Week 63 : Szimpla Bar (Hungary)

Szimpla Bar on the corner of Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain is certainly not a new visit for us as we have been coming to this bar since we first came Berlin together on holiday in 2012. Back then I immediately recognised it as being the sister bar of the highly successful original ruin pub over in Budapest where the brand now boasts a music label, a farmer’s market, a design shop, a bike shop, a theatre and a bakery alongside many other enterprises. In Berlin there is also a club called Szimpla Badehaus which hosts club nights and international musicians playing different styles of so called ‘world music’ from jazz to klezmer to cumbia to hip-hop and a whole lot more. This is quite the empire for a bar which first opened its doors in 2002 as a secret garden in a soon to be demolished secession era apartment building in Budapest’s Jewish quarter. Now Szimpla is the figurehead for an entire scene in Budapest with similar bars popping up all across the city over the last decade. We visit regularly because of their excellent selection of craft beer from Hungary and Eastern Europe but our visit on Saturday 27th February was however the first time we have eaten there.


The menu is breakfast heavy but has a few Hungarian dishes available in the daytime and evenings as well as a range of sweet and savory strudels. Recently they have added ten beer taps to the bar with different craft beer from Germany and Eastern Europe. On our visit no strudels were available so we made do with pörkölt (ghoulash) and lecsó (ragout) served with tarhonya which are are sort of small, ball-shaped, eggless pasta. We also asked to try the Körözött (cheese dip) and aubergine creme on the side, and took two of the delicious pogácsa scones from the bar counter. As for the drinks, we tried a lot!


We certainly won’t be rushing back for the food alone although we will no doubt be back again for the laid back atmopshere and eight keg taps of craft beer. The meal was okay, tasty enough with a few highlights including the moist pogácsa scones and the moorish, salty Körözött which there wasn’t enough of. The stews themselves were just a bit bland and boring and I reckon I could do much better at home. The homemade pasta noodles were new to me and were fairly enjoyable on a comfort food level although I left half of mine because of the amount of calories in carbohydrates.  I have eaten this type of food in Hungary a few times and it certainly was authentic. Hungarian cuisine itself is nothing to write home about but the gastronomic food scene in Budapest is phenomenal and well worth visiting for.  We will be doing so on 30th March and I can’t wait!


Week 62 : Le Saint Amour (France – Classic/Lyonnaise)

I have been looking for a good French place for a while now and have not really been very impressed with what I have found. There is an uninspiring looking place that I cycle past reguarly which is well over 25 euros for boring Steak Frites, and there are some very good looking top rated places on Trip Advisor which seem to be completely out of my financial league at the moment. One evening back in February I had this strong desire for eating delicious French bistro food and suddently out of nowhere Le Saint Amour jumped out of the internet at me, it was very well reviewed, seemed decently priced and was round the bloody corner on Maybachufer! It happened to be on a street I walk down at least once a week and I had never noticed it before.


We ventured over, still half convinced it didn’t exist, and there it was. A cute little traditional French bistro serving Lyonnaise food right under our noses. We found a table in the half full restaurant and remarked how lovely it all was. It had this really authentic French feeling without a single hint of cyncicism, tackiness or pastiche. The solo waitress was super friendly and spoke French, German and English with us all at the same time, which became quite confusing! The menu was very small with some classic dishes such as frogs legs and snails, and there was also a board with a daily special; this day it was rabbit – my favourite! We ordered starters of Foie Gras parfait, a charcuterie plate, and then main courses of the rabbit in a mustard sauce and lamb chops with hazlenut topping.


We lived in France in the Correze region during Spring back in 2012 and developed a feeling then for what makes a really good French restaurant. Simplicity is quite essential as is a sense that the chef really loves their food and knows how to treat it with care and bring the best out of ingredients as is the classic way of cookery. This place matched every expectation that we had. The food was absolutely delicious and the well priced wine we ordered was perfect. I also loved the fact that we were offered a jug of chilled tap water which is a rare thing in Berlin.


The fois gras parfait was rich but very light. The charcuterie plate just melted in the mouth. The rabbit was cooked to perfection which is difficult, as were the still pink, moist lamb chops with a toasty, nutty finish. Accompanying both dishes was a large pot of the most unxious dauphinoise potatoes and even the bread, which was continually topped up, tasted amazing.  Being Lyonnaise everything was cooked in a luxurious amount of butter so it all tasted very decadent.


The bill was 70 euros with a tip which is dear for Berlin but a bargain for the quality of food especially compared to other French restaurants where the food alone would cost that. I accidentally left my camera behind and had to contact them via facebook to arrange collection and they were really kind and super apologetic when they had to close the restaurant one evening and I couldn’t pick it up. We would love to go back when we can afford it and patronise this lovely, simple but delicious bistro which happens to be just round the corner.