Mala Garden in Siófok was opened 7 years ago, in 2007. The design concocted from modern minimalism and Balinese influence is blended with a sense of cosiness, and the same, well-functioning mixture characterizes the dishes as well. There are Hungarian influences injected into the prevailing oriental style - and we even came across a Mexican cheese soup.
In theory, this international blend of oriental and Hungarian might seem scary at first, but Mala Garden managed to put together such a menu and an accompanying vibe that guarantee a harmonious satisfaction of the expectations and taste buds of both Hungarian and foreign guests.
Buddha statuettes, bamboo and rattan accessories, and the combination of warm crimson red and vivid turquoise add a Balinese tint to the tasteful minimalist design and landscaping solutions. Comfortable design armchairs and couches packed with colourful pillows welcome the guests, but the wooden tables and the upholstered seats of the dining space are also inviting - it is pretty difficult to decide where to plop down. The icing on the cake is that the glass walls grant you a view of the Balaton and the perfectly landscaped garden that radiates an oriental calm.
Mala Garden is open all-year-round, and its menu is always fitted to the actual season. Parallel to this, the wine selection comprised of Hungarian wines with a few and rare exceptions is also constantly renewed. The majority of the wines come from the Balaton region, from wineries like IKON, Konyári, Jásdi and Légli, but Mala also keeps bottles from other renown Hungarian wine regions on stock as well, in compliance with the requests of foreign guests.
The menu consists of about 50 different dishes, 1/3 of which comprises the permanent offer - marked by the 'Mala Classic' logo. These are dishes that have become guests' favourites throughout the years and as such - in the words of the manager - they are impossible to take off the menu.
The grilled aubergine paste with home-made bread, tomatoes and olives, for one, has been on the menu for 7 years. Three other spreads also fell victim to our examination: the creamed olives and tomato, the ricotta and rocket lettuce cream, and the cauliflower and pear sauce that was accompanied by thin slices of smoked breast of duck. We would gladly spreads these on the white and full-grain Mala breads anytime, thanks to their pleasantly intensive flavours.
In the next step, we had another one of the classics, the Mexican cheese soup with chicken, tomato salsa and tortillas, which course could in itself be considered a light dinner. You could also go for the Thai vegetable soup with coconut milk, or - if you're with children wary of unusual flavours or you're smitten with Hungarian cuisine - stick with the chicken broth.
After this minor detour, we turned back to oriental cuisine and went for the Thai plum covered duck breast BBQ with hazelnut and orange fried noodles. There is always a bit of luck involved with duck breast, but we were served a perfectly well done solution at Mala - it fell apart pleasantly in the mouth together with the noodles spruced up with orange hazelnut crumbles.
There are vegetarian and vegan options as well, although they are not signalled. They are happy to switch up some of the ingredients at your request - the soy and coconut milk or the rice noodles are basic ingredients at the restaurant anyway. If you have a demand that counts as more extraordinary, it's advisable to clarify it in advance, by phone, for example.
The recently expanded Mala Hotel will soon include a new food spot as well, which is expected to open in September: here, desserts will play a major role. In addition to classic pastries like the mille-feuille, the daily changing offer will also include diabetic, gluten-free and lactose-free products, and there are also promises of a few slices of paleo cakes. The place will use its own, home-made jam, which will be exclusive to their pastries.
The restaurant is constrained to procure a good part of the ingredients from Budapest, as local producers often fail to supply the necessary amount of goods at a constant quality. There are serious problems with the procurement of Balaton fish as well. The 10-day offer always includes seasonal dishes, for which they buy local ingredients, like the porcini or the rediscovered spring favourite, the ramson.
The all-year-round restaurant seats 90-100 guests at the same time, and is often brimming in the summer and on weekend. Several guests drive down from Budapest for a good lunch or dinner and the accompanying view of the Lake, as Siófok is only an hour by the highway.
Mala Garden doesn't pretend to be a gourmet or fine dining restaurant, its aim is on the popular trends. They strive to sustain quality all around the year, and try to avoid the drawbacks of seasonality by operating with the same personnel throughout the entire year.