CREOL - FAR FROM EDEN






The Caribbean is as close as you can get to Eden itself. So Caribbean cuisine must be like eating in the Garden of Eden, right?

Food around the Caribbean tends to be as diverse as the cultures that reside around that part of the world. I've had absolutely terrific meals in Mexico - Anthony Bourdain must be right when he says his best chefs come from Guadalajara - and absolutely terrible stuff in Cuba, where there seems to be no spices used in the dishes. I felt really really sorry for the tons of lobsters that I ate in Cuba that were picked out of the sea like they were your average fish and tossed into boiling water with some potatoes to garnish. No butter, no garlic, no taste. So there is no "absolute" best Caribbean cuisine, only variations on a theme that includes a lot of seafood, exotic fruits like banana and pineapple used in dishes, chilis, tomato, beans and rice.

Enter Creol, Budapest's one and only Caribbean bar/restaurant which aims to delight with sumptuous, amazingly sounding dishes. We made some jokes between ourselves that we HAD to order by saying the exact names of the dishes, not the ingredients themselves, because pronouncing some of them can be a real challenge. Like Po-Ca, a chicken and shrimp filled creamy avocado or the Bataloco, a sweet potato and tomato cream soup. The soup was good, the avocado was really nice and fresh, perfectly ripe. The shrimp and chicken - one of each- placed on top of the avocado wasn't really the quantity I imagined, but still it had a great taste. The bread was an absolute disaster: not only was it of a poor quality in general, but it was burnt to cinders and charred on the side. My friend, D, devoured his coquilles st. jacques with pineapple butter - saboo-dana - and it seemed to be the best dish of the night.




Must say a few words about the place itself in terms of service and design. The design is over the top with white feathers, kitch golden pillars, purple suede chairs and the place looks like a really trendy bar anywhere in London. It is also considerably large compared to other trendy drinking holes around the city like Oscars or Negro... actually about three or four times the size. At 8 o'clock the place is near empty and by the time we leave, about 11 o'clock the tables have almost filled up but there is still no sign of a party going on. This is once again an indication that nothing starts in Budapest before 1 o'clock AM. Where exactly do people hang out BEFORE they go out is still a mystery to me, because the restaurants and bars should be absolutely full with pre- party revellers, but no, they are nowhere to be seen. I guess the girls are putting on make up for hours at home, while the guys are getting drunk in front of the TV pretending not to fall asleep before they have to go out. Service in Creol is OK, but the waitress didn't score any extra points by trying to convince me that coconut milk was in fact a see through liquid. No, it's not my dear, because I cook with it almost every day and it looks like... milk.

Back to the food, the main point of our visit (apart from expecting some good looking, influential people to arrive early and see us there :). The main courses were all a bit disappointing, but once again OK. Of course we didn't choose the 14 000 forint Manguala, which is almost a half a kilo of langoustine tail, but rather opted for the more value-for-money options, like the Kingston Bolada, a jerk duck served with black beans and rice and a mango chutney in a chocolate basket. The duck was roasted well, the meat was succulent, but I couldn't feel the special jerk spices on the duck nor in the sauce. The mango in the chutney was a bit too fresh (too crunchy for a chutney in my mind) and not spiced enough, but the dark chocolate basket was a nice surprise once I tasted it.

Some of my dining partners were a bit disappointed with their Jaiba, a Caribbean king prawn with banana chips and a pineapple spring onion rice on the side. The prawns were a bit far from being king sized, perhaps the "prince prawn" name would have been more adequate. There was one king on the plate and severall smaller followers. The sauce tasted like a bit like a lecsó and the banana chips were soggy and tasteless. So thumbs down for that one.

To finish it all off, we had a pineapple creme brulee nicknamed Teraphy, which I guess should have been called Therapy, but only the rum sauce in it was therapeutic - it had no resemblance whatsoever to a creme brulee, rather to a pudding.

The bill was 40 thousand for 4, which is a bit over the top considering the overall quality, but we soon found out the reason why - the very tasty pineapple juice being served up to us came out at almost 3000 forints a pop because it was " freshly squeezed". A fact that they forgot to notify us about. But that's what you get when money isn't an issue and judging by Creol's clientele this just might be the case.

Creol Caribbean Restaurant and Bar

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