Last month, we went to Budapest, and it was lovely but cold. The kids had a great time (we stayed at a hotel with an indoor water park), and it was a nice holiday away. We saw the Buda and Pest sides in winter, and each has a beautiful character quite unlike the other. Overall, the city reminded me a bit of Vienna.
The most memorable part of the holiday was our visit to the New York Café, where I had the best dessert that I have ever had in Europe. We've had memorable desserts in Paris, Barcelona, Malaga, Vienna, and other places; but truly this was the best. I'm sure that the setting and history contributed a bit, but the quality and presentation of the desserts were excellent.
The New York Café has an interesting history, and for me, it was love at first sight. The café actually gets its name from the New York Insurance Company, who commissioned the Art Nouveau building in 1894. The New York Café held its grand opening on October 23, 1894, and soon took its place as one of the most famous of nearly 400 literary cafés in Budapest at the end of the 19th century.
From the early 1910s until the 1930s, Budapest boasted of a thriving coffee culture, where writers and artists spent much of their day creating and chatting at their "regular" tables. They enjoyed free ink and paper, and they ate from a discounted "writer's menu."
The New York Café was frequented by famous literati of the time: Michael Curtiz (born Manó Kertész Kaminer), director of Casablanca, dined there with Sir Alexander Korda (Sándor László Kellner), director of The Thief of Baghdad.
Legend has it Ferenc Molnár, a famous Hungarian writer, and his friends threw a key to the café in the Danube, so that the café should never be closed. It seems that his "magic" may have worked, and I hope that it continues to exist until the next century.
Unfortunately, it was ravished by two world wars, turned into a shoe shop, then a tourist restaurant, and finally restored to its original splendor in the Rococo style by Boscolo Hotels, who reopened the café and hotel in 2007.
The interior is amazing; the New York Café is a café with personality. Photos do not do it justice.
This from the Budapest Guide:
"The majestic building was built in eclectic style relying on Italian renaissance and baroque; its lavishly furnished interiors were designed in the spirit of historical eclecticism. Everything being made of marble, bronze, silk and velvet many people compared the building to the palace of the Bavarian King Louis II."
My husband had the best apple strudel ever (and we live in Germany, so that's saying something), and my chocolate souffle was divine.
I now have a not-so-secret dream of coming back to the New York Café someday to do a reading for one of my books. Dream big, I say. Maybe during that visit back to Budapest, I'll also throw a key from the New York Café into the Danube.