The weather forecast for Budapest was 68 degrees F, partly cloudy with a slight chance of rain. There was no mention of wind. I was feeling positive and had my light jacket on and didn't bring an umbrella. You'd think I'd know better by now. Deciding to explore the pedestrian street of Váci utca, my friends and fellow crew walked toward the Great Market Hall. The market of each country has its own distinctive flavor. Even though I knew the market would mainly have fruits, vegetables, sausages and spices along with some local handicrafts, I wanted to see it, and hear the sounds and smell the aromas. Váci utca is lined with shops and restaurants mainly appealing to the tourist. Its liveliness is enhanced by the beautiful architecture of other eras. I couldn't help but notice that even the manholes are works of art, like bronze mats dotting the walkways. The Great Market Hall opened its large tile roofed building in 1897 and is the largest indoor market in Budapest. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
We were there on a Tuesday and I understand that Saturday mornings are the best time to see the most action of the vendors. There were fruits and vegetables. And of course, peppers and paprika. Some of the crafts were in the center of the first floor, but most were on the second floor of the massive building. You could get sausages of every kind and eggs already blown out and ready to decorate. There were gingerbread houses and houses made out of wood for games. I didn't get any of the Hungarian wine like Tokaji, but there was plenty to be had. I just got a few bags of paprika and saffron to experiment with in recipes back home. It doesn't take much to make me hungry, and we were all ready to sit and have a cappuccino and pastry after the market. We stopped at a sidewalk cafe overlooking Liberty Bridge and onto Buda. There were a few choices of pastry and I chose a half moon shaped one that had a nut mixture inside. I needed a little protein ;-) Just as we were finishing, a chilly wind whipped through bringing rain drops. We went inside as the waitress gathered up the cushions. I think the outside service was done! So were our plans to walk across the bridge to take a look at the Gellért Baths and walk up the Buda side of the Danube. Begrudgingly, back to the hotel we walked while bracing against the elements. I got a warmer jacket and my umbrella as we re-grouped to talk about dinner plans. We decided to try a restaurant that a friend had vaguely described. She couldn't remember the name and so described the location. We found what fit her description and weren't sure if it was the one she went to, but it looked good. The name was Sercli, which the waiter later explained is a slang word for the crusty heel of bread. They had an extensive local menu (click on the photo to enlarge) that seemed reasonably priced. With a modern artsy atmosphere, it was inviting. The walls had fun, simple drawings etched into them that were subtly placed throughout. The five of us sat and took a look at the specials as a carafe of house wine was brought. One taste of the wine and you knew it was Hungarian. The flavor was smooth and bold with more than a hint of cherries. And I love cherries! We saw so many things on the menu that we wanted try. To lessen the decisions, my friend Lenny and I decided to share a few. To our amazement, the kitchen split the servings for the soup and paté for us. Very accommodating....and plentiful. We started with a potato soup with bacon slices on top and fois gras served with onion jam and toasts. We were in Hungarian Heaven and started to forget about the chilly rain and wind. Then we had a daily special, of pork tenderloin rounds wrapped in bacon and topped with goat cheese served with roasted potatoes and a sour cream dip. The other choice was a lamb ragout with rosemary served with rice. How do you say yum in Hungarian?! I kept thinking I should distract Lenny so I could get my fork onto his plate of lamb ragout, but didn't get the chance. I loved the pork, but I know what I'm ordering next time. Without any room left for dessert, we asked for our bill. Figuring it out was no easy task. Mix jet lag with a currency that has a lot of zeroes at the end and well, one could work up an appetite by the time all was said and done. And in this restaurant, that is not a bad thing.