Grand Breakfast Budapest Style

A grand breakfast Budapest style was on the menu in the opulent New York Cafe, celebrating 120 years as “the most beautiful coffee house in the world.”

Strolling along the Grand Boulevard (Erzsébet körút) in Budapest one morning, we thought we’d opt for a “grand breakfast Budapest style” in a historic coffee house. An understated reference to a stop and gawk on the circular bus route map convinced us we should at least check out the incongruously named New York Cafe. Little did we realize.

Entering the cafe’s vestibule is to be transported back to 1894. Budapest was celebrating La Belle Epoque in arts and letters. The Hungarian economy had been bolstered by three decades of dualistic Hapsburg monarchy.

In this location, the New York Life Insurance Company completed construction of a wedding cake palace as its Hungarian headquarters, and the building’s cafe was an immediate sensation. Legend has it that writer Ferenc Molnar (“Carousel“), so delighted with the first day’s heady experience, threw the cafe’s keys into the Danube so that it would always remain open.

new york palace budapest

Photo: newyorkcafe.hu

breakfast budapest

Photo Credit: newyorkcafe.hu

Boscolo Hotel Group, who purchased and renovated the entire building in 2006, describes New York Cafe as the hotel’s “beating heart.” The ceiling frescoes were painted by Gusztav Mannheimer and Ferenc (Franz) Eisenhut. The cafe is illuminated by Venetian chandeliers which enhance the sparkle and polish.

Local and international intellectual celebrities flocked to the New York Cafe in its heydey. Editors of Nyugat, a prominent cosmopolitan literary journal, had offices here in the building. Alexander Korda and Bela Lugosi were regulars. Nowadays, whether you’re a local celebrity or an ordinary traveler, you are served with an impeccable flourish befitting your glamorous surroundings.

breakfast budapest

Photo: newyorkcafe.hu

 

breakfast budapest

Our Hungarian Breakfast

 

breakfast budapest

Elegant bites with coffee

Our “grand breakfast Budapest style” felt so opulent in these surroundings. To be honest, we didn’t really concentrate on the food as much as we did the ornamental details. From table to ceiling, each element of our experience was designed to complement this beautiful space. Smiling faces, a bit scarce on every day Budapest residents going about their daily business, on guests and staff alike attested: you can’t not like the New York Cafe.

breakfast budapest

A grand piano player, of course

Coming from Vienna, we’d seen pomp and grandeur, but it had felt lofty and out of reach. In the New York Cafe, we felt welcomed and encouraged to enjoy the lavish atmosphere as a thing of beauty, rather than importance. Truly the best breakfast Budapest may offer.

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breakfast budapest

Photo: newyorkcafe.hu

breakfast budapest

Photo: newyorkcafe.hu

Tips: The cafe is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year, culminating in an International Gastronomy Conference with confections contest, and a Grand Ball in October. Located at Erzsébet körút 9-11, the Boscolo Budapest building is one block up from the M2 Blaha Lujza stop on Rakoczi utca. Its location is also quite walkable from the Keleti train station. If you’re staying on the Pest side in one of the major hotels, the Grand Boulevard is a wonderful stroll (open map). While the New York Cafe is rated by some as expensive, we felt our breakfast was fairly priced, coming in at less than $40 at the time of this writing, including champagne.

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Comments

  1. says

    We’ll be in Budapest in September. I suspect we’ll be too cheap (um, frugal) to forego the breakfast included in the cost of our hotel, but perhaps we can stop by for an afternoon tea. If I consider that the cost of the food kind of includes a museum admission, it will be more palatable.

    Did I detect an opinion that Budapest residents are perhaps not the friendliest in the world 😉
    Suzanne Fluhr has an awesome blog post here: What is Zentangle® and is it Habit Forming?My Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Suzanne – Definitely go for tea or a sweet! You will be interested to look at the adjoining hotel atrium, too. It truly is a stunning renovation. To think that this place was used as storage during the Depression, war and Soviet years!

      Budapest residents seemed not as “smiley” as those in Vienna or Prague. Pete remarked as much on our first day. By the end of our second day, we’d figured it out. There was not a lot to smile about here for a long time, and life is still tough for many. That being said, I love the “rough around the edges” energy in Budapest, and we tended to meet Hungarians who went out of their way to make even the smallest experience memorable for us. It is my favorite city in Europe so far.

  2. says

    We stopped in the New York Cafe just to take a quick picture. Couldn’t afford to eat there. We also found that a lot of the older people in Budapest weren’t the happiest but having seen so much suffering through the ages, it’s understandable. The younger people were more cheerful. Thanks for sharing Betsy!
    A Cook Not Mad (Nat) has an awesome blog post here: Honest Food Tales – Serena PuosiMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Aloha Nat – I think you could be right about the generational disparity. It will be interesting to see what happens in the city in the next ten years.

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Aloha santafetraveler – yes, it was $40 for two. Coming from Hawaii prices, we thought that was okay.

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Aloha Michele – indeed. I’d go even just for coffee or ice cream. There was a young mother and her daughter who’d been shopping at a table next to us who were doing just that.

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Aloha Veronica, Don’t feel bad. If I hadn’t seen the unassuming little blurb on the map, we’d have totally overlooked this, too.

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Aloha Patti – Hopefully, it’ll be more than once in a lifetime! This was our first trip to Central Europe and it won’t be our last. :)

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Aloha Carole – Yes, the Buscolo Group did not purchase the building and the cafe until 2006. It opened in 1954 as “Hungaria,” but was allowed to deteriorate under Soviet rule. Many coffee houses were totally closed by the regime, as they were thought to encourage underground activities. At one point, the space was used for storage. Miraculous restoration – I hope you get to return. :)

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Aloha Suzanne – Me, too! The little individual pots of coffee were fabulous, and the spoons and other details were just beautiful. Of course, I had to get them refilled. :)

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Aloha Anita – Yes, you’re absolutely right! The mark of a good one is when you’re still thinking about it six months later, as I am. :)

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Donna – You will not regret it! It really is unforgettable. If you do get to Budapest, make sure I tell you about our favorite Hungarian Jewish restaurant for dinner!

  3. An-Sofie Rombouts says

    Hi !! I’m going to Budapest in September and this looks amazing !! SO i was wondering if you had to make reservations to get breakfast ??

    Thanks for all your shared information !!

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi An-Sofie – No, we did not have to make a reservation. You should be able to walk in and be accommodated, particularly in the mid-morning. :)

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