The weekend before last, I went off on a girls’ trip with one of my good friends to Budapest. This ticked off country number 19 for me (I started counting when I remembered that some people do a “30 before 30” thing and realized my new goal has got to be “35 before 35” – so I’ve got some ways to go!) and injected a much needed dose of summer heat into what has otherwise been a relatively mild Danish summer.
We arrived on Friday morning to 30 degrees, which was about twice as much as in Copenhagen, and temperatures would rise to 35 degrees during the afternoon. On that night, we had booked a table in one of Budapest’s five Michelin-starred restaurants: Costes Downtown.
It’s the little brother to more famous Restaurant Costes, which has had a star for many years. Costes Downtown received its star mere months after opening, and wherever I looked, people had nothing but good things to say. It’s a bit more down to earth than its bigger brother, and has a more modern touch. The interior is beautifully designed with a large open kitchen, wooden furniture in warm tones, and an entire wall made out of plants (they’re real, we asked).
Their menu is modern and uses classic elements as well as local ingredients, and the wine pairing we chose consisted exclusively of Hungarian wines, which I thought was great. I don’t think I had ever tried Hungarian wine before, so this was an excellent opportunity to do so. As is usually the case, we didn’t love every single one, but the there were two or three in there that we really enjoyed. We actually looked for them in the airport wine shop as we had plenty of wait time, but, unsurprisingly, didn’t find them there.
We started with a cocktail – we both chose from their Signature menu, and I went with their house Martini. It came in a ginormous glass – next to it is a normal sized cocktail for scale! Both of them were delicious and perfectly suited to wash down the first snacks, which were promptly served.
Snacks: tapioca chips with carrot and ginger paste; parmesan chips with beef tartar and smoky mayonnaise
The presentation and taste of these little snack bites were absolutely on point – I love the deep red of the tapioca chips, and how they’re served on lava stones and dried grass. The stoneware bowl, like all of the serveware, was absolutely beautiful as well.
Amuse-bouche: codfish tartar with cauliflower rice, panko breadcrumbs, and a parmesan consommé
This was my friend’s favorite dish of the night, and I get why: a very elegant dish with subtle, well-balanced flavors and colors – just look at that pop of purple from the cauliflower rice.
We also got some freshly baked bread with two types of butter: caramelized with garlic and thyme, and with goat’s cheese – both absolutely amazing!
Summer squash soup with cucumber solids, fresh dill, and sour cream
Wine: Villa Tolnay Sauvignon Blanc Tavasz 2016
I think this was my favorite course – the soup was chilled and perfectly creamy, and the cucumber bites had loads of flavor. The breadcrumbs added a nice crunch and gave depth to the dish. You know I scraped out every last drop of the soup with bread!
Cured mackerel, beetroot pesto, oat crumble
Wine: Sandor Szolt, Rosé 2016 Zweigelt
A really interesting dish – probably not one I would’ve ordered, had I seen it on the menu, but definitely enjoyable. The mackerel was perfect in texture and not too strong in flavor, and harmonized well with the earthy notes of the beets. The wine pairing was a deep, flavorful rosé that matched the dish very well.
Rib-eye, barbecue sauce, purple potatoes, French beans
Wine: Attila Pince Merlot 2008
I don’t know a lot of Michelin-starred restaurants in Copenhagen that would serve a rib-eye steak with barbecue sauce and beans, but Costes Downtown really pulled it off. The meat was impeccable, perfectly cooked medium-rare, and the sauce had nothing in common with the BBQ sauces you buy in the supermarket. It was smoky, sweet, and absolutely delicious. We also absolutely loved the Merlot, which had rich cherry and blackberry aromas that brought out the sweetness in the dish.
Cheese course: French goat’s cheese, Hungarian Schweizer, Italian Taleggio, English Stilton, apple and pear chutney
Wine: Weingut Weniger Syrah 2013
When you opt for the five-course menu at Costes Downtown, you get the choice between a cheese course and a pre-dessert. Naturally, we went for the cheeses, and we did not regret our choice. We were served a selection of hard cheeses with crackers and a scrumptious apple and pear chutney, which – in my opinion – paired best with the English Blue Stilton, my favorite (and I don’t even usually like blue cheese that much!).
Rice pudding, tropical punch sorbet, coconut
Turns out we didn’t even have to opt for the pre-dessert in order to get it! Lucky us, because this was a total crowd pleaser. The rice pudding reminded us of Danish “risengrød”, and the sorbet tasted like a vacation in the Caribbean. We came very close to licking clean our plates!
Carrot cake with fermented carrots; chocolate basket, chocolate ice cream
Petits fours: apple jelly, caramel macarons, dark chocolate, lavender marshmallows
I’m normally the biggest dessert person there is, and these were both tasty, but they didn’t really blow me away. Maybe part of that is in the presentation, which I found to be a little too… “plastic” (like a little chocolate fence on the carrot cake). But they both tasted good, and you can’t really go wrong with a plate full of chocolate, right?
We paid about 1200 DKK per person for the five course menu with wine pairing and cocktails to start, which I think is a very good deal for a Michelin star restaurant. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening – the food was delicious, it gave us an opportunity to try Hungarian wines, which we really enjoyed, and service was on point: quick, knowledgeable, and friendly. I’d recommend Costes Downton if you’re looking for a special experience in Budapest!
Costes Downtown | H-1051 Budapest, Vigyázó Ferenc Street 5 | costesdowntown.hu