As we sat down at this restaurant in Budapest, all I could think about was Bela Lugosi. It was somewhat appropriate, given that the famous silver-screen horror actor was born in a town in former Hungary (now Romania). Don’t get me wrong – it’s not as though the restaurant was Dracula-themed or anything as gauche as that. It’s simply that the name, Belvarosi Lugas, is so close to the name Bela Lugosi!
Google Translate tells me that the name actually translates to something along the lines of “Downtown Pavilion”, which makes sense given its close proximity to the old town of Budapest. Located directly opposite St Stephen’s Basilica, it’s within easy reach of one of the most important church buildings of Budapest – a key location given that Hungary is still quite a religious country by modern standards!
Certainly this might explain the crowds inside the restaurant when we went. Groups of families, younger friendship groups, and older ladies who lunch were all seated in the cosy restaurant. I was surprised by the crowds given that it was already mid-afternoon, but I understood after learning that there had been a big Hungarian mass at 12pm. It was simply the post-church crowd having their Sunday lunch!
We started off with some drinks each – just a Coke for me, but K ordered a Kinley Ginger Ale as it wasn’t something that we had encountered yet on our travels. Apparently it’s a drink that’s produced by Coca-Cola, but only available in certain European countries. It’s certainly popular in Hungary, as we saw it a few more times during our stay. K reported that the ginger ale was sweet but dry, fairly standard as far as ginger ales go.
Given that we were in Budapest, we ordered a serve of the Goulash Soup to share. It came with a basket of bread and a pot of paprika chilli on the side, just in case you wanted to add more paprika to the already rich soup!
Though it looked like quite a small serve when it came to the table, it became clear very quickly that the Goulash Soup was an extremely hearty meal in itself. With thick chunks of potato and many tender pieces of beef to fill you up, it would be quite enough to simply have the goulash with bread as a light lunch by itself! However, because we’re infinitely greedier than that, we went on to order a main meal each.
K ordered one of the dishes off the seasonal menu – Chicken Breast Stuffed with Spicy Ricotta with Spinach and Potatoes. The baby potatoes were quite delicious in a creamy sauce with the slightest hint of dill. The chicken had a nice glaze on it, but I did find it a little bit dry though it was saved by the creamier ricotta inside and the aforementioned sauce.
I ordered a house specialty – the Hungarian Homemade Ratatouille with Smoked Sausage which came served in a cute little cast iron pot. This isn’t ratatouille the way the French cook it. No, the Hungarian version is made up of capsicum. Lots and lots of capsicum and not much else! Flavouring comes from the dense and spicy sausage, plus of course, plenty of paprika as well. I also found a slab of pork fat at the bottom of the pot, which explains the thick layer of oil in the dish!
Because the ratatouille was quite oily and rich, I was pleased to have a serve of Jasmine Rice on the side to soften the flavours. Spooning the ratatouille onto the rice (draining as much oil as I could!) made the dish that much more palatable. I highly advise ordering rice to go with your Hungarian ratatouille!
Belvarosi Lugas Etterem appears to be a real favourite with the locals, specifically after Sunday church services at St Stephen’s Basilica! Try and get along after a mass to eat some traditional Hungarian food along with the locals. It’s probably one of your best options in Budapest because as one of our tour guides said, “If I want to eat goulash, I go to my grandmother’s house, not a restaurant”. Assuming you don’t have a Hungarian grandmother, Belvarosi Lugas Etterem will stand in!
Belvarosi Lugas Etterem is located at 15 Bajcsy-Zsilinszky utca in Budapest, Hungary.