Countryside gastronomy has produced quite a few excellent results in the past few years. Anyukám Mondta in Encs is a place of gastro pilgrimage, everyone knows that Kistücsök doesn’t chirp, but it serves very good food, and we’ve also praised the recent developments in Balaton gastronomy on more than one occasion. We continue our series of recommendations, but this time we venture a bit further than Balatonszemes, Csopak or Köveskál. We followed one rule: every eatery has to be accessible from Balaton within 20 minutes to an hour. We've tried calf liver, Wiener schnitzel, pheasant and more.
Countryside gastronomy is as unimaginable without 67 Restaurant as it is without Kistücsök in Balatonszemes, and the two eateries even have a similar history: Zoltán Herczeg is a catering business veteran, just like Csapody at Balaton, but he chose Fehérvár as his headquarters, running a restaurant with a bistro kitchen that is bordering on fine dining. Here, there’s no shame in importing most ingredients from abroad, especially since they are turned into dishes that have landed 67 on the list of top 10 Hungarian restaurants and kept it there for many years.
The permanent menu features various steaks, extraordinary Italian pastas and Hungarian style creations with a new wave twist, making sure that even the pickiest gourmands find it impossible to shake their heads with dissatisfaction. We tried the steak tartare with home-made pesto as well as the world champ dessert cottage cheese dumplings with sour cream foam and strawberry purée, and you should too. It’s also worth checking what the blackboard menu says because that’s where the excellently reinterpreted beef cheek goulash arrived on our plate from.
Price: 2,000 HUF and 5,000 HUF, while some of the more special steaks cost around 10,000-15,000 HUF
If you feel like taking an hour-long car trip from Balatonszentgyörgy sometime between March and the end of September, you can drop by Hertelendy Castle: it’s like a mini journey back in time because staying here feels like visiting your uncle, the baron, but without leaving 2015 behind. None of the Hertelendy heirs live at the gigantic estate anymore; the castle, which is run by two Swiss businessmen, is the only one in Hungary that is part of the Relais-Chateaux association, having received the prestigious membership in 2010. This is a pretty cool, exclusive club with rules as strict as if they had been invented by the head nurse of One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, meaning that the establishments that are eventually accepted go through a careful selection process. Moreover, the leadership of Relais-Chateaux sends undercover colleagues to every location once a year to check whether they comply with the criteria. Their report is very detailed, and can point out such minute things as the Hungarian flag by the entrance standing at the wrong angle.
The hotel’s restaurant named Albizzia is managed totally separately, but the rules are equally stringent, which Zsolt Hampuk thankfully doesn’t mind. Having worked at restaurants in Hong Kong, France and Transylvania as well as Budapest’s Pierrot, the chef dreams up a different degustation menu for every day, but you don’t have to eat an entire seven-course menu from the amus bouches to dessert, you can choose from the à la carte options as well. The kitchen uses fruit and vegetables from the castle’s own organic garden, and the herbs are grown locally too. The poultry comes from Hungarian suppliers: we’ve tried two poultry dishes, namely duck liver pâté and roast duck with mashed potatoes, onion bits and red cabbage cream, and we couldn’t agree more with the chef’s choice.
Price: The seven-course degustation menu costs 90 euros (about 26,000 HUF); the prices on the à la carte menu are between 2,000 HUF and 5,000 HUF.
Based on the Balaton Uplands, the Kreinbacher team took quite a risk a few years ago when it started producing the kind of sparkling wine that even French gourmands tasting it with an extended pinkie will approve of. The contemporary sparkling wines were followed by contemporary buildings: the processing factory was designed by Dezső Ekler, and the plans of the hotel, the wine bar and the restaurant, all of which were opened this spring, also come from Ekler and Biva Inspiration.
Since everything is so modern here, there’s no question about the kind of cuisine the estate offers under the leadership of Csaba Dinnyes: new wave Hungarian style food based on traditional dishes from County Vas and County Zala. You can reach the estate in under an hour from Lake Balaton, and the contemporary silence you’ll hear when you arrive will make you just as relaxed as when you successfully pop a bottle of sparkling wine.
Price: entrees around 2,000-4,000 HUF
The castle is not the only attraction worth getting in your car in Keszthely and driving half an hour for. Austrian chef Klaus Deutschmann has pretty much toured half the towns around Balaton, and after Káli Art Inn, Sparhelt and Karolina Fűszerkertje, he seems to have settled down in Sümeg to create a wide range of menus composed with precision. The menu always changes based on seasonal ingredients, and the herbs come from their own garden.
Don’t be surprised to see such dishes as duck breast toffee dumplings with apple purée and raspberry sauce or cold watermelon soup prosciutto brioche with mascarpone. You can trust the talented chef because he’s proved many times over that his dishes are fully capable of diverting the attention of his guests from the five-star, Balaton-less panorama.
Price: entrees around 2,000-5,000 HUF
Chances are most of you have not yet ventured beyond the Balatonszentgyörgy exit of M7 up until now. But Bázakerettye actually proves two things: there’s life beyond M7 and the region surrounding the village is the perfect destination if your aim is to get away from the bustle of the world. The village’s once abundant oil fields made the area a prime target of both the Allies and Hitler during WWII, and the oil-related history of the barely 1000-strong village has been preserved by the restaurant-hotel complex, which took its name from the traditional miners’ greeting that translates to “Good luck!”
Hostess Csilla has the quite ambitious aim of procuring all ingredients from local farmers, and using them to make every dish and everything that comes with them at the restaurant’s kitchen. For example, a typical breakfast table has home-baked brioche, traditional Hungarian sweet braided bread and potato bread with home-made strawberry jam, liver pâté, yoghurt and other goodies prepared on the spot. It might be controversial to say, but we think this little village situated close to the Austrian border is where we’ve had one of the best Hungarian Wiener schnitzels of our lives to this day. The leavened pickle soup with yoghurt and the reinterpreted version of the local classic called Zala-kocka are absolutely divine as well.
Price: entrees around 2,000-4,000 HUF
The former residence of the Jankovich counts is located closest to Balaton, but what you can see here is far more exquisite than anything you’ll find by the lake. After a 20-minute drive, you can feel like a real-life count when you get out of your car in front of the castle hotel that has a garden pond with goldfish, a 45-hectare English garden and a herb garden belonging to the restaurant.
There’s no way a restaurant can be shabby in a setting like this: every year Chateau Visz is ranked among the best gastro spots in the countryside, and perhaps the most important of all the accolades the castle hotel has received is that in 2012 it was featured on the European top list of American gastro magazine Food and Wine as one of the top 20 restaurants in Central Europe. Open all year round, the restaurant offers a monthly changing selection of three- to seven-course menus, and there’s no need to be afraid of the pheasant with green herbs and pear purée with red wine or the caramelized ricotta cream purée. A tip for vegetarian patrons: you don’t have to do without the proper fine dining experience, but make sure to call ahead two-three days before your visit, so that the chef of the gourmet eatery has time to put together a truly exciting menu for you.
Price: 3 courses – 16,500 HUF, 7 courses – 28,500 HUF