Few restaurants can boast being almost exclusively visited by regular guests, and even fewer can count among their regulars the former president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) and the Hungarian president. We checked out Attila Bakos’ Family Restaurant in Szigliget.
“If I wasn’t running a restaurant, I think I’d be working in a second-hand bookshop among old pictures and books,” says Attila Bakos, the engine and factotum of the small family joint. During our conversation he excuses himself from time to time to greet newly arriving guests. A personal vibe is important, every guest should feel that they matter here, he explains. Talk about personal: Attila knows where each of his regulars likes to sit, what their favourite dish is and what kind of flowers they prefer on their table. It is hardly surprising that 80% of his clientele is made up of regular guests.
Countless actors and state dignitaries have visited over the 22 years the restaurant has been in business, among them Premier Viktor Orbán with his family, former president Ferenc Mádl, actresses Vera Pap and Juli Básti, actor Sándor Lukács and poet Sándor Kányádi. In recent years the cosy restaurant has received increasing media attention.
The eatery has been featured on television programmes such as Gasztroangyal and Balatoni nyár. Film director Gábor Koltay, one-time MTA president Szilveszter Vizi E. and actress Ági Szirtes also come here frequently. Attila Bakos has been diligently documenting the famous visits: the walls are full of photos and the paintings of artists in the area.
When he’s not out running errands or welcoming guests, Attila Bakos likes to sit in the small inner room he calls the sanctuary where he is surrounded on both sides by bookshelves housing the classics of Hungarian and world literature.
Of course, starting out 22 years ago was not easy. In the very beginning Attila had to go out on the street to invite people in. “One time I was so desperate I decided to resort to a trick. A German family crashed their car in the village, so I told them to leave the car in my car park. I parked my car next to theirs to make it seem like there were guests in the restaurant. People seemed to be more willing to come in after that,” he says laughingly.
His trick paid off, as these guests became some of his firsts regulars. Later the news of Attila Bakos’ hospitality spread through word of mouth, and the simple dishes served in the beginning were replaced by more versatile flavours. The menu is revamped twice a year, and the seasonal offer changes every week.
The homey restaurant, which is open all year round, can seat a maximum of 60. If you are planning on popping in during the summertime high season in the evening, be sure to make a reservation in advance.