Celebrating 37 Years of Pierrot Restaurant and St Martin’s Day
It was a little early to be celebrating the traditional feast day, which falls on November 11. But, if the Pierrot restaurant on Fortuna utca, in the atmospheric Castle District of Buda was offering a St Martin’s Day menu, that was fine by me.
The Castle District is rich in history. Many of the houses that line its cobbled streets date back to the 13th century. In among them are intriguing museums. I had every intention of visiting The House of Houdini – the legendary escapologist was born Erik Weisz in Hungary in 1874 – which promised a live magic show every 30 minutes, or the nearby Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum complete with medieval alchemy lab. But Pierrot was so convivial, our waiter so charming and lunch so delicious that we ended up whiling away the lion’s share of our afternoon in the restaurant.
Pierrot is a historic institution of a different kind. Housed in a former 13th century bakery, it opened in 1982, when Hungary was still socialist but the iron grip was relaxing. Pierrot was the first privately owned restaurant to open under socialism. Today, it’s hard to imagine how momentous its arrival must have been.
The restaurant was opened by the Zsidai family, who have made it their life’s work to restore the status of Hungarian cuisine. The cooking of Lajos Lutz at Pierrot, the first of the restaurants in what has become a discreet culinary empire, is certainly more than worthy. Before he came to Pierrot, Lutz worked at the Gundel Restaurant founded by Károly Gundel, a gastronomic genius the equal of Auguste Escoffier. Gundel passed away in 1956, the year the Hungarian Revolution was brutally suppressed.
Pierrot is informal and friendly, cozy and airy at the same time. A grand piano in one corner, under a wall of photographs of celebrities including actor Anthony Hopkins gave it a somewhat bohemian, jazzy feel. The restaurant offers live music every night from six, ranging from traditional Hungarian folk to jazz and contemporary.
St Martin’s Day is traditionally a feast day when Hungarians eat geese. My companion is strictly vegetarian but our waiter, known to his friends as Gyuszi, easily persuaded me to make mine a goose-themed lunch. My companion drank Sauska rosé, a Hungarian wine that won “Best in Show” at the prestigious American Fine Wine Rosé Competition in 2018. I stuck with good old Hungarian lemonade.
My entrée was foie gras brulée, seared duck liver with plum chutney and a small homemade brioche. Guided by Gyuszi, I opted for pulled goose with red cabbage in an elegant burger-style bun with perfectly crispy sweet potato fries. My companion chose a colorful butternut squash ravioli with roasted pumpkin seeds and pomegranate. The pulled goose was thoroughly satisfying, and my companion told me that the ravioli left her enough space for dessert.
For me, this was hazelnut chocolate fondant with sour cherry sorbet. My companion had what Gyuszi described as a giant Ferrero Rocher candy with salted caramel at its heart, accompanied by a honey colored Béres Tokaj.
After our lunch, delighted at our good fortune to have been the guests of Pierrot, we wandered those cobbled streets as the afternoon sunshine turned to old gold.
Pierrot is at 14 Fortuna utca. For reservations, call +36 1 375 6971 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. View the menu at pierrot.hu.
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