Last Updated on November 28, 2022 by Goya
A stone’s throw away from St. Stephen’s Basilica, on a busy street in downtown Budapest, behind glass doors awaits a hidden oasis named Essencia Restaurant-Tiago & Éva, ready to tell you a culinary love story through a beautiful mix of Portuguese and Hungarian cuisine.
From the menu to the open kitchen and friendly service, being in Essência is like hanging out with a close friend, ready to tell you all about how they met, how this place came together and how, through their shared love of good food, created something truly unique which was eventually crowned with a Michelin star.
Here in Essencia, there are three tasting menus to choose from: a 6-course menu called 17th May, and two 5-course menus called Origens and Here at Home. Each of these also comes with a non-alcoholic pairing or wine pairing. We opted for the first one, plus wine pairing.
Before the tasting menu, come two delicate and equally delicious amuse-bouches:
17th May Tasting Menu
Then it’s time for their signature tasting menu, presenting the flavours from their childhood with a touch of modern gastronomy:
- Duck liver terrine, red cabbage, green apple – Paired, rather unusually, not with a Tokaji, but a dry white that we absolutely adored!
- Octopus, beluga lentils, roasted peppers
- Jerusalem artichoke soup, cottage cheese (with an option to add Oscietra Caviar for 2100 HUF) – One of the best dishes of the night!
- Cod “à Brás” way or Quail, buckwheat, celeriac – These two were rather divisive. Those who had cod said they preferred the quail and those who had quail said they preferred the cod. Nothing a little plate swap couldn’t fix 🙂 If you love buckwheat and earthy flavours, definitely go for the quail!
- Mangalica, “Feijoada Transmontana” beans ragout or Beef, dumpling, “pörkölt” sauce – It seems we were too busy enjoying the Mangalica, a Hungarian breed of domestic pig, that we forgot to take a picture. But I have to say it was definitely the better one of the two options and one of the best dishes of the night!
- “Torta de Laranja”, seaweed, blood orange – So light, fresh and tasty, I could probably eat five of these!
The 6-course tasting menu, including the amouse-bouches and chef’s treats at the end (and some for the road as well!), is priced at 29 900 HUF per person. You can of course choose to opt for non-alcoholic pairing (37 200 HUF), or, like us, go for the wine pairing option (44 900 HUF).
I have to say, the wine pairing in this restaurant was absolutely fantastic! Usually, when they say “normally, this is paired with X, but here we chose Y”, it is simply never as good as the tried-and-tested combination… but in this case, I was pleasantly surprised at each unusual pairing and we enjoyed the entire selection thoroughly. The sommelier, and the entire team of hosts, were very knowledgeable, friendly and polite as well, which truly added to the experience.
Overall, we have had a fabulous time in Essência and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a different take on Hungarian cuisine, while in Budapest.
If you do, jo étvágyat!
Don’t forget to let me know your thoughts in the comments,
Photo credits: Tom Dymond © 2021 – www.tomdymond.co.uk