in Hungary, in the heart of Budapest, in a historical building built in 1812, with the mission to preserve, hand down and popularize this real Hungarian tradition; the experience gained in preparing and consuming strudels in order to provide guests with gastronomic adventures that carry weight, history and values.
Strudel preparation is a tradition and art. It is a tradition that we have been preserving for centuries and also art, as only great masters can prepare them perfectly. Hungarian records on strudels date back even to the 15th century.
At the outset, this delicacy, regarded as a Hungaricum used to be a festive meal. It was often served on christening feasts, weddings, New Year’s Days and at Easters. No wonder, as strudels are always prepared from excellent wheat. This cake prepared from top quality ingredients and numerous fillings, by careful housewives’ skilful hands tastes heavenly. It is difficult to word how to prepare a good strudel.
The fatty layers of its ethereal dough drawn out long also have history, passion and care baked in. These splendid delicacies are prepared in our Strudel House based on an original recipe, with several years’ experience, using the finest ingredients, from Hungarian flour with high gluten content, hand-made, in an authentic environment so that guests visiting us can experience the special feeling that are due to the Hungarian wheat and the inimitable preparation processes that are so difficult to learn..
The First Strudel House of Pest believes that quality and content are essential in all fields of life. Taste our strudels prepared with all due care and you will understand and feel the values hiding among the layers.