The Zen Garden Resort in Zánka is a unique lodging in a pretty park brimming with ancient trees, sports facilities, a beach and gastronomic events, where families and groups of friends can relax in special apartments for four to eight people. The restaurant within the complex, the Bamboo Bistro, also open to outside guests, has been added to the roster of the best places at Lake Balaton this year with premium dishes and eye-catching compositions. The kitchen is run by Norbert Krasznai, a chef from the world of fine dining in Budapest.
An ancient wooded area, minimalist wooden houses around the bathing lake, rock gardens and abundant greenery – these will be your initial impressions as you explore the Zen Garden Resort. “Zen” here is not just an empty word, as after ten minutes you feel as if you have arrived in another world, where you can dedicate yourself to relaxation, gastronomic delights, sports or therapeutic contemplation.
A resort where even the trees are cared for
The resort, consisting of tiny houses with a Zen atmosphere, was dreamed up by the founder of Netrisk.hu, Zsolt Haraszti. He fell in love with the six-hectare, ancient wooded area near the Zánka Children's Youth Centre, previously a corporate resort. He spent most of his time here, even in winter.
He wanted to create something with a fairytale-like park as its focus and, after much thought, he eventually developed this unique lodging with a large-scale restaurant in the grounds.
Construction began four years ago, two-storey cottages fashioned in the letter A facing one of the buildings at the former resort. With the help of a design office, across a total area of 55 square metres, two- and three-bedroom apartment houses were built, comfortably accommodating a family or group of eight people. Each house also has a shaded terrace of 24 square metres, distant enough from the neighbouring properties to ensure privacy. For all accommodation enquiries, contact +36 70 626 6336.
The bathing lake in the middle of the area is one of the most popular attractions by the restaurant. Here younger visitors, and those who prefer not to take a dip in Lake Balaton, already waist-deep at this point, can splash about safely. In one of the recesses, you can relax in a natural jacuzzi between the stones. The rock gardens and plants evoking Zen gardens sneak a little atmosphere from the Far East into the northern shore of Lake Balaton.
Beneath the spacious sun terrace is the sauna house, where infusions are held daily, and cocktails and refreshments are available from the lakeside bar.
From the beginning, Zsolt considered it important not to carry out his plans without harming nature. He has not cut down any trees in the area – so the apartments are not lined up in regimented order, a unit apart from each other. The shoreline reeds were not sacrificed for the panorama, either.
The resort area is car-free (with the exception of the restaurant’s suppliers), so children can safely roller-skate, skateboard or cycle on the asphalt roads around the huge park. Guests are kindly requested to leave their cars in the on-site car park, from where an electric minibus takes them to their lodgings, the restaurant or the beach.
Exciting bistro kitchen instead of fine dining
The resort’s restaurant, Bamboo Bistro, which previously operated somewhat under the radar, started this season with a new team and now welcomes not only hotel guests but also outside diners. More than 300 people can be comfortably seated in the heated interior and on the panoramic terrace stretching over 700 square metres.
The kitchen is equipped with the most modern equipment, so they can smoothly serve guests arriving for corporate and family events, weddings and musical dinners.
The chef, Norbert Krasznai, spent the first 20 years of his life in Siófok, so for him having the resort in Zánka means a return to Lake Balaton. In recent years, he has run the kitchens of top restaurants in Budapest, such as the Gerlóczy Café, the Monk’s Bistro and Société Bistro, and has also judged in the domestic finals of the Bocuse d’Or cooking competition.
He has since moved from the world of fine dining to a simple but premium bistro kitchen at Lake Balaton, where he works with seasonal and local ingredients. (Suppliers include the Vászolyi Cheese Manufactory and the OrganiKáli farm for micro-produced vegetables, the salmon trout bred at a farm in Tapolca.)
On the short menu you will find both Hungarian and international dishes, the chef only lists the ingredients of each one. Lunch under the foliage can be started with appetisers such as “duck liver, cherry jam, sunflower seeds, brioche” or cold fruit soup, accompanied in July by green apples, raspberries and Thai basil. Fried farmed chicken breast is accompanied by mashed potatoes and pak choi, salmon trout by green-pea soup, turmeric and spring onions.
To get back to the flavours a little: you can also order burgers and pizzas, and here you’ll find the most delicious sheeps’ cheese sztrapacska noodles on Lake Balaton, with smoked beef cheek and pickled red onions. The Bamboo Bistro team offers gluten-free, lactose-free and vegan dishes for guests with food allergies or special diets. One particular dish, which consists of ingredients such as “peppers, bulgur, roasted celery, tomatoes,” also wins over carnivores, a super alternative in this heat to heavier foods. For all dining enquiries, contact +36 70 679 2233.
Sailing and SUP tours as well
There are not too many such large-scale restaurants in the area and, along with the fabulous surroundings, the resort offers an unparalleled opportunity for weddings, family events and get-togethers among friends. The whole complex and lodgings can be booked for events for hundreds of people. The resort’s activities – the sports facilities, SUP and e-bike tours, barbecue dinners and music events – are also available for outdoor guests.
You can spend a whole day there, which can start with a breakfast and fine coffee on the terrace of the Bamboo Bistro, continue with some sports activity, SUP, kayaking or an e-bike tour in the area, and down time can be relaxation in the sauna house. For a day like this, the cherry on the cake can be going for a sailing trip on the resort’s boat.
The goal is to be open all year round: in autumn and winter, wine dinners, cultural events and dinners are also organised. The mission of Zen Garden Resort and Bamboo Bistro is to become an exciting meeting point at the gateway to Káli-medence, in the heart of the north shore, and to provide quality recreation and an unforgettable culinary experience.
Zen Garden Resort
8251 Zánka, Vérkúti út 152
Accommodation +36 70 626 6336
Dining +36 70 679 2233