The coveted Michelin Star – the highest honour that can be bestowed upon any restaurant. There are not many Michelin Star restaurants in Budapest, but their number grew significantly in recent years. This is a sure sign that Hungarian gastronomy is getting more recognition worldwide and Budapest’s restaurant scene is catching up with metropolitan standards. We have collected the five Budapest Michelin star restaurants to give you a taste of what makes them appeal to the highest of standards and what to order when booking a table there.
What Is a Michelin Star?
The Michelin Star is the absolute standard in the restaurant world. You need to provide fine dining and the best raw materials in order to make it to the list of restaurants eligible for a Michelin star. Restaurants have to work very hard to get a star, and can have up to 3 of them. The award is a French initiative that came as a guide in 1900, and aimed at giving the then still fresh auto industry a boost. Yes, it is brought to you by the same people who made the Michelin man, a tire company. The guide showed a map of France with restaurants listed in it, with one star denoting an excellent restaurant, two stars denoting one that is well worth a detour, and three stars meaning that the restaurant in question deserves a “special journey”, it is so good. Since then, the guide is now exclusively a product of the restaurant industry, and is considered the highest standard of reference.
The Top 5 Michelin Star Restaurants in Budapest
1) Costes Downtown
Costes Downtown is a fine dining establishment linked to Eszter Palágyi, an internationally renowned chef of Hungarian origin. Her cuisine is inspired by Hungarian staples and flavors of the Hungarian countryside, but is brought to your table using state of the art French cooking and serving methods. The idea is to use local ingredients and bring them up to the high level of sophistication that deserves a Michelin star. The dishes are highly experimental, with bold pairings and interesting side dishes to some very unusual starters. The dress code is smart casual, and the restaurant is reservation only.
What to try there: We strongly recommend trying the fish. Fish is only eaten occasionally, and in certain parts of Hungary, and Mrs. Palágyi’s reinvention of the classic fisherman’s soup simply must be tasted.
1) Costes Restaurant
Costes Restaurant is the Ráday Street location of Mrs. Palágyi’s establishment. Ráday utca is interesting because it is a street entirely devoted to restaurants, some fine dining, some rather ordinary. Cafés, restaurants and food stalls line the street, and among them the only Michelin star establishment is Costes Restaurant, the first one in Budapest with the prestigious award. Also having a dress code of business casual, and also using cutting edge innovation and an experimental flare towards traditional Hungarian cuisine.
What to try there: Try the venison prepared with authentic vadas sauce. This Hungarian sauce is known from the world of hunting. It is a carrot and mustard gravy, and is a well-loved classic here. The pigeon with coffee and beetroot is also tantalizing.
Harking back to the interwar Golden age of Budapest is Onyx, one of the few Michelin star restaurants in the city. Onyx is located in a secessionist style building with matching interior. The cuisine is absolutely modern though, serving up the culinary vision of Ádám Mészáros, the head chef. This Budapest Michelin Star restaurant is in the same building as the century old confectioner, Café Gerbeaud, and has been open since 2007. They have two menus, one is their special interpretation of international cuisine, while the other is a rethinking of local specialties. This is the only restaurant in Central Europe to have received two Michelin stars. They also have a superb wine list focusing mostly on Hungarian wine.
What to try there: From the international menu, we recommend the zander with wasabi and sturgeon caviar. From the Hungarian menu, the buffalo tartar.
Babel is unique among Budapest restaurants not only because it has a Michelin Star, but also because it is rooted in Transylvanian cuisine and dining traditions. Head Chef István Veres takes the dinners of his childhood and transforms them into exquisite fine dining experiences that have earned the international renown of the Michelin guide. As he himself put it, “each dish reflects a memory”. Located in the very elegant 5th district, right near the Danube promenade, this is one fine dining experience that has Hungary written all over it.
What to try there: The egg noodle with iceberg lettuce is a traditional Hungarian meal born from poverty, and reimagined as a refined and elegant fine dining experience that pleases all the senses.
Stand is brought to you by the imaginative inventors of Onyx, and is a high end bistro that focuses on terroir, sustainability, working with local producers to find the best ingredients, and above all, a relentless dedication to flavour. They strive to highlight the many unexplored fine dining opportunities inherent in everyday Hungarian raw materials and traditional elements of local cuisine. Stand earned its first Michelin star only 9 months after its opening, which is a remarkable feat in any country.
What to try there: The foie gras, which is served with elderberry, sour cherries, smoked peanuts, and a marvelous Hungarian dessert wine, the fabled Tokaji aszú.
One of Hungary’s least explored treasures is its centuries old tradition of wine. Much more acidic than most Mediterranean wines, these fine and complex wines deserve a place among Europe’s finest exports. Borkonyha is a fine dining establishment that seeks to change that, and their mission has earned them the Michelin Star. If you love wine, and would like to have a venue in which to explore what the different wine regions of Hungary have to offer, then we highly recommend going to Borkonyha.
What to try there: Ask for their special wine-tasting menus in the form of a 5-course meal or a special wine-pairing to experience the Hungarian cuisine to its fullest!