Onyx, Budapest

What with the inconvenient snowfall and the pathetic English panic, our flight to Budapest was looking unlikely. I spent the day refreshing the Gatwick page frantically praying for a change in weather conditions. Luckily, though many routes were cancelled, our plane to Budapest was going ahead, albeit an hour or two late.

The majority of my concern was based around the possibility of missing our dinner reservation at one of Hungary’s two Michelin star restaurants. Awarded the prestigious star in 2011, Onyx is the second restaurant in the country to receive this precious accolade (the first being Costes). This elegant, petite restaurant is located upstairs in the famous Gerbeaud Coffeehouse on Budapest’s Showroom Square. Chef Szabina Szullo is creative and ambitious, presenting typical Hungarian dishes with a twist. The portions are small, the food rich, and you will be treated to numerous courses, we counted at least six.

The warm carpeted interior and marble-clad design is lavish and inviting. We found the restaurant very comfortable and relaxed. The menu du jour sat inconspicuously on the table, and the waiter was polite and understanding when I asked if I could change my starter choice. Wine pairings were selected for us by the expert sommelier, and I was delighted with his Hungarian choices. To start a glass of exceptional Cremant arriving, very light with tiny bubbles. The bread trolley was very impressive with at least ten types to choose from, baffled by the range, we let the waiter pick a basket. Each with a different flavour and texture this was a bread experience unlike any other with the added excitement of accompaniments: pate, butter and cottage cheese.

Before the starters arrived, we were given a trio of tasters each, artfully arranged mini bites. A shot glass of warm cauliflower cream soup, razor clam with carpaccio and a pea puree with poached quail’s egg. Immaculate to look at, and sensational for the palate. The starter that followed was perhaps my favourite part of the meal: two appropriately warming soups (it was minus 6 outside), bean soup with langoustine and grilled bacon and pumpkin oil soup with rabbit belly. My pumpkin soup was absolutely divine, so subtly spiced and prettily presented with lean rabbit meat and crunchy pumpkin seeds for textural contrast. The bean soup was also impressive, the terracotta orange liquid poured over the delicate crustacean and foam decoration.

For the main course a hearty Hungarian red wine was brought to us and poured into posh, giant wine glasses. This was the ideal accompaniment for the Saddle of lamb with sweetbreads and lung stuffed ravioli, aubergine and lemon grass jus. This plate looked surprisingly small and yet the exquisite food filled us up, two wonderful chunks of peppered meat, red and juicy with a thick and satisfying texture. Alongside the lamb were lovely handmade ravioli, smokey aubergine puree (the only part I wasn’t 100% sure about), lightly grilled shallot, and courgette with the flower cooked to perfection. The sauce tasted slightly oriental and added a warmth to the meat.

Pre-dessert most often consists of an odd flavoured sorbet but Onyx excelled in conjuring up something appetising that still cleansed your palate. A tiny bowl of passionfruit cream, mango sorbet, white chocolate mousse, caramel sauce, pineapple, chocolate brownie and shortbread crumbs. A pause between courses for just a few mouthfuls of heaven.

For pudding we were given the the Onyx rendition of Tiramisu, which used the familiar flavours of the Italian dessert but in an entirely different way: ultra rich chocolate torte style cake with a moreish biscuit base and caramel layer, topped with a perfect sphere of mascapone, white coffee ice-cream and amaretto jelly with vanilla cream. What is there not to like? The dessert featured all my favourite flavours used in a unique and artistic way to create a pudding that was wonderfully indulgent and miraculously original.

Last but certainly not least came the trolley of petit fours, there was extensive choice. Intricate tiny cakes and sweets mimicking the traditional Hungarian dessert recipes. Adorable and delicious, each completely different in taste. As a parting gift, we were given little black onyx boxes, filled with two final sweets, a green tea macaroon and a pistachio praline chocolate, perfect for the taxi ride home.

Our Michelin meal at Onyx was a memorable highlight of the trip and I would recommend this magnificent eatery to anyone visiting Budapest. It is a chance to experience the finest Hungarian recipes and ingredients in a sophisticated setting with faultless service.

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