About two weeks ago I was walking around hungry near Király utca. I had already tried all restaurants in Gozsdu udvar and no matter how much I love this bustling, trendy restaurant area, I had an appetite for something new.
In Király utca I found nothing that I liked. The cafés did not suit my appetite and the grill-restaurant chains are not up to my gastronomic expectations. I was just crossing a quiet side street when I encountered a mysterious shop window.
The white curtains were pulled closed from inside, although you could take a peek at the lighted interior through the entrance. The stylish lime-green upholstered armchairs, medium-brown hardwood floor and decent, tasteful decorations got me interested.
There was no sign board for the place but it had some kind of noble atmosphere. I knew that I could eat very well there. Only the closed door kept me from entering the restaurant because it had not opened yet.
A week later I was already taking my place at my table in the same spot. Károly Rudits gently removes the teddy bears from my chair, put there for the very young guest who preceded me. My stomach growls just as hungrily as one week before. Luckily now I am here, inside the Lou Lou Restaurant.
Rudits is the owner but he is also a host and gourmet; in short, a restaurateur with passion. You quickly notice that he is an experienced man. The Lou Lou is not brand-new, quite the opposite: the fine-dining restaurant opened in 1996. Within a few years it became one of the best and most popular restaurants in Budapest.
In 2009 it suddenly closed because the global financial crisis hit the restaurant business like almost everything else. It took a few years before Rudits thought the time was right to reopen.
“In the last years I became calmer; I can see now more clearly,” he explains. “You can see that in the new Lou Lou. Many high-class restaurants are maybe a bit too ornamented, the others too sloppy. However, you can stay in the middle. Create something with the necessary style and still stay relaxed and simple.”
Something like the Lou Lou, in fact.
The French-style restaurant is really impressive with its noble minimalism and a hint of charming wit – qualities that are reflected both in the interior and the dishes. The tables are made of a light wood and are not covered with tablecloths.
To warm up, they serve home-made bread with lightly salted butter and a wooden knife. Instead of oil paintings, only a few wine bottles, more teddy bears and a few tasteful vases decorate the room. The highly professional waiters are wearing black.
The Amuse-Gueule is served: different kinds of mousse in small glasses. Ricotta, spinach, some puffed rice and a semi-hard cheese from the French part of Switzerland, the Tête de Moine – a heavenly green and white opening.
Next up is a salad from fresh goat cheese, black salsify, chlorophyll (sic!), green garden vegetables and truffle shavings. The mixture of different sorts of leafy salads offers a fresh and light stopover before coming to the main courses. The truffle, well spread over the green dish, leaves a unique aftertaste and introduces the great culinary moments of the night.
The duck rillettes are laid on the table next, surrounded by a parfait of goose liver; on the side there is a handful of mushrooms, pears and a jelly of Nomu Tokaj wine vinegar. The waiter tells me that this special wine vinegar comes from a Japanese company of food and wine lovers, who fell in love with the traditional Hungarian wine and founded the only company in the world that transforms it to wine vinegar. The jelly really tastes exquisite with the rillettes and the liver paste, and it tastes even better knowing where it comes from.
The highlight of the evening is the roasted duck breast with orange sauce, Belgian endives and carrots. The duck meat tastes soft but it’s covered with a crispy, hearty crust. The orange sauce with its sweet-and-sour spicing and cinnamon twist gives a good foundation and makes me want to put this dish on my plate again and again.
Despite the wonderful arrangement on the plate, the home-made tortellini with Provence spices, vegetables and ripened Provolone cheese cannot maintain the standard of the preceding dishes. The pasta with the tomato-paprika sauce is tasty and fruity but does not have the special twist that such a dish really needs.
The sweet dessert spoils you with toasted bananas with ginger and caramel, praline, white chocolate, lime crème, cardamom and pineapple, not that Lou Lou is unlikely to have spoiled you already. On the side comes a smooth vanilla sauce in a ceramic jug to complement the dessert; a fabulous composition of sweet temptations.
The final touch is a Christmas praline and a poppyseed meringue, served on a wooden board ready to be eaten with your fingers. I don’t really need to mention it: my hunger is gone, my taste-buds are satisfied. Au revoir, Lou Lou.
Restaurant Lou Lou
Székely Mihály utca 2, Budapest VI
Tel.: (+36-1) 877-6202,
Monday to Friday: 12noon to 3pm, 6.30-11pm
Closed on Sunday
Entrees and main courses: HUF 3,200-8,900
Desserts: HUF 2,100
Daily lunch menu (three courses), Monday to Friday: HUF 4,400