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Halle-Luja! Food Trend Market Halls

Large market hall in the IX district of Budapest, Hungary / © Photo: Georg Berg

Large market hall in the IX district of Budapest, Hungary / © Photo: Georg Berg

The mother of all market halls for selected delicacies is the famous Borough Market in London. Under the protection of the historic halls, there is no need to talk about street food. Instead, the trend that is sweeping through the metropolises of Europe is a clever staging of regional players. Freshly prepared dishes typical of the country with regional products attract visitors. London’s Borough Market as a melting pot of many cultures and cuisines has set an example, other examples are the Mercado da Ribeira in Lisbon, the Markthalle 9 in Berlin or the Torvehallerne in Copenhagen.

The Borough Market in London is quite tumultuous on weekends. You also have to stand in line for oysters here. Those who like burgers de luxe or burritos have to wait longer / © Photo: Georg Berg

Budapest, City of Bridges and Market Halls

The market halls, many of which are historic, are mainly home to local restaurateurs. They deliberately distance themselves from fast-food chains. Regionality, variety and authenticity are in the foreground. It has always been great fun to stroll through the old market halls and look at the colorful displays of the merchants. Unfortunately, shopping for tourists is often pointless due to the lack of preparation facilities. The market hall as a culinary Dorado now offers the opportunity to satisfy one’s curiosity for typical local cuisine right on the spot. The selection ranges all the way to star cuisine, as top restaurants also open satellites of their gourmet restaurants in the form of bistros.

Vegetables and fruit as far as the eye can see / © Photo: Georg Berg

Budapest has the most beautiful market hall in Europe

Market halls have a long tradition in Budapest. The best known is the Great Market Hall in the IX district. It is still considered the central shopping place of the city. The hall on the Freedom Bridge has been awarded the title of “Europe’s most beautiful market hall” several times. Here you can buy just about anything. Particularly noteworthy are the fresh meat and sausage offerings as well as the lavish fruit and vegetable displays. The market halls in Budapest have never lost their importance as a shopping place for locals. Until the 1990s, there were very few supermarkets in the city. And even today, the quality of the goods in the halls is often the best. The fresh baked goods from langos to steaming poppy seed strudel are especially delicious. So if you want to try typical Hungarian food and drinks and are looking for culinary souvenirs to take home, this is the place to go.

The culinary offerings at the Hold Street Market extend over two levels. Unlike the food court concept, where vendors share all the seating for their guests, at Hold Street Market each restaurateur has their own seating area / © Photo: Georg Berg

The best of the Hungarian gastro scene in one place

But Budapest has five other smaller halls besides the Great Market Hall, They were opened at the end of the 19th century and replaced the city’s open-air markets. Among the small market halls, the Hold Street Market in Hold Utca is the most beautiful. After an extensive renovation, this downtown market is as much a shopping place for daily needs as it is a hip event location and the new home of many bistros run by Budapest restaurateurs. Following the Portuguese model of Mercado da Ribeira, the best of the Hungarian gastro scene is slowly but surely gathering on Hold Street.

Angela Berg with chef László Papdi in booth 25 in front of the large cartoon drawing reminiscent of chef Támás Szell ‘s Bocuse d’Or success. Thanks to the smart design, an astonishing number of guests can fit at Stand 25 / © Photo: Georg Berg

The latest example is Bistro Stand 25 by top Hungarian chefs Tamás Széll and Szabina Szulló. After winning first prize in the European semifinal Bocuse d’Or in 2016, Széll opened his own restaurant called Stand in 2018, where Széll and his partner Szabina Szullo confirmed the Michelin star the two had already earned at Budapest’s Onyx restaurant. The couple has their sights firmly set on a second Michelin star. Their Bistro Stand 25 has quickly become a center of attraction in Hungary’s gastro scene, drawing many international visitors.

Like a warm, glowing island of bliss. When the market stalls have long since closed, things really get lively at Stand 25. Those who reserve a table for the evening are met at the entrance gate of the venerable market hall on Stand Utca / © Photo: Georg Berg

Island of bliss – dinner in the market hall

Chefs are the cosmopolitans and migrant workers of modern times. We met the Hungarian László Papdi in the summer of 2018 still in the Lenkerhof in Switzerland. Now he has returned to his homeland and is contributing his creativity and skills to several culinary projects in the city. Among other things, he has been part of the kitchen team at Stand 25 for a few weeks. We recommend reserving a table and arriving with an empty stomach.

Well organized in a confined space: László Papdi with colleagues in the open kitchen of Stand 25 in Hold Street Market / © Photo: Georg Berg

There is always a greeting from the kitchen with good country bread and a salami selection. Individual dishes are also generously portioned. Recommended on the dinner menu is a 4-course meal priced at 9,500 forints (about 30 euros). The menu changes every two weeks, but there are also some fixed dishes, including probably one of the best classic goulash soups in town. Fine meat, harmonious flavors, celery, Hungarian mini noodles called csipetke and a wonderful citrus note characterize the soup. The subtle acidity comes from salted lemons, whose finely sliced peels ferment for six months before being used.

A dish that is also served in this way in the main Stand restaurant. Influenced by the Christmas red light illumination, the visual can’t quite keep up with the outstanding taste impression this goulash soup leaves / © Photo: Georg Berg

The trout with spinach is a lighter dish, but by no means boring. Even the fresh bright green of the spinach sauce puts you in a good mood. The trout tastes as if it had taken a trip to the sea. Tender and pleasantly salty, it complements well the baby spinach seasoned with garlic. A quail’s egg with liquid egg yolk provides another tasteful side kick.

Trout sous-vide with baby spinach and quail egg/ © Photo: Georg Berg

Dessert should by no means be skipped. Here you can find a dessert that is also served like this in Budapest’s star restaurant Stand. The Somló Galuska is served as a layered pudding in a glass. Its special appeal is the numerous textures, chocolate, crumbles, biscuit dough and cream in addition as a large portion. Booth 25 is definitely worth a try. There is of course a lunch menu offered, then there is even more hustle and bustle at the surrounding stands. But very special is an evening visit to one of the most beautiful market halls in the city.

Somló sponge cake or Somló Galuska is a traditional Hungarian dessert but interpreted by Tamas Szell and Szabina Szullo with especially many textures / © Photo: Georg Berg
With László Papdi on the road in the big market hall of Budapest. With a Hungarian at your side, you can explore the specialties even better. But even with English you can get on well and successfully complete your shopping / © Photo: Georg Berg

Detailed report about the Lenkerhof, where we had our meeting with László Papdi in the á la carte restaurant.

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