ARENA CATERING - DINNER IN THE SKY
Were you expecting a restaurant review? Oh, I'm sorry! This will be slightly different.
It will be a review of - what should be - one of the top, high-fly catering experiences in the city. High above the mortal humans who buy regular standing or sitting tickets in the Budapest Sportarena lies the area that is known as the "Arena VIP Skyboxes". In these boxes top local managers, company CEOs, international top executives can watch the concert from a separate enclosed area, drink and chat aside a VIP bar in a common lobby AND be served some fine food by individual waiters assigned to each company's own skybox.
Last week I was honoured to receive an invitation to the Shakira concert from a friend who runs a company that is lucky to have one of these skyboxes. We arrived slightly late to the venue, because parking in and around the Arena is still a disaser as in most cases in the city. We made our way up to the first floor where we were led by an attractive hostess to our respective box. Soon, we bumped into some old friends and started to chat and drink a white wine that was served up by a real full-blooded "vendéglátos" old waiter, probably a Konyári Ikon as I saw from the label. Our waiter reminded me of the type of waiters that "ruled" the restaurants in Hungary for decades - very helpful and easy going, a kind of know-it-all attitude, without any real respect for the guest and knowledge of the things he is serving up. But nice, anyway. Unlike the wine, which was pretty bad.
So we quickly went on to the red wine as the DJ outside started playing to the teenager type folks in the mosh pit up front to generate some ambience while the pace was filling up. Our host arrived with some important businessmen at this point and we were kindly asked to be seated and dinner was served. Dinner was a buffet of cold starters on a large plate and two types of warm main courses. The menu described the foods very eloquently as befitted the place and the target audience- once you read through it you were prepared for a fine feast. Unfortunately the quality of the food didn't really live up to the hype on the menu. We started off with a pretty good duck terrine with a beetroot "glazing" - very interesting indeed. Also interesting, but tastewise far-less fulfilling was the bloody mary gelee with celery, which had a pretty bitter, strange taste. And we had some pretty good exotically spiced "eastern" meat balls, as well, as I remember. So thumbs up so far for the starters!
Out of the two main courses we only had the pepper steak with rice one the side. I believe it said green pepper on the menu, but tastewise it felt like a whole black pepper grinder fell into the sauce. I started to sweat quite profusely at this moment, because of the heat of the pepper and not the mild, green peppery taste I was expecting. Unfortunately we skipped the fish, so nothing to report on that. The dessert was a truly nauseating vanilla type cream on a bed of fruit and a large dollop of whipped cream on top - by that time the concert was rolling full steam ahead so there was at least something to shift our attention away from the dessert.
I have to mention at this moment, that - during a couple of times when I visited the outside bar for some wonderful red wine from Villany that was supposedly made by the barman- I saw some of the wealthiest and most influential men that practically "run" the country mingling and chatting to eachother. Some of these guys were sitting next to me in the box. Now, if these people get served the same bloody mary gelee and pepper steak every concert they go to, then I'm sorry to say that they have no taste and should have changed the catering a long time ago. Sorry, maybe I'm being too harsh - keep the guy who is doing the starters! You could say it's what you would expect from a venue like this, but somehow I still seem to remember the food that was served up in the Royal Albert Hall in '85 at the World Doubles championship. It was great food with a great respect of the audience it was being served up to.
Papp László SportArena