Once upon a time, in my former life as an English teacher, I used to teach at a bank on the corner of Szabadság tér in Budapest. Opposite the main entrance was a very sorry-looking building – blackened walls, held up by equally blackened wooden scaffolding.
Szabadság tér is one of my favourite squares in Budapest, a large, open expanse, surrounded by magnificent buildings, thankfully now mostly in a good state of repair. Even this derelict black building has been brought back to life and is now occupied by the luxury IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel, which opened in October 2016. An independent restaurant, La Parilla, now operates on the ground floor. It has an elegant red, black and beige interior designed by a Spanish designer and from April you’ll also be able to enjoy its terrace with a great view of my favourite square.
The food on offer is mostly Mediterranean style, but they also have great steak or mangalica and Hungarian food, as well as an impressive dessert menu.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to taste a selection of the wines from their 100-strong wine list, featuring both Hungarian and international wines and to sample the cuisine of chefs Peter Szabó and Balázs Papp.
Anna de Codorniu Rosé Brut / Spain, Penedés
Anna de Codorniu Rosé Brut is the rosé version of Codorniu’s most iconic sparkling wine.
Elegant and subtle, made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. A fresh wine with cherry and strawberry notes and a fine mousse.
Gizella Barát Hárslevelű 2015
A vineyard selection from the Barát vineyard in Tokaj.
A rich, broad yet lively wine with intensive varietal flavours of tropical fruits, mango, lemon and lime. It’s spicy with plenty of mineral notes and a long finish.
Bodegas Faustino, Rioja, Spain, Faustino VII white 2015
Pure Viura, aka Macabeo, better known for use in Cava.
Crisp and spicy with apple, peach and delicate, floral notes. Tangy on the palate with rich fruit and a fresh finish.
Bott Frigyes, Rajnai Rizling 2015
A special wine using only eight tiny clusters per vine, selected in three tries, whole bunch pressing followed by spontaneous fermentation in barrel. Owing to the perfect vintage and biodynamic cultivation, it required only light filtering and no fining.
A wonderful wine, initially a little reserved, it opens up nicely to reveal a rich, floral, herbal and apricot nose with plenty of minerality. Crisp and elegant. A wine to be savoured.
Masi, Veneto, Italy, Masi Masianco 2015
A winery better known for its Amarone, a dry red wine made from the red varieties used to create Valpolicella. This white is also made from partially dried Pinot Grigio and Trebbiano grapes.
Restrained but opens to show attractive tropical fruit aromas. Palate is a little chalky and strangely earthy but fills out on the mid-palate allowing the fruit to blend with a touch of honey. Finishes dry with a citrus twist.
Vida Öreg Tőkék Kadarkája 2015
Kadarka is the oldest grape variety in the historic wine region of Szekszárd and these vines date back to 1996-7. Kadarka is a thin-skinned variety, thus sensitive to the weather, so this is not made every year.
Light and elegant with a wonderful spicy nose. Soft but characteristic flavour of red fruits on the palate should be a real crowd-pleaser.
Heimann Barbár 2013
This wine, made by one of the most prominent winemakers in Szekszárd is named after a composition by Béla Bártok, the famous Hungarian composer. It’s made from a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Tannat and Kékfrankos.
A dense nose followed by a vibrant palate of sour cherry, fruits of the forest, blackcurrant and dark chocolate coated prune. A youthful wine that’s both taut and flavoursome, but with still slightly grippy tannins.
Faustino I Gran Reserva 2004
Produced from Rioja’s typical grapes of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo.
Intense, bright cherry red colour. Aromatic and complex, with notes of tobacco, cedar and leather against a background of ripe fruit, jam and spices. On the palate, powerful yet velvety, with flavours of rich red fruit, liquorice and minerals with smooth, ripe tannins with some spice and vanilla on the medium finish.
Peter Lehmann, Barossa, Australia, Futures Shiraz 2012
This is the winery’s top wine. Is named in honour of how Peter financed his winery – when he wanted to start making wine, he didn’t have sufficient capital, so, he asked people to pay in advance for his wines. Enough people seem to have trusted him and he’s still going strong today!
The wine is matured in French oak to integrate the intense, spicy fruit flavours, resulting in an approachable and supple wine. Deep red-black colour with a nose loaded with spicy plum and chocolate notes. The palate is firm and rich with a long finish, a legacy of the low yielding vineyards of the north-west Barossa.
Holdvölgy Exaltation 2012
Awarding winning dessert wine made from 100% Sárgamuskotály from the Nyúlaszó vineyard in Tokaj.
Luscious wine with floral aromas and notes of peach, honey, rose and lychee.
With our wines, we were served a selection of dishes including a blue cheese tart, olive jelly, breaded pork with homemade ajvar, and toast with chickpea and octopus cream. Avocado and chocolate mouse and a mango tart kept those with a sweet tooth happy.
La Parilla is open from 7 am for breakfast, there is a weekly lunch menu and you can dine until midnight. I was impressed by both the food and the wines on offer. Although, admittedly, the Hungarian wines we tried won the day for me. So, if you are in the vicinity of Szabadság tér, it comes recommended, especially once the terrace opens and you can look out on the square.