A nice little surprise tucked away at the end of Icce Street has recently popped up in Lovas. A beautiful family home loud with a child's laughter, which has something perhaps only those are aware of who come here for this particular reason. Manduláskert is a pop-up restaurant trying to push the boundaries of the genre by exuding an easy-going and familiar vibe you won’t experience elsewhere. Actually, it is more of a terrace restaurant, probably most suited for a lovely lunch.
The gate opens and as we are getting out of the car we can smell the fragrance of the Balaton greenery way before we catch a whiff of the delicious cake baking in the oven. It is the kind with grape vines, lavender, almond trees and tomato plants that you simply won’t find on the shore. Thankfully, we decided to grab a bite a little further up the hill. Apart from the cook of the house, we are greeted by a baby and her busy dad. By the end of the fourth course, we will be super envious of them, but right now we are still taking in the atmosphere and getting to know the family and their many dreams, the herb garden, the homemade cordial and “the first wine we share”.
Over the years cooking and baking have brought a great deal of joy to Zsófi Rákóczi, and these pursuits have also played a part in her marriage proposal. The idea of the pop-up restaurant was still non-existent when some well-executed homemade candy resulted in a life-altering question and a commitment later sealed with a ring. Zsófi and her husband have steered their life together in a direction which allows her to dedicate more and more of her energy and creative thoughts to this kitchen-related hobby. After falling in love with the house in the Balaton Uplands village of Lovas, they moved here from Budapest and things started picking up. Today, anyone can make an appointment for lunch at their home.
The terrace can comfortably accommodate a group of six, the only restriction being that everyone has to agree on what Zsófi should put on the table. Vegetarianism is no obstacle at all, as Zsófi is happiest when she can rack her brain on what meatless dishes to make. Another thing here that you won’t typically find around Lake Balaton is a vegan-friendly attitude: guests following a vegan diet won’t feel like a picnic would have been a better idea. It all depends on planning in advance, and the price of meals changes based on what kind of menu Zsófi prepares.
For starters, we were treated to homemade grissini with three kinds of sauce (avocado, cheese and herb butter), followed by chilled melon and peach soup with roasted almond and blueberry topping. Then came the main pasta dish with garlic, pine nuts and sage from the garden, after which we were seriously starting to doubt whether our stomachs would be able to accommodate some dessert.
And with good reason: portions here bear little resemblance to those in fine dining establishments. The flavours were simple but unique and easy to recall even days after our visit, and every dish had a distinct character. The same is true for the dessert, which in our case was lavender Gugelhupf with a sweet crunch made with seasonal fruit, served with the wine of the house.
“We are farming newbies, but we are trying to grow as many of our ingredients ourselves as possible,” says Zsófi as she breaks into a smile. However, it is a non-negotiable that everything else comes from organic farmers, so Zsófi and her husband are constantly searching for the most reliable suppliers in the area. Judging by the one-of-a-kind catering, the Balaton surroundings and the flavours, we can tell that it is hardly a chore for them.