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According to local legend, the location of Fészek used to be occupied by an icehouse. Ancient photos unearthed from family archives prove that the building was already used as a tavern at the turn of the century, and the immediate predecessor of the current eatery also functioned as a catering establishment. The premises changed hands and were renovated not too long ago, so we dropped by soon after the opening.
The previous owners had run the business for years before the husband passed away, and the wife decided to sell the building because she felt it was too much work. Éva Keresztury, the buyer and one of the founders of Hilltop Winery, had no intention to change the original theme, and came up with the idea of a new restaurant. The name is no coincidence, says chef Károly Szelindi: it’s meant to evoke the spirit and atmosphere of Fészek in Budapest.
Before being recruited by Fészek, Szelindi had quite an interesting career: until 2006 he worked in Italy, in a small family restaurant in Lombardy where he was responsible for creating the typical dishes of Bergamo. After a decade long stint in commerce, he picked up the wooden spoon again and returned to the kitchen upon the invitation of his old acquaintance Éva Keresztury.
“Our main aim is not necessarily to make profit, but also to create something valuable,” he explained the ars poetica of Fészek. Reasonable prices, good quality food, and friendly service are the cornerstones of the eatery, and that’s not a meaningless marketing slogan; just take a look at the prices on the menu. They mainly use Hungarian products, but Szelindi admits that they don’t turn up their noses at good zucchini from Italy. The interior of the restaurant is finished, but the garden needs a bit more work; nevertheless, patrons are welcome to stop by.
The fixed menu is already available, and a seasonal selection as well as a daily lunch option for 1,500 forints (comprising soup, a vegetarian or meaty main dish, and dessert) will soon be introduced, too. They have particularly high expectations of Zánka “two hands”, a kebab-like dish costing 1,000 forints, which features slow-cooked pork packed into a mini loaf together with salsa, a citrusy sauce, and vegetables. It’s already highly popular, so they might take it on a tour around the region if the positive trend continues.
Their pâté – also for 1,000 forints – was another treat we tried, and we can attest to the fact that it couldn’t be more different from the liver spread with a plasticky flavor you can pick up at most grocery stores. This one is a special, soft, and flavorful version made in line with a French recipe, and it has a layer of herb butter infused with orange and thymes. The homemade fruity krémes cake at the end of our meal was light and tasty; the flavor combination was dominated by peach. Every dessert on the menu costs 800 forints, which also proves that their overall pricing is absolutely friendly (their most expensive dish, the tenderloin steak costs 4,200 forints).
Szelindi considers Kistücsök Restaurant in Balatonszemes an example to follow in all respects, including the menu. He approves of Balázs Csapody’s decision not to over-emphasize the fine dining direction, and he’s also intrigued by experimental cuisine, saying that he’s “interested in all kinds of food preparation techniques”.