Unbelievably creamy and irresistibly delicious: cheesecakes have been one of the most popular desserts for a long time, and they are fully fashionable in Hungary by now too. So much so that two young Budapest citizens have just opened a café dedicated fully to the delicacy made out of fresh cheese. Say hello to Say Cheese!.
At Europe’s first cheesecake café – at least as claimed by the owners, 24-year-old Ascam Essam and 23-year-old Bar Mesika – you can find many variants of the creamy-fluffy cake, ranging from the classic blueberry, strawberry and raspberry cheesecakes to banana-caramel and profiterole (with mini éclairs) varieties to a Black Forest cake-inspired version.
The two passionate cheesecake fans also find inspiration for new recipes from popular chocolate bars as well. Thus Snickers and Bounty cheesecakes have made an appearance, as well as Oreo, after the American biscuit consisting of two chocolate wafers with a sweet creme filling in between.
The 10 types of cheesecake on offer will be expanded with further recipes and seasonal variants. And they are not served in the traditional manner as a piece of cake but in an innovative way in small disposable plastic cups. This allows the cakes to stay in shape and look good, as well as being easy to transport.
You can find Say Cheese! on Nagykörút, the Grand Boulevarde, between Dohány utca and Wesselényi utca. “Many of our guests come here in their lunchbreak or on the way to home and order a cake to take away,” Essam says.
This is why serving them in a disposable container along with a plastic spoon is practical, so they can even be eaten while walking. However, the two young businessmen are also thinking about sustainability: they still ask customers to return the containers; bring back 10 and be rewarded by a cheesecake on the house.
If you eat in the café it is a real eye-catcher. The white interior is decorated with nostalgic graphics. A local artist conjured two-dimensional coffee tables, gramophones, elegant picture frames and grandfather clocks on the walls. A tiny chandelier reminds of the time when grand cafés were the centre of social life.
Despite this tribute to the past, Say Cheese! has none of the dusty atmosphere of old cafés. To the contrary, it is a project full of young energy, with much ambition and in close connection with modern-day media, just like its young owners.
Say Cheese! promotes prize games and attractive new photos about the café each day on its Facebook page. Requests for new cheesecake creations can be made on the page. They do not neglect the trend of modern dietary requirements either, offering sugar-, gluten- and lactose-free cheesecakes as well.
Soon everywhere in Europe
Both Essam and Mesika are full of business ideas. Although they were not born in Hungary – Essam is from Egypt, Mesika from Israel – they grew up and went to university in Budapest, attaining degrees in International Business Economics. They met each other only a year ago thanks to some common friends.
Since September they have been business partners. Essam already had experience in gastronomy, as his family owns a restaurant where he started helping out at a very young age. His graduation from dishwasher in the family establishment to business manager of his own café came via a return to Egypt to test the concept of the cheesecake café there in 2015 with some of his relatives.
What seemed to work in Cairo could prove to be a success in Budapest too, so he brought his experience and know-how to Europe.
So far Essam and Mesika seem to have pushed the right buttons with their café. Business is booming, the new delivery service is working and they will soon be selling their first franchises. Their aim is to create branches around Europe.
Whether the café really offers the “best cheesecake in town”, as promised on their website, you should decide for yourself, but the small, innovative and ambitious venture is absolutely worth a visit.
18 Erzsébet körút, District VII
Open daily 11am-9pm except Wednesdays and Sundays 3-9pm
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