Before I actually went to eat in Lou Lou, I had a bunch of test victims go and try it out for me. I told them that it was supposed to be the best restaurant in Budapest (therefore the country) and that the quality was destined to be Michelin starred one day – or that’s what the proprietor would like to think. All of my guinea pigs came back with a frown on their face: the portions are extremely small and the price is astronomical. But what was the food like? – I said. The fact is we never really got around to talking about the food because all they could talk about was portions and price.

So I told myself that I need a special occasion or at least an enormous expense account to go there myself and test it, because I simply didn’t believe the punters. It ranks so well on all of the lists and guides, the much discerned Dining Guide, the Népszabadság strange list of top 100 and all the other quasi-rankings... and besides, the owner is constantly going on about Michelin. So I said to myself: there must be something there.

On a Summer Wednesday my wife and I went along and reserved a table thinking that there would only be a very few ultra gourmand few eating there on a weekday or some lost tourists trapped in the Bazilika bermuda triangle of chic restaurants. Wrong we were, because it was about going at about half full when we got there. We opted to sit in a more private area than the main dining room because of the undisclosed special occasion. The design is what you would call elegant and chic with a centerpiece of a decorated horse hanging above the bar. I felt all along that the owners spent far more on the quality of the food (chef), the plates and the cutlery than the environment. The lamps, the carved chairs and the bench along the wall aren’t up to the quality of some of the newer establishments nearby, but the cutlery, the coloured crystal glasses and the variety of plates the food is served on add a very colourful and nice touch to an otherwise average restaurant design.

I clearly have to say that the food is on a level of its own in the town. It’s not just the quality of the ingredients, not just the way they are cooked and presented but the combinations that place Lou Lou above nearly all of the kitchens in Hungary. Sometimes these combinations lead our chef into a bit of a confusing state of affairs, but they are forgiven fast.

We start off our dinner with some single malt whiskey to heighten our appetite and then we are rewarded with a fantastic (home made?) butter on a little wooden pedestal. The butter is amazingly creamy and salty. Even for someone like myself -who has never eaten butter by itself because of the taste- it is a unique salty/creamy/ buttery experience with some nutty brown bread that some of my fellow blogwriters write about occasionally: Interesting how you can get excited by butter, eh?

Our server and most of the servers in the restaurant are all seasoned veterans and know all the tricks of the trade. Our server starts off a bit cold and I’m not sure how much he is into wine recommending me a Wunderlich Merlot to accompany me through all the dinner. But as the dinner goes on we make good friends and he partners us in our every choice and move in wine and food. By the end we make a good team.

Next up we receive a small tasting drink built of carrot juice, orange juice and some yoghurt. It goes down well and reinforces the appetite more than or single malt could. We don’t have to wait long for our server who brings out or starters: a „gerbeaud” of foie gras terrine, foie gras „mousse” a little spoon of árvay édes élet, a glass of granny smith apple foam and a fresh brioche. The goose liver is smooth, tasty, creamy and well accompanied by the tokaji which me manage to spill on the plate instead if gulping it down. The brioche is fluffy and warm and begs us to spread some of the liver on it. A really great dish.

I start of with the Gusto cover, which is a mixture of slices of beef cheeks, young radish, leek which are placed meticuolously on the plate at perfect intervals form each other. The cheeks are braised for hours to the point of melting in your mouth before being served and they are well accompanied by the specks of small dark and sweet balsamic.

My main course is a pink veal cutlet, a grilled pigeon breast and a grilled scallop all accompanied by a mare e monti sauce, a kind of alternative surf and turf provided by the restaurant. All of the meat and the fat scallop are all delicious one by one but more contrasting when they are mixed. It may not be the best „blend” according to my refined palate. Perhaps that is my only „problem” of the night. And one thing has to be said: both my starter of veal cheeks and main course of veal and pigeon goes well with the smooth merlot. The wine is not great but at least it accompanies the courses well.

On the other side of the table my beautiful wife is a having a good looking halibut file with a herb crust and a coriander and carrot puree. The dish is accompanied by some fresh veggies like leek and snow peas. Everything is top quality, there can be no fault in the preparation of this dish.

After going for a glass of the home Vylyan syrah – and having finished off the bottle of merlot - I am slowly getting into the gourmet state of mind, a feeling that I can only describe as a heightened state of gastro intensity driven by some kind of hormones. It washes over me in places like these and I tend to loose myself in the wine and the food and wear a strange smile on my face- a feeling of complete calm and wellbeing.

The cheese plate consists of french blue cheese, an aged cheddar, a fantastic soft goat cheese, some Comté and a cheese with a strip of ash in the middle. The same wonderful bread (baguette and rye) accompanies the fromage as the one we received with the butter. I ask for someting stonger than the syrah, a cabernet sauvignon.

I’m loosing it. I stick a fork in the cinnamon apple pie and apple sorbet on the other side and it tastes superb.

I ask for the bill, it’s 42 grand. I don’t really care. I’m counting in euros now. It’s expensive even on a european standard because one would expect a menu degustation for the same price (80 euros per head), but it stands above the rest in town. Perhaps that is the only criticism I can make of the place: for this price I would expect a fancier degustation menu with at least 6 courses and a glass of hungarian or local wine to accompany the food. The public here is still not prepared for 6000 huf main courses with ’small portions’.

Lou Lou
Overall 9/10

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