I met the owner of La Bodega, Budapest's newest tapas bar at the wine festival this year. His place is just next to the Alagút, where the infamous and seedy "Best Pub on the Street" (Az utca legjobb kocsmája) used to be. He is an acquaintance of an acquaintance and I was happy to meet him to check what novelties he will be introducing into the city's tapas scene. I guess we were both a little tipsy when I asked him the following question: " So what makes your place great? What's the difference between this and Pata Negra?". "Only that mine is actually edible" came the self-assured and rather provocative answer. I myself am an avid tapa eater and have pretty OK memories of Pata Negra and appreciate their efforts they make in having a variety of manchego cheese and iberico ham as well as a good and cheap selection of spanish wine. The owner of La Bodega also told me he thinks that the majority of the wine in Tapa Negra are crap.

Needless to say I was immediately intrigued by the place and thought that it would be similar to Moro in London or my favourite little place by the sea in Malaga where you sit on huge oak casks and are served completely random tapas by the waiters as you sit and sip on your fino sherry. So we went there on a lazy lunch break on a Saturday expecting to be dined and wined like juan carlos, the rey de espana. The place was almost completely empty aside from a couple of guys who seemed like regulars in one corner and an absolute drunken playboy sitting next to the bar. Our playboy tried to chat up the very good looking waitress practically all throughout our lunch and the drunker he got, the louder his remarks came drifting towards us. Not a nice experience at all.

The wine selection contrary to our expectations was limited and full of Hungarian brands. Spanish wines I could not see chalked on the board at all. This might also be a Bortársaság outpost, but then why call it the La Bottega tapas bar? The food also fell very very short of the hype with a strange combination of pates and spreads, some skewers and only a few real tapas if you ask me.

We went for the following. A cream of mascarpone and blue cheese which was nothing more and nothing less but a spread, which we put on our OK bread. A good attempt at a chorizo in red wine, where the sausage was tasty and well done with a pretty thin red wine sauce that we weren’t able to dip but also tasted good. A sad attempt at gambas pil pil or gambas al ajillo depending on what it was trying to imitate. A bowl of cold shrimps with an overpowering garlic taste that I could still feel two days later in my mouth, and it was that lingering bad garlic taste that usually comes from garlic powder than the one that stays with you after a helping of freshly cooked or rubbed garlic. It was like the one you can buy canned or stored in olive oil in supermarkets or at any good delicatessen.

The cheese plate arrived straight from Kaisers with a selection of completely dried out mimolette (forgot to take the crust off – never mind), chunks of some mediocre manchego, wafer thin slices of emmenthal or some other cheapo alternative and a herb crusted brie-type of thing. Terrible. And where was the jamon iberico bellotta or the polpo gallego or the mejillones diavolo or whatever? maybe a spanish flan? nope.

Last but not least the skewer arrived, which was made up of pretty dry chicken pieces marinaded in some oriental spices and some fruit chutney on the side. Fruit chutney? In a tapas bar? With some Hungarian Szürkebarát? You gentlemen, have lost the plot.

La Bodega Wine & tapas bar
Next to the Alagút
Overall: 3/10