Best Bites in Budapest

13 Dec 2019
6 min read
Kempinski Hotel Corvinus in Budapest is as luxury as hotels come, and as part of their holistic approach to hospitality, the exclusive hotel has an impressive array of culinary offerings. FOUR catches up with the hotel’s Director of Food & Beverage, Alexandre Puylagarde, to find out more about their dedication to gastronomy greatness… 

Tell us about Kempinski Budapest’s Food & Beverage philosophy and how it’s incorporated into the F&B offerings…

The concept has several pillars and dimensions. On the one hand, Budapest is part of Kempinski’s first worldwide holistic Food & Beverage concepts, which pays homage to the company’s founder, Berthold Kempinski, and his daughter, Frieda Kempinski. They encouraged a symbiotic relationship between gastronomy and entertainment. As Kempinski became synonymous with pioneering European luxury hospitality, we now have a living heritage of incomparable service quality, which we adapt to the time and place we live and operate in.

In Budapest, at Kempinski Corvinus we have created a “Gastronomic Quarter Downtown Budapest”, in which our approach local culture and the local market is manifested. Hungary is wine country, so we source our wine offering from local winemakers. This has an effect on the guests’ local experience as well as the eco-footprint of the hotel. Kempinski Corvinus also has its own Rooftop Herb Garden. Executive Chef Roland Holzer and his kitchen team cultivate a herb garden up there to allow ÉS Bisztró, the Hungarian-Viennese brasserie, and the hotel’s kitchens to source fresh herbs and vegetables directly from its premises.

In the local context, we compete with our immediate market, not an imaginary culinary universe. We attract locals, and beat the very best restaurants, cafés and bars in excellence. This is why we reached out to a noted local restaurateur, Zsidai Group, to come on board and develop the gastronomic offerings of our ÉS Bisztró that we are managing.

Give us an overview of the F&B offerings, including their atmosphere and their cuisine types…

ÉS Bisztró is a casual Hungarian-Viennese restaurant that combines Kempinski’s values with the gastronomic vision of “bistro-nomie”. It also operates ÉS Deli for those in a hurry but with a discerning taste for coffee and bites on the go. NOBU at Kempinski Corvinus Budapest remains the only outlet in Central Europe of the eponymous chain, which serves Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s New Style Japanese. Our café experience, The Living Room, and our creative cocktail specialist, Blue Fox The Bar, demonstrate the full cosmopolitan elegance of the Kempinski brand, complemented by local references and art. In the evenings, we serve champagne by sabrage for ‘Ignite the Night’, and at the weekends, we offer our own versions of Eggs Benedict at The Living Room. At Blue Fox The Bar, the selection is seasonal and inspired, not just classical. We encourage creativity and the redrawing of boundaries for people to come in and stay in.  

There is much variety in these F&B offerings. Why do you offer these cuisine types, and what is the significance of their food styles for guests?

ÉS and Nobu complement each other, one being more local and meat-based, the other international and fish/seafood-centric. Both are trendy concepts, which we execute with the best service quality and, as I said earlier, in the context of the highest end of the local competitive set (which by the way, does not include any other hotel restaurant).

Do you think the decor plays a role in the dining experience, and if so, how are the restaurants designed to enhance guests’ experiences?

Yes, absolutely. Design down to the look of the plates, silverware, and providing an aesthetic experience are an integral part of gastronomy. Decor is ambiance, service is attitude, gastronomy is joy. We cater, pun intended, to not just the stomach but the senses, and the experience becomes a holistic exercise to bring to life the Kempinski ethos of joie de vivre.

Blue Fox The Bar is a hotspot for sophisticated pre- and post-dinner drinks in the city. Here, we have dark walnut timber on the floor and tables to create an intimate and clubby ambiance. The bar is surrounded by a specially designed cobalt-blue acrylic material with inset mesh, suggestive of a soda siphon. It is a homage and wink to the Hungarian Ányos Jedlik, who in 1829 published his work regarding the production of soda water and the soda-water bottle.

The Living Room is very much inspired by the local ‘Kaffeehaus’ culture, plus champagne. This is a comfortable area and a complete contrast to the luminosity and scale of the lobby. Here, guests can sink into plush sofas or high-back armchairs, read books and relax near the fireplace, whiling away the time.

ÉS Bisztró has an ambiance similar to that of a large farmhouse kitchen or a homely ‘Gasthaus’ dining room. The floor is made of rustic timber, simple white tiles clad the walls, and the hanging metal ceiling lights are a modern take on traditional Central European café lighting. By contrast, the bevelled mirror screen designed in three curved parts and the patterned tin ceiling tiles are far more urbane.

