We were heard exclaiming 'What a view!' at least as many times as often we ate something fine - on top of it, this combination frequently struck (and struck hard) in the very same spot. This adage inspired us to compile our subjective We Love list of the favourite places we visited this year, where it was not only our repletion that kept us lounging (and shooting pics) for another half hour.
The Helikon Taverna restaurant in the hillside of Vonyarcvashegy has always been popular for the wonderful view of the Lake from the terrace. Since last February, there has been one more reason going for the place: it is the first spot at the Balaton to have joined restaurant chain of vintner József Bock and chef Lajos Bíró, the Bock Bistro. The Bock Bistro Balaton also delivers the chain's trademark Hungarian flavours, but the poultry and the heavier pork dishes on the menu are accompanied by the significant presence of Balaton fish.
The narrow terrace of the neoclassical building is the perfect spot for romance on summer evenings, with the panorama of the Balaton spread around the Keszthely Basin to the side. Time your dinner to the late afternoon and enjoy the rays of the setting sun over the scenery.
Sitting on the hillside in Badacsonytomaj, the Szeremley Winehouse has a splendid view of the southern Balaton shore, which you can enjoy sitting at the tables under the vine-arbour. The wine house, which also functions as a restaurant, is within walking distance from the railway station and the marina. The restaurant offers specialities prepared using grey cattle, mangalitza and buffalo meat from the organic farm of the Szeremley Estate, coupled with wines also from the estate, naturally. All the ingredients are home produced or procured from local small producers. Munch on some home-made jam with home-made cheeses, or try the delicious treats made from the edible flowers of the plants near the restaurant. Top-quality food comes in sizeable portions here, so you’ll definitely appreciate the walk down the hill or toward the nearby winery after lunch or dinner.
Although noone can deny that the north shore is best viewed from the south shore, the view from the Laci Pince Csárda on the Öreghegy between Vászoly and Balatonudvardi is a strong exception for any fan of the north or the south shore. Should you opt for the terrace as the scene of your lunch or dinner, you'll have the green slopes and forests of the surroundings hills and Lake Balaton at your feet. Choose from a variety of delicious meat courses with side dish or as part of various platters. As this is a popular spot, booking a table in advance is highly recommended in the summer months, so you wouldn't miss out on the view.
A mere few minutes from the Konyári Cellar and a picturesque little church on Balatonlelle's Kishegy you'll bump into the Majthényi Press House, run by the Konyári family. Thanks to its exceptional location, the press house comes with a wondrous panorama - this sight (along with that of the roast meat platter) has turned the head of not one hardcore north shore fan. You can enjoy a mixture of south shore vineyards and north shore hills, which - on the front of gastronomy - is accompanied by traditional Hungarian csárda dishes - that traditionally come in huge portions. If you prefer, you can spoon up your dessert (we'd recommend the strawberry curd cheese ball.) on one of the benches beside the entrance, and leave for a small stroll in the neighbourhood, like many regulars do.
Sitting under one of the trellises on the terrace of the Hegyi Csárda on the Kishegy of Balatonlelle, the last thing that'll come to your mind is that only a few kilometres away you wouldn't see a thing from the smog over highway M7. It's because you'll be distracted by the silhouette of the vines of the south shore and the outlines of the volcanic Badacsony Hill on the other side of the Lake, which are as difficult to ignore as the traffic jam on the highway. But, beleive us, you'll be able to forget that even, lost in the ecstasy of your taste buds: this goes well beyond anything you might associate with a csárda. All courses are prepared from fresh ingredients and cooked in the outdoor stove. The fresh fruits and the home-grown fig on the plate earned another plus from us, just like the abundance of home-made squashes on the drink menu. It is a great choice at lunchtime, and a (literally) golden decision at sunset!
Fine coffee, home-made syrups and cakes, South Balaton wines and pálinkas, and an award-winning panorama are what the freshly opened Völgyhíd Kávézó offers. The daily changing view of the largest bridge of Hungary is worth a few minutes of detour from M7 already, but the café at the foot of the viaduct is also a good reason to take a break. The Völgyhíd Kávézó is located 50 metres away from the at the end of M7's Exit 121 towards Bálványos and Balatonföldvár. Stepping out to its terrace, the view of the entire bridge unfolds in front of your eyes, which is a marvellous and unique sight. Then there is the colourful mass of horses and sheep grazing in the green valley (that leads to the Kereki Castle), which, combined with the industrial look of the monumental Viaduct, makes for an exciting, still quite peaceful scene. Recommended for any day in any season, as the pleasure is guaranteed irrespective of whether it's the rays of the setting sun that paint the 1872-metre-long construction gold or the mist that hides 80-metre-high pillars.
The pop-up or terrace restaurant in the township of Lovas is out-of-ordinary for several reasons. The terrace of Mandulás Kert that seats 6 in an intimate atmosphere spoils you with a panorama of the eastern basin of Lake Balaton and the Tihanyi Abbey, best enjoyed at lunchtime - although the sight of the velvet sun setting behind the Tihany Peninsula is also an evergreen that is always a treat. All this is accompanied by a blend of fragrances unique to the inshore areas of the north shore, exuded by the almond trees, lavender bushes, tomato plants and the Mediterranean spice garden. The menu is always compiled as previously agreed, based on home-grown or locally produced ingredients. Repletion is guaranteed also for vegetarians and vegans, as the Mandulás Kert is happy to comply with "extra" requests, which the host family considers to be a gastronomical adventure.
A 360°panorama of the Kerekedi-öböl awaits you on the terrace of the Szent Donát Winery on the Szitahegy of Csopak - and this attracts many-a gastro fan even from Budapest. The excellent view and the wines of the house are accompanied by a short, but highly positioned menu. This year in July, for example, you could enjoy the menu of a London-based celebrity chef, Ben Spalding, who has had worked at several Michelin-star restaurants. Then you could explore venue that exudes the atmosphere of a knight's hall, all the more so as it has a secret door and Gothic vaults - that is, if you could separate yourself from the view of Lake Balaton, the tiny houses and the vineyards.