Costes Downtown * – Budapest, Hungary

Is this where I make a hungry/Hungary joke? No? Ok fine. However I was getting a little bit hangry for a fine dining experience in Budapest – enter Costes Downtown to the rescue. The new on the scene, little sibling of Costes, a Michelin starred Budapest institute, intrigued me.

As the original Costes is overflowing, the proprietors have thankfully opened Costes Downtown. Situated in the oh so glamorous Prestige Hotel, this venue stunned me from the moment I walked into the hotel lobby.

The gorgeous decor didn’t stop once I entered Costes Downtown itself, and we were led to our table in a beautiful, cosy space. The warm, inviting woods used in the venue were a prelude to the refined, earthy food we would be served that night. We selected cocktails to start, and whist they were sophisticated and had a unique silky viscosity, they were very subtle and on reflection rather overpriced for the Budapest market. I had a little bit of buyers remorse seeing they were three times the price of a decent glass of wine! They weren’t knockout enough to justify this price gap in my mind.

But after that small blip, on we moved to the main event – the food. You can choose how many courses you wish to have, and we select five as the perfect number. Before we even got to our courses, first fried ‘pasta’ with a lemon aioli style dip arrives, followed by breads and an amuse bouche that impressed. The breads were served with both a burnt, caramelised butter and salted butter. The tiny, ethereal curls melted when they touched the warm bread. Add a little salt, and oh, bliss! The amuse bouche was a rather spartan plate – but filled with just enough delicious green vege morsels that ignited the tastebuds for what’s to come. The use of negative space on the plate is something Costes Downtown navigates masterfully.

The ‘Roots’ and ‘Quail’ courses that followed were sublime and delicate. Everything here is plated so beautifully without losing the wild forest thread sewn throughout the dining journey. The tastes, just as delicate. We shared some of our following dishes, which included:

LIKE A RISOTTO – Cereals, Root Vegetables, Aged Parmesan

DUCK – Pan Seared, Pumpkin, Orange

VENISON – Roasted, Parsnip, Red Cabbage

BEEF – Braised Chuck, Salsify, Mushrooms

I could go into detail about each of these, but they all carried many of the same wonderful characteristics – delicious, moreish, earthy and sumptuous! Not a foot, nary a toe, was put wrong in the execution of these dishes. The meat so juicy, so tender, (and I’m guessing often sous vide), the vegetables respectfully handled and plentiful. This was one of the most satisfying menus I have encountered. Stunning presentation that was not let down by immaculate cooking techniques and most of all, flavour!

Our desserts were just as visually rich and palate pleasing. ‘Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!’, with it’s dark forest floor presentation and green pistachio sponge, was enjoyed immensely by my dining partner – out of this world plating. I equally enjoyed my ‘Coffee’ – grounds dumped on the plate out of a coffee machine portafilter (had to look that one up) with Irish coffee ice cream. Didn’t see that coming!

This was an experience I’d repeat in a heartbeat, and I urge you to book a table if you are visiting the amazing city that is Budapest. Being in Budapest means it’s great value too. If they don’t get a star this year I’ll eat my hat. Well, maybe only if the chefs at Costes Downtown cook it for me first.

(Update: they got that star.)

The Verdict:

Food: 18.6/20
Service: 8.5/10
Ambience: 9.4/10
Decor: 9.4/10
Value: 9.5/10
Overall Rating: 9.2/10
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