We’d been following the preparations for the big day, and after the official opening was held a few days ago, there was no question about it: we needed to drop in during opening weekend. The hype is no accident, as the Balatonfüred-based restaurant is run by the team of Sparhelt, which many credible sources claim is among the best at Lake Balaton. The kitchen is headed by Lajos Takács and Balázs Elek, whose aim is to soon work with as many locally produced ingredients as possible.
The downtown area of Balatonfüred has gone through an amazing transformation in recent years, coupled with the sudden and welcome improvement of the local gastronomy selection. And the result: several establishments serving extraordinary cuisine have cropped up all over town. One of the most well-known ones called Bistro Sparhelt is found on Szent István Square, a little bit further from the center, and over the one and a half years of its existence it’s become a popular destination in its own right.
The team behind the gourmet eatery, which doesn’t shy away from bizarre combinations, thought it would be a great idea to set up shop by the beach promenade, near the marina, as this location brings with it a wider range of customers. The more varied mix is both an advantage and a challenge, but luckily the restaurant is located on a more secluded, pleasant part of the shore with lots of pretty sailboats, a huge terrace, turquoise chairs, and wooden tables with rock-shaped salt dispensers outside, and a modern interior inside.
The kitchen is run by a young chef called Balázs Elek, while the group is headed by Lajos Takács from Olimpia Restaurant and Laci!Pecsenye. “We often talk about the dishes and recipes,” says Balázs. Even though everything is “fresh, local, and artisan”, they don’t like to use these words as a meaningless mantra. Local means exactly that: the goal is to grow everything that’s possible in Füred and the village of Barnag, just above the Pécselyi Basin. Most of the vegetables are already purchased from there, and poultry will soon come from these sources as well. The Balaton Uplands also have a fine assortment of cheeses and vinegars, and the fish is procured from fish farms around the lake, but some of the ingredients are not available in the region. The black mussels are from Bretagne, the lentils from Puy, and the pecorino from Italy.
Not only did we talk about the mouth-watering cuisine, we also sampled some of the dishes. The duck tongue was a strong welcome dish made memorable by a sweet-sour jus. We picked a selection of olives and smoked duck breast from the snack category, which is ideal for a chat session with wine, but it also works as an appetizer. The intensively flavored, tender duck breast, served with salt flakes and greens, is smoked in the restaurant’s kitchen. The three kinds of olives represent three different characters, which is very exciting, as is the Spanish olive oil, which you can simply order with homemade bread – the best wine snack in the world.
There’s only one soup on the menu, cream of zucchini soup with cured ham, fermented zucchini, and fennel (1,290 forints). The thick and creamy liquid, which is poured from a pitcher, has a fresh flavor, and you get a pretty big serving enough for a main meal.
Out of the main dishes we picked wels catfish with egg barley risotto and peppers (4,330 forints); the red-white-green color combination makes this a feast for the eyes as well. The lavender-infused goat’s cheese mousse adds a nice, gentle balance to the plate dominated by kapia foam and baked jalapeño. The duck breast with salad pottage is another intriguing option.
As the name suggests, the fresh pasta with tomato, basil, and pecorino (2,490 forints) is simple, yet very tasty – you can’t go wrong with it.
Rounding off our meal, we went for a decadent dessert. Balázs loves chocolate, but his favorite country of origin differs from Lajos’, so they reached a compromise by incorporating chocolate from both Brazil and Madagascar into their creation named chocolate and sour cherry (1,690 forints). The main ingredient is present in ice cream, ganache (silky chocolate cream), and powder form as well.
The menu and the wine list is evolving still, but the service is already very friendly, the Balaton air is wonderful as always. As you can see from the pictures above, the cuisine is excellent, and we really like Balázs’s attitude towards and thoughts on ingredients and food. He’s young, and it’s apparent that he has lots of goals to achieve in his profession. There are a few adjustment that need to be made, but the team is seriously promising, just like they used to be back at Sparhelt.