Simple and honest countryside hospitality – this one sentence sums up best what the aim of Endre Szászi and his team was when launching the restaurant section to diversify the services offered at their wine cellar. The menu includes dishes like grilled mangalica ribs and grilled goat cheese with fresh, mixed salad.
“Only dinner is missing from this idyllic scene.” This thought occurred to us on several occasions last year as we were drinking wine and petting the wine cellar’s dog Mazsola on Endre Szászi’s estate on Szent György Hill. He must have thought the same because this season he’s expanded his winery with quite an excellent restaurant section.
Anyone who’s been to Endre Szászi’s estate on Szent György Hill will most likely agree with us that visitors come here mainly for the peace and quiet. Everything points to this direction: vine rows everywhere, Balaton peeking out from behind the nearby hills, the view of Szigliget Castle and the fact that the home of the winemaking family is right next door contribute to the intimate vibe.
Forget about typical, 20-page menus in leather casing, which have every possible variation and combination of fries and Wiener schnitzel. The selection is as concise as in any high-quality establishment: they offer two cold snack platters, a seasonal soup, four main dishes and one dessert option, keeping freshness and seasonality at the top of the priority list.
The three-course meal convinced us completely that the strict standards of Szászi restaurant produce natural flavour harmonies. We started with trout and aubergine cream on home-made bread, which had ground red grape seeds in it, giving it colour and piquantness – we thought it was an awesome twist.
Then came the main dish, grilled mangalica ribs with vegetables – we found out that the meat comes from a small-scale producer near Tóti Market. A portion of the vegetables is grown on the Szászi estate, while the rest is supplied by local farmers. The careful selection of ingredients definitely pays off: the meat was perfectly soft, and the vegetables complemented one another – the carrots were sweet and the aubergines were just bitter enough.
Whenever possible, they strive to use ingredients bought from producers in the area to make sure that guests encounter the real flavours of the Balaton Uplands on their plates, for example in such dishes as baked Tapolca trout with buttery potatoes. To reassure vegetarians, we’ve tried the grilled goat chees with fresh, mixed salad, and we especially appreciated that the latter was seasoned with an exquisite, home-made vinaigrette.
The highlight of our dinner was dessert: curd cheese dumplings with strawberry sauce, which lacked the usual thick layer of breadcrumbs, and instead had a refreshing taste thanks to the dominance of the curd cheese. The prices are not over the top at all; the appetizers and desserts cost around 1,000 HUF, whereas main dishes go for 1,400-3,000 HUF.
The portions are big enough to be pleasantly filling, but they aren't overwhelming, which came in quite handy when, after dessert, we were able to make room for the lovely wines of Endre Szászi.
In the summer season, the restaurant is open from Monday to Sunday, but gastro dinners are held outside the season too. The tasting hall, which has heating and can sit 40 people, also serves as a venue for events. The chef puts the menu together based on the season, the temperature, seasonal ingredients and the wines, so keeping his recommendations in mind is absolutely worth it.
For now, they are concentrating on the extended season: a seasonal regular menu and a weekly revamped blackboard menu await guests from May to mid-September. Patrons can enjoy life and food on Viridárium, the fabulous terrace of the Szászi estate from 1pm between Monday and Thursday, and from noon until late in the evening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“Terroir is all around you” – goes the slogan of the Szászi estate, and there’s definitely some truth to that claim because being here is like sitting on a terrace somewhere in Provence.