As the Danube pushes past the golden spires of Hungary’s Parliament, Budapest scoops up the tantalising heights of super-rich hummus. Spread across your pitta bread and the historic centre – it’s a dip that dominates the food scene.
This may be 3,000km from Beirut, but it’s certainly Hungary. So, amongst the murmur of a culinary renaissance, global cuisines are embracing Budapest’s cosmopolitan appetite.
These chickpea concoctions also hint at the Ottoman and Jewish heritage; hence many Middle Eastern eateries are run on expat intuition.
Hummus is a food with hefty reputation – considered to be magic by many. The hummus proliferation within Budapest is extensive; from ‘Tik Tak Hummus’ to the ‘Hummus Bar’. Without a doubt, in Europe’s ‘East’ there are Middle Eastern riches to behold.
History thanks the Jewish people of Pest, for the golden-diamond-domes that top Europe’s largest synagogue. Oriental detail comes in stars and swirls, with swathes of rose and caramel brick.
Yet, visitors to the Hungarian Jewish museum here cannot outmanoeuvre an association with the Budapest Ghetto of the Holocaust. Hence weekly prayer and year-round learning are embodied in a building that has been made with both European and Middle-Eastern influence.
Don’t miss the memorial garden, with its contemporary monument and continuous message. Also, try to appreciate the fine details of the rose glass window – a favourite with many.
On a 7-minute walk northeast, the Jewish Quarter unfolds; where the neo-classical, emotional and pop-up nightclub agglomerates.
When a pitta-stop is needed, take up that olive branch with both hands and a yank. As with many surprises, the Olive Tree Hummus Bar has unnecessarily chameleon-like tendencies. Humble interiors, however, are an injustice to the chickpeas and charisma.
The vegetables are plentiful and the price is affordable. For 11190 HUF you’ll access six baked falafels and plenty of hummus with herb garnishing. It’s luxurious honesty and wisely completed with an adventure to the 7th district’s ‘ruin-bars’. The original Szimpla Kert is a nest of night-time thrift and thrill.
Not far from parliament, stern architecture encircles the political struggles of Szabadság tér’s monuments and meanings. In Liberty Park, Communism and Ronald Regan live out their days amongst neat pathways and EU protests.
As ever, the food of love plays on; so humanity spills out of smart cafes and tumbles out of bewildering bookshops. On Oktober street, the fate is one made of falafel.
Hummus Bar is awkward smart-casual for some, but fulfilling for the many. It’s honest and ‘homemade’ offerings appeared in 2005, and have since branched out across the city. The salads are simple, but the back-story has depth; surely family traditions hide behind the planetary-sized pitta bread.
Where the tahini is zesty, there’s Wi-Fi for the antisocial and wall quotes for the philosophical. Service is sleek and multilingual tongues encourage eating – which the restaurant also refers to as ‘meditation’.
Emerging from Oktagon’s metro, you’ll see that this area of Budapest has many sides. West of the boulevard-busting intersection, West End smash-hits claim the stage at the neo-Renaissance Hungarian State Opera House. Musical murals and marble staircases are elements in the overall culture splendour.
Once the heart is full of theatrical awe, it’s time to fill the stomach on some Budapest staples. Both the Hummus Place and Tik Tak earn five-star reviews for their smooth chickpea moves, where sandwiches and soups join the parade.
Hence Middle-Eastern fare can be the focal point of Budapest’s cultural intuitions, as well as its diversity.