A few years ago, when the Balaton began to stir alongside a new wave of regional gastronomy, Márga was one of one of the first spots where you could stuff your face with wild boar with black salsify, or some wild-ass rabbit spine. Then a bunch of spots neatly sprouted up, then revamped themselves, while the biggest example of regional hospitality industry cooperation came into being with the birth of the Balaton Gastro Map. This all worked so well, that its effects could be felt even in the cheap hotdog and microwaved hamburger buffets. In fact, there were many examples of individual Budapest restaurants moving out to the countryside. A few months ago, however, Márga became the little deviant who actually moved back to the capital city.
Under the oversight of Jani Deli, Márga Budapest quietly opened in the location once occupied by LouLou. The irony in all this is that Jani Deli had already opened another restaurant in another one of LouLou’s former locations, MÁK bistro. As Deli put it,
It would appear that my fate in life is to open restaurants in old LouLou locations.
The quiet came to an end, however, when Márga unexpectedly appeared in a New York Times article about Budapest, where it was recommended as a mandatory restaurant for visitors to the city.
The interior is wild; upon entrance, you’re greeted by the bar, while straight ahead the bigger dining area has sidewall lighting that looks as though a window is filtering the California sunset through a frosted glass. The smaller room is filled with natural light and a ton of flowers, which makes it feel like a whole ‘nother world.
Chef Ákos Horváth is responsible for the food; he is one of the best Hungarian chefs under 30, and he too is creating in the direction of ‘Hungarian-fine dining-bistro’ that I enjoy so thoroughly. In addition to the regular menu, Márga has a set of weekly offerings as well, which comes in the same quantity and quality, just for much cheaper. Now, an end to the flood of info, on to the food!
Veal Sausage with Wild Garlic and Jerusalem Artichoke
Brutal flavors and orgasmic flavor karate. The powerful flavor of the lamb saucily meets the calmer tones of the wild garlic; you’ve never seen a color this green before. The buzz of the side dish is provided by the Jerusalem artichoke, while puffed wheat, which I’ve noticed an increasing use of in restaurants, adds an exponential boost of texture. This is a dish that will make you cry (and it’s a shame that it was only on the weekly menu).
Celery Cream Soup
Rabbit, Jerusalem Artichoke, and Wild Mushrooms
Beautiful chaos on a plate, with the most kick-ass mushrooms of the forest meeting up with various preparations of rabbit. The rabbit pieces are so soft that they practically flow into your mouth. Jerusalem artichoke provides the base for this dish, and I think it’s the best possible side for rabbit. The panko-crusted bunny is epic!
Chicken Liver with Brown Bread and Onions
While the trio of goose, veal, and duck livers are the eternal emperors of trendy liver consumption, poor brother chicken’s organs can be prepared elegantly as well. The best example of that fact is this spreading-and-snacking appetizer, which is embraced in a dance between creamy onions and crisp, pickled ones.
Veal Liver Pudding with Pear and Endives
But yeah, veal liver is still veal liver…in this plate, tension is generated by the sweetness of the pears and the bitterness of the endives, which is smoothed into a godly combo by the veal liver. The texture is magnified by toasted seeds. If cooks were writers, and if dishes were written works, this would be an adventure novel.
Chocolate Mousse with Lavender and Almond Ice Cream
Márga has greatly improved since its opening at Lake Balaton. In fact, it’s evolved just as the Hungarian gastro scene has. An exciting and affordable place has been born, where Ákos Horváth can finally break free from the prison of French cuisine, and can turn towards more Hungarian waters. If you ask me, this is a beautiful story. And a world-famous one, too.
Budapest, Székely Mihály u. 2, 1061
0036 70 333 5289
Translated from an article by Péter Csákvári at gastro blog Men & Tál.
Images by Péter Csákvári.