When Tamás Veress was in the Yorkshire city of Leeds five years ago, he found himself in a pub full of football fans cheering on their team in a TV match against Norwich. The cheerful supporters adopted the stranger in their midst, teaching him a club song and generally including him in the merry-making. It was an experience that created a strong impression on the away-from-home Hungarian …
Veress returned to Budapest to become one of the three partners behind the five Pointer Pubs in the city, whose aim is to recreate the special atmosphere of a typical traditional English pub. “The Leeds supporters were great, very friendly and they took me into their group. It was a really special experience. I couldn’t imagine it happening in Hungary, where we have a different pub culture.”
English pubs, or “public houses”, come in many varieties, from thatched-roof country versions to inns and taverns with lodging to modern places tarted up with beamed ceilings and old oak furniture. Some are centuries old with traditional names, such as the “Marquis of Granby”, the “George and Dragon” or the “Fox and Hounds”. Regulars refer to their “local”, which is probably near home or work, and performs an important social function, a place to meet and talk. It may have a particular beer and indoor sports such as darts, skittles or pool.
Whatever the guise, it should be cosy and convivial, with a good pint of bitter, some wholesome food, perhaps a roaring fireplace in winter, and presided over by a friendly landlord or publican.
This is the aim, or similar, at Budapest’s Pointer Pubs. They are named after the pointer breed of hunting dog, often called the English pointer, bred as gun dogs to find and point out the location of birds, and sometimes to find dead or wounded game after their fearless masters have blasted the defenceless creatures to kingdom come.
The five Pointer Pubs are at District II’s Margit körút, District VI’s Teréz körút, District VII’s Madách tér and two in District V, at Kecskeméti utca and the latest opening, in Váci utca. The partners are looking to open two or three more in Budapest and, a big step, one in Vienna within two years.
Váci utca is not fully decorated yet but the Pointers generally come fully adorned with flags, hunting prints and pictures of royalty (even “Pearly” kings and queens), Britannia, London and Bentleys.
“Hopefully what people find here is the same English culture that is found there, or in Ireland and Scotland, for that matter,” says Veress. “People can chill in an easy atmosphere. We want them just to feel OK and calm down. We aren’t a strict place. Sport is on the TV and we go for high quality in our drinks and food.”
“Pub grub” it is but presented in an attractive way. Breakfast is served all day – fried eggs, scrambled eggs or an omelette, all made with three eggs, and diners can pile on the optional extras of onions, cheese, mushrooms, bacon, sausage and ham.
Their full English breakfast is egg, sausage, bacon, baked beans, mushrooms, tomato and toast, and there are croissants and squeezed orange juice. Special offers are croissant and espresso or cappuccino, and an egg dish with three decilitres of orange juice.
Pizzas are prominent on the menu and come in three sizes, the standard 32 centimeres and the bigger 45- and 57-centimetre whoppers. There are 10 varieties, some of them the traditional Margarita, Hawaii, Salami and Four Cheese, but others perhaps a bit more exotic such as Rustic with salami, mozzarella, smoked cheese, mushroom and dried tomatoes, or BBQ Chic with chicken, oregano, smoked cheese and mozzarella.
These culminate in the Pointer Full Pizza, with ham, bacon, home-made sausage, onion, mozzarella, BBQ sauce and smoked cheese. The Diana has a sour cream base.
Other classic pub dishes are fish and chips, and hamburgers, the latter coming with a choice of fried cod, Angus beef or grilled chicken breast. Hungarian tastes are catered for with Gray Cattle Goulash Soup and Chicken Paprikash with egg dumplings. Roasted Knuckle is complemented with Bavarian cabbage and scalloped potatoes, and Roast Duck Leg comes with steamed cabbage and mashed potatoes.
The Budapest Times visited Váci utca and enjoyed a nicely presented and satisfactorily prepared Grilled Chicken Breast with salad and french fries. We marked down the Marinated Salmon with tomato jam and wasabi for next time.
Mention must be made of the draught beers: the Pointer Pubs’ own light, fresh and tasty Hunter’s Gold, delivered fresh from a small local brewery; the iconic Czech Pilsner Urquell; Bombardier, an English premium bitter from the Wells & Young’s Ltd. brewery in Bedford, UK; Hungary’s SABMiller-owned Dreher; and (needs no introduction) Guinness.
The wine card is exclusively Hungarian and lists eight whites, three rosés and six reds, but we added some sparkle with the bubbling Lelovits Gyöngybor from Villány. Locally brewed Doria cider and a dozen or so cocktails are another option.
The pub started to fill, with a good number watching the English Premier League football on the screens. We looked at the busy street scene: the many hop-on, hop-off buses; tourists on ridiculous Segways and three-wheeled scooters; the imposing “twin buldings” of the Klotild Palace, one beautifully renovated and the other blackened and awaiting some tender care; and pedestrians walking into lamp-posts as they studied their smartphones.
Districts II, V, VI, VII
Full English breakfast
Pizzas HUF 1690-2590 (standard size)
Fish and chips HUF 3490
Pub dishes HUF 1790-4890
Cocktails HUF 1290-2490
Wines HUF 2290-7690 (bottle)