It's been a long time since we were last guests in Café Bouchon. My wife and I were there together approximately 3 years ago, while I tend to visit once every half year or so. So we can't really be called regulars. Unlike my friend B who organises every business lunch there and is welcomed like a king by the staff.

The managers and the head waiters are one and the same, who also happen to own Bouchon. They left their previous job at Café Kör a long while ago, in 2003 to set up their own bistro with the wealth of experience that they gained in Kör - which we know has a rabid following in Budapest. What they learned was the following: produce good food, at an acceptable price with impeccable and very friendly service in a bistro-like environment. In this way, Bouchon is very similar to Kör: the chairs, the tables, the walls, the hand written menu on the wall (with the daily offers)... even the way the daily specialties are crossed out as they disappear slowly during the day. Perhaps the tables are less squashed together than in Kör.

Imitating Kör is a sure bet, simply because it has a winning formula, which elevated it into the top 100 restaurants in the world by Restaurant Magazine. Must make a comment here: looking at the list if you see Helene Darroze at 77 and New York's WD 50 at 91, Kör's ranking is a "bit" of a far stretch if you ask me.

The way Bouchon can create a similar formula is because the two managers / owners were dealing with Kör guests for a number of years and they recognize everyone who drops by Bouchon for a table. Not only do they recognize guests, they treat them as if they were their best pals, close buddies, long lost relatives. Of course this is coupled with a strong knowledge of how the kitchen works and the way the food is created, because they can go to great lengths to explain the dishes. I personally foud the service a bit too much for my liking...however well the waiter knows you he shouldn't become you best buddy at the table and take informality to another level.

The amouse bouche is always a great little spicy tomato "lekvár" or marmelade which is served with home made, warm slices of bread. A delicious start which actually works up the appetite for more to come rather than fills us up. For starters I had the smoked duck carpaccio with roasted pinenuts and a salad with an orange vinaigrette dressing. The duck tasted great, but the layout of the dish and the quality of the large amount of leafy salad heaped under the duck took points away from the dish. Another favourite is the Strasbourg foie gras paté with onion marmelade. Judging by the speed it was devoured by B (every time he is there) it must be sure bet.

The gals waited for dessert while the guys dug into their main courses. I had a venison steak placed on a large lángos with a red wine / forest fruits sauce. The venison was cooked well, mayba a bit too well and I thought the fruits were an OK extension of the dish, but nothing amazing. My friends - after a long discussion with the waiter - had a Tournedos Rossini (off the menu, but anything goes here if you are well acquainted with the staff) which is steak with foie gras and a Madeira sauce. They thoroughly enjoyed every last morsel of it. The desserts were a Creme Caramel with orange sauce - good, and a warm, rich french chocolate cake - excellent.

To wash all of this down we had a really nice '03 Duzsi Merlot and a '04 St. Andrea Cabernet Franc. The Merlot was perfect for the duck and the Cab Franc a wise choice for the venison. To sum all my feelings about this excursion up I have to say that the food is good, but falls short of great and the service is fantastic, but a bit too friendly at times, which borders on offensive. It should be one of our favourites based on the good value, but somehow I know that I won't be back for a while...

Café Bouchon

Overall: 6,5/10