North Balaton wines are famous all over the country, serving as the perfect foundation for first-rate local gastronomy. We toured the legendary main road 71 from Keszthely to Akarattya, and saw that catering establishments along the north shore are still riding the new wave that emerged last year. In the next part of our “Enyém a Balaton!” campaign, we feature six restaurants, bistros, and gastropubs you really should check out in the area.
Balaton gastronomy has undoubtedly developed high standards over the past few years, and catering businesses riding the region’s recent new wave are clearly able to meet them. 2016 has already seen the launch of several successful eateries, and we tested six of them, rating them on a scale of one to five based on two important criteria: gastro, which means the flavors as well as the presentation, and atmosphere, which entails the friendliness of the service, the location, and the interior design.
Two minutes on foot from Zánka Beach, Fészek is housed in a several hundred-year-old building that had been a restaurant even before the new eatery moved in, so the standards were already pretty high. We dropped in both before and after the renovation, and we were greeted by friendly staff both times. Fine-tuning the facility will take a couple more years, which doesn’t change the fact that this is a pleasant spot (the only nuisance is the proximity of the railway). The price-value ratio of the cuisine is hard to beat, and so is the restaurant’s signature sandwich called Zánka “two hands”: slow cooked pork, two kinds of sauce and veggies in a small loaf for 1,000 forints. We loved it, and it could easily become one of the most popular fast foods of Balaton this summer. The menu is quite strong overall, dominated by Hungarian-style dishes; the hint of Italian inspiration is due to the fact that the chef used to cook Bergamasque food in Italy.
Maurus Restaurant and Wine Bar
Situated on Füred’s Aranyhíd Promenade, Maurus is a bit of an odd one out. It opened in the middle of last season, but things were not in full swing yet back then. The restaurant will soon switch to “large-scale production”, so we visited them to try their burger and beef soup (which was far more complex than the simple name suggests). Like most other catering establishments around Balaton, Maurus doesn’t want to adhere to the rules of fine dining. The burger is their most highly requested dish, which is absolutely in line with the increasing prominence of bistro cuisine. The waiting staff is really nice, and the interior reflects the above-mentioned bistro vibe as well, so it’s clear they’re not taking any risks, which is a smart strategy. The restaurant could play an important role in enlivening the new district of Füred, but the major construction works happening next door take away from the attractiveness of the venue.
Neked Főztem Gastropub
Neked Főztem on Zánka Beach became a huge hit last season, so the owners are raising the stakes this year: they opened a buffet on the beach of Alsóörs, but the real star of the story is their new gastropub by the Reformed church of Zánka. Their legendary hamburger will only be served at the two beach locations, while the pub will operate with a “blackboard” menu featuring bistro-style options like chicken with wild mushroom risotto, beef cheeks cooked in dark beer with rosemary potato dumplings. The drinks menu is like at any classic Balaton pub: it has a fine selection of local wineries and breweries. They opened not too long ago, but we couldn’t find any serious shortcomings during our visit. The terrace is fantastic (there’s even a revamped boat for you to sit in), especially since it’s set against the backdrop of the hills of the Balaton Uplands. The rating of the atmosphere will go up to five once the chairs crafted by a carpenter from Köveskál arrive.
Paletta - Keszthely
The name of Dániel Bezerics makes the blood of catering business owners around Balaton run cold: he's always the first to come up with a cool new twist, and they need to be content with following in his footsteps. This time he copied the concept of Balatonboglár’s Paletta, and inserted it into the marina of Keszthely, and the second attempt proved to be a big success as well. Their hamburger is very reliable, they have a daily lunch menu, and the kitchen is operated based on the “slowly, but thoroughly” principle. Similarly to the other location, the interior here is inspired by the milieu of the marina. One drawback is that the bathrooms are in the building next door, which can be a problem when it’s raining outside.
We have been wary of anything called Szépkilátás (Hungarian for "nice view") ever since one of our colleagues got chased by a Rottweiler in a street with the same name. Luckily we found no dogs at the bistro by road 71, only good food served on a friendly, yet slightly empty terrace. The grill terrace looks very promising, and it’s especially ideal for football fans looking for a place to watch the games of the European Championship. There are a couple of trees blocking the nice view you’d expect to spot immediately based on the name, but it’s difficult to be mad at trees. Szépkilátás is true to the bistro genre, serving culinary creations like superb burgers, chicken breast filled with cheese and basil, and ćevapčići to our delight and our wallet’s.
Zománc Bisztrócska Restaurant
Zománc is unlike most Balaton restaurants: it’s not located by the lake, nor is it the kind of elegant place where you need to worry about sticking your pinky out while drinking. György Jónás and his team said no to chemicals-based cuisine, dusted off grandma’s cookbook, and started making divine dishes, served in charming, traditional enamel dishes. Apparently, even the most refined-looking guests munch happily on hearty portions of tasty lung stew here. The setting is really special: Zománc is a stone’s throw away from Balaton, deep in the countryside, and the walls inside are adorned with historic photos of old ladies eyeing up wine bottles and locals at a village pig slaughter.
After testing so many tasty dishes, we simply couldn't deny Herbie a delicious meal:
This article is part of “Enyém a Balaton!”, the joint campaign of MasterCard® and We Love Balaton.