Horseplay, International

3. Budapest: Titanic jokes are excellent icebreakers

Our hunt for cheap, fancy food throughout Budapest.

We recently decided to move. But to nowhere in particular, so everything we own has to be transportable. But I’m not bloody Rose DeWitt-Bukater, I don’t just have some blokes to travel around with me carrying all my jewels and Picassos in those little shipping containers. I’m the only one who wants to carry my luggage, so I’ve got to keep it under 23 EU standard kilograms.

A lot of people thought that Rose bringing guys on a transatlantic cruise for the sole purpose of carrying her bags was excessive but really, she was just getting around that maximum luggage rule. If she brings four people to transport her personals but instructs them to only bring carry-ons for themselves, she gets an extra 90kg for corsets and hearts of the oceans and bloody ballet stuff.

anigif_original-641-1445966028-4.gifPeople in third class don’t care about all that, Rose. DULL.

 

But, my point is, a lot of things don’t make the cut when you’ve got 23KG for an indefinite amount of time. You don’t pack for fancy.

So, anyway, the first stop on our trip is Budapest. The Windy City! Everyday things in Budapest tend to be cheap. A pint (EU standard) costs 80p-£2 everywhere you go. Unless you want to be a big knob and go drink in The Four Seasons. But the food isn’t as simple. The restaurants are not cheap and initially, it wasn’t clear why. I just didn’t understand how beer could be so reasonable while the food was London-price. I thought we must be missing something. Do they just spot a couple of foreigners coming a mile off and chuck the expensive menus out? Or is there something else we’re doing wrong?

Then one day, a very funny, nouveau riche-type lady told us “yeah, you’re doing something wrong”.

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Then she told us about the Napi menu. Apparently, there is a way to eat cheaply in Budapest. She told us that all the fancy restaurants serve a set menu from 12pm-2pm every weekday and it costs anywhere from 900 HUF (£2.50) to about 2000 HUF (£5.60) for three courses! Which is substantially cheaper than it costs to buy things from a supermarket in Hungary. We were shocked SHOCKED.

The helpful lady had one more thing to add: “They have a dress code so make sure you wear something nice”.
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Even though the name ‘suitcase’ implies that you should fill the thing with suits, I didn’t. 

Oh well, she’s probably got some tuxedo of her sons knocking around that she can chuck my way, I presumed. I just had to poke the conversation in the right direction.

“I don’t think I have something nice. EU standard regulations and something”.

“Well, you better go buy something then. There’s plenty of shops around here. You’re not on a fantastic cruiseliner in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. You’re in a major city”

“Oh”

Just a quick heads up. We watched Titanic last night.

It turns out that I had something appropriate. A blue shirt that I purchased about a year ago. It was all I had but it was enough. That, with some trousers, meant that we were good to go.

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As you can see, Napi menus became our life. Monday-Friday every week, we’d be hitting the Napi. We’d go find a new fancy restaurant every day. We’d walk in, hover for a minute, then deduce that we should just seat ourselves. Then some bloke would have a go at us for not waiting at the front. Or, we’d walk in, just stand there waiting to be seated, then everyone would stare at us like we were big idiots. We never once figured that bit out.

Other than that, there was just one other problem: The food was a little…surprising. Out of three courses, one would usually be good but it was rare that they’d all be home runs.

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We’d go to these places where it looks like the first-class dining area of a fancy turn-of-the-century ship but then serve us something called ‘Water Meat Soup’.

Also, when they say set menu, they mean set bloody menu. Starter, main, and dessert. Nothing else. If you ask for water, the price of the whole thing can double. If you ask for a tap water, they say they don’t do it.

TOP TIP: Head to the bathroom in between courses and stick your mouth under the tap.

But we knew we just had to keep on keeping on. There must be a good Napi out there. Laura, me, and my shirt would try all the fancy restaurants in town. This ship wasn’t going down without a fight. 

We started getting better at it. We’d ask people, check the net, and we found a few that were nearly perfect. Sometimes two out of the three courses would be winners. Sometimes two and a half out of the three would be good but the place would smell weird. But you know what, I can be picky. Sometimes, all three courses would be great but something would go wrong. Like, one of the complimentary pistachios would be too hard to open. Or it’d be really warm when we enter the place and my glasses would get foggy for a second.

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Then one day, we found it. The perfect Napi menu. Goulash to start, some fancy sausages for main, then cheesecake for dessert. We were excited and we hurried in. But Good Christ, it was busy. A host greeted us and showed us to the last table – if you can call it that. It was so small. Like one of the ones with a little bowl of marbles on it that your Mum puts in the corner of the living room. Laura sat down first and then I tried to join her but there wasn’t really much room. I knew what I had to do. It was time to be a martyr.

“Listen, Laura. You’re going to have a great Napi in here. You’re gonna go on and you’re gonna have lots of Napis, and they’re gonna be the tits. You’re gonna die an old lady warm in bed”

“What the hell does that have to do with anything? Let’s just go somewhere else. There’s a Long John Silver’s next door”

“Don’t you do that, don’t say your good-byes. Not yet, do you understand me?”

“I think maybe we shouldn’t watch Titanic for a while”.

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