Some swear by a big chunk of crispy pork knuckle, others prefer a spoonful of kohlrabi foam. But what makes everyone happy is that there are restaurants which don’t close up shop come 21 August. The point of the autumn event series Nyitott Balaton, starting at the end of October, is promoting the idea that there are things to do around the lake even after summer has gone. We picked out nine restaurants participating in the Nyitott Balaton initiative that are open all year round. Which one is your favourite?
Resembling a giant beehive oven, the building of the Piroska Csárda in Siófok may not stand out at first glance from the surreal amusement park-circus-zoo landscape to be found at the Széplak-felső train station during the summer season. But the ovens here don’t get switched off even after the exotic animals grazing by the vibrating dodgems are gone at the end of the summer. The Piroska Csárda, which has been in business since 1963, has a new façade “thanks” to an unfortunate fire in which it burnt to the ground. The menu is in line with the classic csárda direction, but award-winning master chef László Nótár finds keeping up with the trends as important as serving traditional dishes.
It is quite a challenge to say anything that hasn’t already been said about Kistücsök in Balatonszemes, so we won’t even try. What we like most about the non plus ultra restaurant of the Balaton is that it manages to tread the fine line between the elevated fine dining vibe and the tavern atmosphere when it comes to food and drink, prices and interior design. We wholeheartedly suggest that you pay special attention to the regularly updated “the house’s recommendation” and the regional flavours sections on the menu. This place alone makes it worthwhile to revisit Balatonszemes from time to time.
Balaton pizzerias and trattorias are a dime a dozen these days, unlike the representatives of Asian cuisine. The chefs of the Siófok-based Mala Garden fry Thai noodles all year. The Eastern-inspired hotel-restaurant, which is decked out with Buddha statues, is in fact much more about global flavours than Asian ones, as it offers Mexican cheese soup and Hungarian dishes, among others. Despite what some may expect, the menu, which shows the influence of versatile cooking trends, and the Eastern-Buddha design do not end up reflecting the kind of bad taste reminiscent of a shabby incense shop, but create a neatly understated vibe. The location is a bonus: Mala Garden has been built right on the water’s edge, so you can enjoy the ever-enchanting Balaton panorama from the terrace in summer, and from behind the huge windows in the wintertime.
After being much anticipated by many, Bock Bistro, the most popular project of star chef Lajos Bíró finally arrived at the Balaton in February 2014. The “restaurant chain” had already achieved impressive success by the time it added its newest member, Helikon Taverna in Vonyarcvashegy, now called Bock Bistro Balaton. At the former Festetics Cellar on the hill above Vonyarc, the gastronomic experiences offered by Bock are enhanced by the panorama terrace, the four star Zenit Hotel and an exciting wine museum. The menu includes Bock specialities as well as dishes typical of the region’s cuisine.
It is not raining – it’s only the emblematic mill wheel of the Vígmolnár Csárda making this splashing sound. The former mill building standing on the edge of Csopak became the venue hosting the several-decades-old csárda a few years ago. The old and the new come together here in a traditional csárda atmosphere. The tile stove and the long csárda menu are complemented by an almost Scandinavian simplicity. Apart from being open all year round, the low-key vibe and the wine selection featuring the vintages of better and lesser known local cellars also speak for the Vígmolnár.
Tucked away at “the other end” of Almádi, the Kerekes Winery has been marketing itself as a fröccs terrace, but it would be a mistake to think that is its main profile. However, it cannot be denied that it’s a prime spot for that purpose, too, with a refined wine list and a terrace overlooking a narrow, forested hillside. But that is easy to find elsewhere around the Balaton as well. What is harder to come across is a place that serves wasabi and salmon caviar on toast with the wines, and has a super varied food selection including Asian dishes, pizza baked in accordance with the strictest Italian methods, and American charcoal-grilled steaks. Versatility and experimentation are key, as are ad hoc events focusing on particular dishes, sometimes with music accompaniment.
Vitorlás in Füred could definitely compete for the title of oldest and most venerable restaurant around Lake Balaton, as it is housed in the building of the first Balaton sailing club in the centre of the Füred corso, where Tagore sétány and Zákonyi sétány meet. It comes as no surprise either that the walls are decorated with ship parts and design plans instead of cartwheels and geranium. Traditional Hungarian dishes and Italian favourites, such as pizza, sit harmoniously side by side on the menu. On warmer days at the end of winter, sit out on the terrace and drink a cup of coffee in the company of the István Bujtor statue and fellow early sunbathers.
Even though the southwestern corner of the Balaton is rarely talked about, it is definitely worth a visit, even in winter. The restaurant of the Hubertus Hof Hotel in Balatonfenyves guarantees that you won’t go hungry around here in the colder months either. As suggested by its name, the Hubertus is not a classic lakeside restaurant, it is more a reflection of the Somogy hills behind the southern shore. The restaurant of the three star hotel specializes in games dishes – another unique feature on the Balaton catering scene. That is exactly why a visit to this place is highly recommended, even in mid-January. Work doesn’t stop here, not even for a day in the wintertime.
You simply can’t not mention the Kukorica Inn when it comes to the Balaton and csárdas. A steady spot in Balatonföldvár gastronomy, always open by Highway 7. A representative of the classic csárda school, with a decorative cart, big portions, Hungarian cuisine, Gypsy music, wine tasting and various other programs. The spacious interior can fit large groups, so you can munch on grilled meat stored stuck on swords or roasted pork legs in populous company here.