Ultimate Europe Trip 2016 Day 18: Hungary for More Wine

After last night's dinner cruise rolled into the early hours of this morning we finally fell asleep a little before 1AM. We woke up at our normal 7AM looked at each other and were out until 9:30AM. It wasn't until a little before 10AM that I finally got out of bed to get us Starbucks that our morning finally started to get rolling. 

We finally left the Ibrerostar Grand Hotel Budapest a little after noon. It wasn't as early as we were hoping yesterday but it ended up working out. We walked from our hotel to a restaurant called Divin Porcello. It's an extremely highly rated Hungarian eatery that we were excited to try. Their website says they're open everyday from 12PM on. We arrived a little after 12:30 and their doors were locked and their lights off. We had to divert our plans. We quickly went on the internet and found another restaurant called Károlyi Étterem és Kávéház.

We had an insanely hard time finding this place even though it ranked as one of the top thirty restaurants in the city. It was secluded behind a museum in a courtyard. When we did arrive a little after 1PM on this sunny Budapest Sunday afternoon we were the only ones there. In fact the only waiter at the restaurant had his entire family in the inside portion of the restaurant playing on the piano and running around. That gave us some concern but we were starving so we proceeded along with it. 

The good news is, Károlyi Étterem és Kávéház was amazing. We starting off with a chef's surprise which was a cheese and salmon mixture with bacon atop a piece of fresh bread. It was incredible. After we tasted that we knew we were in good hands. For our entree Jenn had a roasted garlic chicken with mushrooms with a side of tagialette. The chicken was incredibly moist and the pasta was divine. I went with a Veal Goulash in a potato pancake. Sounds weird right? Had Jenn not been oscillating between the two dishes I would have missed a truly remarkable dish. It was a mix between an enchilada and a crepe and it was out of this world. It was such a nice lunch in a beautiful quiet courtyard away from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

From lunch we went back to actually visit the Dohány Street Synagogue. When we arrived after the fifteen minute walk we bought tickets to view the synagogue and the museum. Jenn had shorts on with a long top and we lucked out that her shirt also acted as a dress otherwise we wouldn't have been let in (no shorts for women allowed). I was given a paper kippah to wear as well. We sat watching a band practice for a service and took in the beauty of the massive Synagogue. Afterwards we made our way to the very small museum and out to the courtyard. It was nice to see some of my heritage in the flesh and was a nice stop on our visit.

Afterwards we were both feeling run down and hopped on the Metro to our hotel to take a break. The Budapest metro is the second oldest metro in the world (behind London) but it shows its age much more. Luckily it still works and ten minutes later Jenn was taking a nap in our hotel room.

A little after 4PM we were back out on the streets of Budapest to go to what might have been the greatest couple of hours of our trip so far. On the TukTuk yesterday our tour guide mentioned that there was a wine festival taking place at the Buda Castle. When we walked by it last night we knew we had to come back and so we decided that late afternoon would be the best time to avoid the nearly ninety degree heat. After crossing the chain bridge we took the Castle Hill funicular up the side of the mountain to the Buda Castle.

When we arrived at the wine festival the line to get in was empty and we walked up and got our wristbands and neck holder and a wine glass. We then went to a pay station to get a card to put money on for our wine tastings. We then made our way in and for two hours we enjoyed great Hungarian wines and amazing views of the castle and the surrounding city. All told I think we each had five glasses of wine and split a plate of butcher meats. We even finished off our time at the wine festival with two macaroons and a cappuccino macchiato from Nespresso. 

I cannot accurately describe how incredible the experience was. We would have never known about the festival had we not made the last minute decision to do the TukTuk tour. And had we missed what was the best wine festival we've ever been to, that would have been a real shame. There had to have been nearly fifty  wine stands, a stage for traditional Hungarian music and dancing, as well as plenty of food, wine, and water. It was a truly amazing experience and one that I only wish I could come back to experience again.

From the wine festival with a little extra pep in our step we took the funicular down the hill, walked across the chain bridge back to the Pest side of Budapest and went in search of dinner. We had reservations for a place called Monk's Bistrot. It too was one of the highest rated restaurants in the city and we couldn't agree more. Jenn and I started off splitting the chef's recommendation a Mint Martini. We usually don't go the martini route, but it was incredibly refreshing after a ton of wine. Here too we had a Chef's tasting that was brought out which was a goat cheese moose with bacon and breadcrumbs. Both Jenn and I were scrapping the sides of the small dish to eat it all up. 

For Jenn's entree she had the braised lamb shoulder with green pees and milk foam on top. I went with the rabbit liver and rack with vegetables and a nice au jus sauce. Both meals were spectacular. We've become incredibly impressed with Hungarian cuisine. Jenn's lamb was falling apart and had incredible flavor. My rabbit was out of this world, not gamey at all, with a great sauce and cooked to perfection. Even the rabbit liver which I've never had before although a little tough had incredible flavor.

We ended the meal with an out of this world chocolate moose with raspberries and hazelnut that was really remarkable. It's not a dessert that either of us would have ordered a couple of years ago but now we both loved it. 

We walked back to our hotel after dinner and took in the last fleeting moments of our time here in Budapest. I'm sad to say we just didn't have enough time here. It's a city that both surprised and delighted us. It's been a truly remarkable time and I sure hope we can come back to Budapest soon, preferably if there's another wine festival going on.