Kata Zakar was at the front of several queues when they were handing out talent. She was the one who snatched up all the special powers for styling, gastronomy and interior design, jumped into a big car and disappeared around the bend near Kővágóörs. A few years later Kővirág opened its gates, transforming an old restaurant in the Káli Basin with all the talent, colours and flavours she picked up on the way.
Kővirág is for sale, do you know anyone who’s interested?
After sampling a handful of the dishes they offer, we can hardly believe that Kata and Gyuri, her husband had no intention to open a restaurant at all. They used to be regulars at the original Kővirág, which was closed eventually, so the couple went looking for another place to frequent for dinner. One day they even took an acquaintance of theirs to check the restaurant out when it was already for sale, but he was not up for buying it either. Then came the revelation: why shouldn't they be the ones to do it? By now they belong here, claiming that the restaurant is a good alibi for them to live in the area. If only everyone had such perfectly executed excuses, the world would be a much better place.
This is not our first time in Kővirág, but we have never ordered the same thing twice, which is partly to do with the fact that Kata redesigns the menu about every three days. The creative and no-frills cuisine ensures that the flavours of the countryside are presented on your plate in a way that you will only find at a few other places. It’s risky and there is definitely room for error, but it’s much more honest, says Kata.
Kata has not opened a cookbook for ages, and she does not read trendy blogs either: she relies on her own ideas and intuitions. It is almost unbelievable, but she just cannot miss. Her creativity in putting her dreams on the table is supported by Lívia Járosi of the Fekete Bárány biofarm in Balatonhenye, who supplies top quality ingredients. The two ladies turned out to be the perfect accomplices duo: if Kata wants chard, Lívia plants the seeds and it finds its way onto the plates in Kővirág in no time.
Apart from running a restaurant and a pension, Gyuri and his wife have three beautiful kids as well. It was probably through raising children that they found out that the squash stew needs to look as good as it tastes if it is to disappear fast from the plates. Do not be surprised if you find a pretty flower next to your food here.
Life with a capital L
All their dishes have the wow factor, so you should definitely put “eating my way through the entire Kővirág menu” on your bucket list. We dive in trying fried sage in beer batter, which is crisp, fresh and is the perfect start when served with balsamic vinegar.
Along with the smooth cream of sorrel soup, the game ragout soup deserves an honourable mention as well: one of our testers says it is simply impossible to get this lemony, aromatic flavour out of your head.
Tasting the duck confit with rice, dried fruit and spicy peanut sauce transports you from the Balaton to the shore of an Indonesian river. Noodles with squash, onion and sheep cheese was our vegetarian choice, and it was killer as well.
The inheritance of Eszter and Eszter
For dessert, we leave the enchanted garden and move inside where a mix of old knick-knacks from the Balaton Uplands and paper balls produced in Karcsi’s paper factory in Pest create a cosy atmosphere. The special sense of humour of the waiters is part of the Kővirág feeling, and it probably has something to do with the excellent fröccses, so you cannot really be mad if it takes a little while for the food to arrive. Enthusiastic staff is hard to find around here, yet Kata managed to recruit not one, but two beautiful girls called Eszter, who play an important part in ensuring that the cutlery is shiny, the guests have a smile on their faces and the waiters have something to drink at all times.
This is all that is needed to make Kővirág the magical place it is, but there comes a crucial moment when Kata has to slip into the kitchen to keep everyone’s spirits up and make sure that guests who eat, sleep and breathe top 100 lists and gourmet selections remain happy. The almond-sprinkled floating island and the yoghurt-drenched strawberries with mint served at the end of the meal rounds off our visit perfectly and makes us feel like life could not be any better.
On our way out through the magical garden of the restaurant we hear the gravel crunching under our feet. Gyuri invites us for a morning coffee to the Liliomkert Market in Káptalantóti. They come out here to show that Kővirág is open in the mornings as well. They set up shop in a central, yet peaceful and intimate spot of the market. We sit down at a small table decked with some tiny pink flowers to gobble up a large piece of tasty cake with whipped cream and wash it down with a nice, hot cup of coffee – a pretty pleasant start to the day.
A versatile woman
Just like the ever-changing menu, the secret of Kővirág is hard to describe, too. What makes it all work so seamlessly is the coolness and harmony that Kata and Gyuri’s family exudes. All they do is serve food that their kids have for dinner, and tend a garden where they themselves would want to spend time reading on a summer afternoon. Everything is nicely complemented by Kata’s knack for beauty. She is beautiful as well, but she does not like to be in photos. You should definitely come and visit, try all the delicious treats, and maybe, if you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of Kata at work: dreaming up new ideas in the kitchen in the peace and quiet of Köveskál, and wearing neon coloured Birkenstocks.