Tell us about some of the hotel’s chefs, their backgrounds and experience in the industry…

I am so happy to work with Executive Chef Roland Holzer. He’s driven by an endless search for quality, with a rich passion and professionalism. You can feel it on the plate. Nobu’s Gábor Schreiner takes inspiration from Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s creativity and his positive outlook on food. He says to put your heart into cooking, which you can tell and taste. Géza Kónya at ÉS Bisztró is so dedicated and such a perfectionist that he’s in from early morning to late at night, and his focus never falters.

If you look around in the city, 50% of the quality-driven chefs previously worked with us. It is very rewarding and also shows that we are doing something right.

Does the hotel cater for special dietary requirements?

Of course. If someone has specific dietary requirements, we go out of our way to prepare a full meal accordingly. No matter what, not only are we committed to offering the Kempinski standard but our chefs have worked with a medically trained nutritionist to be able to competently understand the nature of nutrition.

What are some of your favourite dishes from the hotel’s restaurants?

I love everything we serve! But if I must choose… at ÉS Bisztró I treat myself to the herb steak. I especially like Nobu’s black cod. At the Living Room, I order Eggs Benedict with truffle.

What are some of your favourite drinks from the hotel’s bars?

Blue Fox The Bar’s Sarcasm cocktail is my first choice there. It gives an ‘odd diversity’, to quote the song, of boletus-tasting Venezuelan rum and tangerine liquor, which is what makes it tick. ÉS Deli’s white espresso is curated and percolated by the internationally renowned coffee expert Máté Nezvál from Cyebumba beans of Rwanda and Finca Santa Paula beans of Guatemala, in equal measure.

Tell us about the in-room dining…

Rather than serving easy clichéd staples that you find on any hotel’s in room dining menu, we offer a selection from our own outlets, including Nobu. Isn’t it better this way?

How do you think the F&B offerings of a hotel factor into the overall experience a guest has?

Breakfast remains an important touchpoint. Our past has shown that 75% of our guests enjoy our breakfast. A lot of our guests have the breakfast as the only meal at the hotel during their stay. The breakfast is so important that it better be an ambassador of all the other F&B offerings. This is why we offer 127 items in the buffet, all fresh, generously portioned, mostly homemade, and featuring the best of Hungary’s produce, as well as a wide international selection. We also have an Asian corner with special dishes, due to the increasing number of our Far East guests.

In the banquet business, we championed our trademark Ten Rooms concept, which includes an award-winning show kitchen integrated in the event structure. It’s very modern and an act in its own right, complete with a dining and lounge area. You can either take advantage of it as a breakout space between sessions, or you can make full use of it to host lunch or dinner, featuring a chef interacting, and showing the product’s transformation from raw to mouthful. It’s designed for an experience. This is exactly what we want: an experience both in our restaurants and in our banquet facilities. We are playing on senses: the scent of the baked croissant in the oven, food for your eyes through the great design and different colours, the chefs preparing the wraps in front of you… and so on.

What F&B offerings do you think guests look for when booking accommodation, and do you think F&B has a significant impact on which hotels they choose to book?

It is not the case anymore. Our F&B concept takes into consideration our status and standing in the local context. 73% of our guests in the restaurants and bars are outside guests. We are in the heart of Budapest, with a lot of good places around. We remain true to our entrepreneurial roots, and we are not thinking in terms of a hotel restaurant but a dining place for the community. Still, a lot of hotel guests specifically look for Nobu and ÉS Bisztró.

What does Kempinski Hotel Budapest’s F&B offerings have that other hotels don’t that caters to guests’ needs and makes the hotel stand out?

We have been pioneers in transforming hotel restaurants into real restaurants, and many hotel restaurants tried to follow suit. Our ‘The Kitchen Caters’ concept is one of the best catering propositions in the hotel industry in Budapest. The team being really strong and stable is one of the success factors for the operational excellence.

We have also launched signature rituals and traditions. ‘Ignite the Night’ at The Living Room is designed to ease you into the evening after a working day as we open champagne at 6:00pm by sabrage. Family Table at ÉS Bisztró takes on brunch, except we serve you at your table so you can spend more time with your family and friends rather than queuing up at the food stations. Benediction Brunch at The Living Room reinterprets Eggs Benedict in the context of crab and truffle, and is available not just on Sunday but Saturday too. Blue Fox The Bar’s Elysium menu will return March 2020 with version 2.0 as we set a goal to be among the ten best bars in Europe. Be prepared!

All in all, inspiration, creativity, forward-thinking invention and the craftsmanship philosophy of Kempinski are in our DNA in this business, and Kempinski Corvinus allows and encourages us to explore new dimensions of our ambition and imagination, and create traditions in the process as we strive to go over and beyond guest expectations.


To find out more about Kempinski Hotel Budapest, and to book, visit their website.