Sunday, 31 March 2013

A perfect evening in Budapest: Café Gerbeaud and Tosca

If you happen to flip through my trusty lonely planet Budapest guide, you will notice a folded page at the entry about the legendary Café Gerbeaud which yours truly have highlighted and scrawled next to it in bold letters : MUST GO!!!. Yeap, three whole exclamation marks.

This exclusive café was quoted to be "the most famous of the famous cafés in Budapest". As a café junkie, not paying homage to Gerbeaud would be a grave insult to the great confectioners, Henrik Kugler and Emil Gerbeaud who both started this cafe more than 150 years ago. It has stood proud on the northern side of Pest's Vörösmarty Square since 1870, AND boasted the loyal patronage of the famous 19th century Hungarian composer, Franz Liszt! Princess Diana, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and stars like Madonna, Ralph Fiennes, Brad Pitt have also graced Café Gerbeaud's impressive guest list. 

Name dropping aside, I had to try some of Emil Gerbeaud's confectionery creations. Born in Geneva, Emil Gerbeaud came from a family of confectioners and acquired experience from his travels to England, France and Germany. He even has a pastry named after him- The Gerbeaud Slice.  

(It is obvious that I tend to find justifications of all sorts for my foodie excursions.)

Cappuccino* and cake in front of the 40-foot marble counter showcasing a vast array of classic Austro-Hungarian layer cakes and bon-bons.

* Dear Italians, please refrain from rolling your eyes at my 5 pm cup of 
Cappuccino. =)

We decided to enjoy a leisure coffee and cake session in Café Gerbeaud before heading to the Hungarian State Opera House for an evening of Puccini's Tosca. Do not be fooled by the understated entrance of this café, the interior décor is opulent and lavish. A gilded hall with hanging chandeliers, rich wood paneling, marble-topped tables with chairs engraved with the Gerbeaud name makes it a more than elegant spot to satisfy a sugar/coffee craving. 

However, in spite of the luxurious surroundings, there was nothing stuffy about the ambiance, or so I tried to convince myself as I mentally chanted: "I do not feel under-dressed at all" over and over again. Just kidding, I had a lovely time reveling in my sugar rush.

Now ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes on some cake porn.

"Bailey's"-  French Linzer, cocoa sponge, coffee-dark chocolate ganache, marzipan-Bailey’s bavarois, encased in milk chocolate-Bailey’s icing

Delicate coffee mousse and chocolate sponge slice, I unfortunately forgot to jot down the name of this cake.

The famed Dobos torte- 5 layers tall quintessential Hungarian creation of sponge cake pastry layered with rich chocolate cream, and topped with caramel

Gerbeaud Slice, also known as Zserbó in Hungarian.
A delicate layer cake with with walnuts, apricot preserves, chocolate... that was created by Emil Gerbeaud. You can try your hand at making this delicious confectionery by referring to the lovely recipes from here and here.

The cake I enjoyed most from our visit was 'Bailey's'. The booziness was just enough to cut through the richness of the chocolate ganache. I know that this cake is not traditionally Hungarian, but, who does not love an exquisitely velvety icing made from a combination of milk chocolate and Bailey's??!!

You can also get light bites, pastries, as well as ice-cream sundaes and milk shakes made with Gerbeaud's own home made ice cream. I had my eye on the Caramel-Dried Plum Sundae, a colossal creation of: 2 scoops vanilla ice-cream + 2 scoops caramel ice-cream + dried plum ragout + caramelized hazelnuts + walnut croquant + whipped cream + caramel bonbon + walnut crisp". Oh my...

After the pre-opera cake feast, we hauled our sugar laden bums to the Hungarian State Opera House on Andrássy út. The neo-Renaissance building that was designed by Miklós Ybl in 1884 was one of my favourite structure in the city. The famed composer, Gustav Mahler was the director from 1887 to 1891. 

Very very cool least to me.

Hungarian State Opera House

We were ecstatic about having the chance to watch Tosca in this richly decorated building. The major plus was that we managed to purchase highly affordable student priced tickets. 

One of the few perks about having a valid student ID with my 'deer in the headlight' mug shot to flash around!

While waiting for the performance to begin, I took my time to admire the beautiful and ornate chandelier that was illuminating a magnificent fresco of the Greek gods in Olympus. The 3050 kg (You read that right, it weighs over 3000 kg!!!) bronze chandelier cast a warm glow over the plush gold paneled main hall. Watching Tosca in such an opulent surrounding certainly adds so much more to the already amazing experience.

Frescoe of Greek gods  by  Károly Lotz

Magnificent concert hall

Gold gilded panels with cherubs adorning the hall. 

After the final fall of the curtains, with the lovely melody of Tosca's aria still lingering in my head, we strolled leisurely along the Danube river back to our hostel. A perfect way to end a perfect evening in Budapest.

Café Gerbeaud 
051 Budapest Vörösmarty tér 7-8.
POBox: 1364 Budapest Pf. 211.
Tel: +36-1/429-9000


Sissi said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Hi Eliza! What a wonderful, fascinating blog you have! I have just been browsing through your delicious travel stories and will certainly be coming back for more! Thank you so much for the link to my messy looking - though absolutely delicious - zserbo and for your kind comment.
Your post has reminded me of my visit to Budapest and the fact that somehow I haven't managed to have a cake at Gerbeaud... I have left it for next time ;-) I hope you have had a chance to taste other delicacies of Hungarian cuisine too.

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates


Hey Sissi,

Thanks for dropping by. Yeap, make sure you drop by Gerbeaud for their zserbo when you have a chance. I had a fantastic carp stew with plenty of Hungarian paprika in a traditional restaurant. It was delish!

Nami | Just One Cookbook said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Hi Eliza! Budapest is one of the places I would love to visit and I enjoyed reading your post! I want to be in chocolate heaven also... the layered cake is AMAZING!!! I'm so jealous right now. :)

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Nami | Just One Cookbook
Hi Nami, glad you dropped by! Budapest is indeed a lovely city to visit.It was nice to have a chance to sample some Austro-Hungarian desserts during my trip. =)

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