Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Nine Budapest bars with dazzling decor pt1: Café Égoist - the Secessionist wet dream

The ornate interior of Café Égoist

Budapest is renowned for the beautiful design of its bars, cafes and restaurants; from the baroque kafé-ház to the eccentric and anarchic decor of its ruin bars. But here are nine places to drink that aren't in the guidebooks and are a little further from the beaten track. Starting with the Secession splendor of Cafe Égoist (Honvéd u., a few steps from Liberty Square). 

A Secessionist time capsule.

Café Égoist basically feels like you are having coffee inside Gustav Klimt's imagination. Art nouveau arcs, undulations and ovals crowd every space, from mirror frames to the wooden slats of the balconies above the café itself (the mezzanine houses a small museum). Even the characters and air balloons on the vintage posters seem to curve and bow in harmony with the organic shapes of the jugenstil. On a mantelpiece there's a statuette of a sylph-like flapper with a calligraphic figure - it is easy to imagine her reclining on one of the ornate sofas, sipping her tea then knocking back a palinka.

Front doors of Café Égoist, designed by Attila Benkovish to resemble the fan of a peacock.

First built in 1903 by Emil Vidor for the Bédo family, the exterior and ground floor were restored between 2003 and 2007 by the architect Attila Benkovich, supervised by art historian János Gerle. (Click here to see their remarkable achievement). For most of its life the café and museum was a luxury furniture store and it looks like most of the pieces are still here. Every chair and bench is a perfectly formed work of art, you're almost scared to sit down on them. There's a wonderful air of hushed reverence for the majesty on display - this is not the place to bring a stag-do. The calm, confident eyes of the portraits (of the Bédo family and early 20th century acresses) stare down at you, daring you to break the calm. 

The emphasis is on coffee and cake (most gluten-free) but they also have a wine and palinka list. So if you want to take your tipple inside a Secessionist time machine, and indulge your ego's demands for "the best of everything" (the café's motto) then this is the place.
The restored front of the Bédo building in 2016.

1 comment: