Eastern Europe used to have a reputation of selling ultra cheap beer – and because of favourable exchange rates, and non-Euro currencies, it made places like Prague, Bratislava and Budapest increasingly attractive to booed up Brits on stag and hen parties. It ruined reputations in both directions.
However, many visitors these days have become more discerning, and from the classic cafe culture of this part of the world a booming business has evolved in craft beer. One of the best examples is Elezsto tucked away on a small street in Budapest’s business district.
Elezsto is one of around half a dozen small bars created in an old warehouse space. Boasting 21 taps, there’s a selection of craft beers for all tastes, from a pale of about 3.9% to brews coming in closer to 10%. There’s an adjoining bar boasting “cask ales” but again it’s craft beer. This is the kind of place where it’s polite to sip rather than quaff, and beers are priced – as you’d expect – according to their strength. There’s also a kitchen, a specialist wine bar and – if you really must – a tea house with upwards of 100 blends.
There are plenty of other places around the city now welcoming this business model, and even on a midweek evening there’s plenty of trade.
It’ll be interesting to see how long these newcomers last, but it’s good to see that the more traditional cafe bar is thriving. Just near the theatre district is Kiado Kocsma, which translates to Publisher’s Bar. It looks and feels like the kind of place where bohemian writers and artists might hang out, its interior could have been lifted straight out of Paris.
Along with a great dink and food menu, the Kiado comes complete with a small dog, who appears to belong to a man who looks like he might be the manager. He regularly tours the tables, looking straight at you with puppy eyes, hoping for a stray sweet potato chip. The dog, that is, not the manager.
A bar with a view is always welcome, and despite some terrible online reviews the 360 Bar doesn’t disappoint. Admittedly I’ve arrived while it’s still light and relatively quiet. Even at this early hour, the services is a bit slow, and you can imagine how things might get once the crowds arrive.
Of course, you’d expect this level of variety in any capital city – it’s just a case of hunting it out. Let’s just hope the stag and hen parties don’t ruin it.