There are a few places in the country that I’d really like to keep secret, just to myself, not share with any of my friends and especially not my readers (hahaha). One of these places is the Haraszthy Vallejo winery in Etyek, where I would now like to count as a regular after having visited at least twice.

I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I went there in the Winter: a lonely bastion atop Etyek’s hills with wonderful view of the rolling hills and landscape from the outside, an ultramodern winery inside the gates and best of all a fantastic restaurant sitting there like a hidden gem in between the Etyek vineyards. The question pops into your head almost immediately once you’ve visited this „compound”: who would put a place like this in a place like Etyek. Well, the Chef hails from California and has been the executive chef of Goa in Andrássy út for a long time before he decided to swap city life for a more pleasant and greener life and the owner is Argentinean. He also has been around Budapest for a long time to realize that if you want superb quality here you really have to DIY, or do-it-yourself. There is no other way. So our Argentinean friend – who seemingly thrives in extravagance and a taste for only the best – decided to create his own wine, his own food in his own „castle”. Take the hundreds of freshly cut white Kála flowers that arrive every Monday from the most expensive flower shop in the city; take the private wine showroom in the cellar which was recently used for filming a Pannon commercial (where they play around with the wine). This place is really suited for filming and commercial making, possibly that’s why it was put so close to Etyekwood studios to dine and wine the celebrities and the crew.

Our next visit takes place in late spring early summer and we don’t find James, the chef there, but we still hope for the best. The service is friendly and very informal compared to the „elite” feeling of the restaurant, but it’s such a pleasant day and such a great environment that I forgive our young server immediately when he pours half a glass of ice tea on my shirt. „You should have seen what I did last week to a customer” he jokes... I’m not sure I’m interested.

On the table in front of us lies the introduction to our lunch: a freshly made red pesto, two types of rock salt and some great olive oil and balsamic. The bread is also tasty, although we don’t think it’s home made, it certainly beats most of the breads in the city. We dip the olive oil and the balsamic, flavour it with some salt, and then spread some pesto. The sun is shining, we order some of the house Sauvignon Blanc and we’re enjoying life as it should be. One comment on the wines. The HVP wines are fresh, young and still have a lot to mature. Our last try with some of the whites, especially an Irsai left us thinking whether we should rather order some other type from down the road (Etyeki Kúria or Hernyák Laci), but this Sauvignon Blanc was really OK.

We ask for the house antipasti, a dish to be shared amongst the four of us. HVP specializes in dishes that you should share, which is a system usually seen is the US. The antipasti consists of the owners own smoked mangalica ham, which is super aromatic from the smoky flavour and the special wood used for smoking it, some mild cheese, marinated piquillo peppers, two types of olives, some fresh and some sun dried tomatoes. Everything is fresh, everything is tasty and we feel very full after the pesto and the antipasti.

But the best is yet to come. Before we go on to the main course I see something very interesting written in chalk amongst the daily specials: it’s called an oyster shooter. Oysters in Etyek? Right. The shooter is made with vodka, Tabasco, fresh tomatoes and a great fresh oyster inside. The waiter says it’s good for a hangover, sort of a Bloody Mary with oysters, but enjoy it immensely even though I’m not drunk (yet).

The main draw at HVP amongst everything else is the BBQ section and the BBQ dishes that are made on charcoal and are brought to your table with a little, handy, mini BBQ once it’s taken off the grill in the kitchen. We order the great big grill platter which has a T Bone steak straight off the plane from Buenos Aires, some ribs with BBQ sauce, a skewer of chicken and veggies and a helping of chorizo. The steak is outstanding in every aspect, grilled to perfection, pink and juicy on the inside and with a little smoky char on the outside. The chorizo is also what you’d expect from South American owners. The ribs and skewer aren’t as interesting as the other two.

Also arriving at the table are the Argentinean lamb chops with mixed roast veggies. The lamb chops are very tender and are young lambs based on the size of the bone, but here the table-bbq doesn’t serve its purpose as the chops cook fast even at the table and are overcooked in a matter of minutes. But what you have to admire here is the simplicity and the attention to the finest ingredients.

Take this slab of steak for example. You only need the best cut, some fresh French fries, a bit of salad with oil and balsamic and a great chimichurri sauce for the meat with olive oil, lots of garlic parsley and oregano. It’s really as simple and as tasty as that. Of course, the main event, the meat has to be imported from down south and has to make a long way to our plates in Etyek, but we’re thankful that someone takes care of the trip.

On the dessert front the house cheesecake is absolutely superb, with a soft, rich, creamy top and a more solid cheesy base atop the perfect pastry. Alongside to help are pomegranate seeds and some fresh strawberries. Exactly what you would expect from a chef who was brought up in Santa Monica.

HVP is a place to lay back and enjoy life, drink some Argentinean Pinot Noir from Luigi Bosca, savour the grill meat, enjoy the sunshine and try not to think too much about the road home.

Overall: 7/10

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