The Four Seasons in Budapest is situated in one of the world’s most spectacular Art Nouveau buildings, the Gresham Palace. Situated on the Danube River, in Budapest’s most premium fashion districts, the palace has one of the best views in the city and one of the world’s most premium restaurants.
The Gresham Palace site originally housed a neo-classic palace called the Nako House, designed by József Hild and built in 1827 by wholesale merchant Antal Deron. The London Gresham Life Assurance Company bought the Nako House in 1880 as its foreign headquarters. In 1903 Gresham decided to demolish the Nako House and build a new venue called the Gresham Palace, designed by Zsigmond Quittner. It opened in 1907.
Kollazs Brasserie & Bar lies in one of its corner halls, and is a hallmark of the building’s spectacular art nouveau style. The restaurant’s name translates into ‘collage’ in Hungarian, and refers to the art technique where artists create art in a free-style manner, using a variety of materials. This, ultimately, captures the restaurant’s essence: it is itself, a collage of ideas, styles and manners. At once beautiful and ornate, lined with gold and bronze, it evokes the aura of a luxury restaurant fit only for a venue like the Four Seasons. Yet it is relaxed, the atmosphere inside casual, the energy almost of a bistro, rendering it more akin to a New York brasserie from bygone years. This collage demeanour captures the Four Seasons Budapest more broadly, a hotel that includes a bakery, cocktail bar, panoramic terrace that overlooks the Danube, and a grill kitchen. One can find all that they need in this luxurious hotel.
The menu of Kollasz includes traditional Hungarian dishes (foie gras of course, and meat heavy affairs like marrow bone, Wiener schnitzel, paprika catfish, steaks, etc) and also more French style dishes (Nicoise salad, croque monsoir, traditional onion soup, oysters), with also hints of Italian (mushroom tagliatelle, various grilled fish).
These dishes are, however, presented in a modern manner; they are not your typical traditional fare. The foie gras, which we enjoyed for our starter after two glasses of Hungarian sparkling wine, was presented beautifully. Beyond a mere foie gras terrine, it came with a roll of dried fruit, stewed peaches, beetroot cream (which was divine), and toasted brioche. The foie gras was by far the best that I have ever tasted so far – and definitely the best in Budapest. Well worth ordering.
For the second starter, we decided to try a main to share before our – main main. This was largely because the main’s can either be chosen from the international a la carte menu or one can make their own from the grilled meat selection. Given that the salted sea bass was an option, and we could choose our own garnishes and sauce, we decided to share the main between two, and enjoy a first a la carte main as a second starter.
We went for the ‘Corsica’, a delectable dish of sea bream, black mussels, prawn and octopus that quickly became a favourite dish of the trip. Presented immaculately yet artistically in a bowl, it represented a light sea-food stew yet was more dry than a stew (the sauce was sparse, which worked well to showcase the delicate baby octopus and mussels), rendering it perfect for a light summer main.
For the main, we had decided to follow our waiter’s recommendations of trying the sea-bass baked in salt. We paired it with the sautéed spinach and the grilled mushrooms, and decided to veto a sauce as our waiter promised we didn’t need it. The presentation of the sea-bass is fantastic as always – impressive in its salt crust that the waiter cracked and removed in front of us (a performance peace that never fails to impress). I noted that this was slightly larger than the Four Seasons in Prague, and as expected, it offered a very different style of dish – a testimony to the diversity of the Four Seasons hotels across the globe. The portion of sea bass was of a decent size, and the garnishes were offered in abundance. The fish was sumptuous and soft, juicy and fresh. The garnishes were surprisingly excellent, the grilled mushrooms large and flavoursome, whilst the spinach was aptly creamy.
For the wine, we enjoyed Grof Buttler, EGRI Chardonnay, 2013 to go with it, as advised by our waiter, an excellent recommendation, and at a surprisingly reasonable price.
The highlight of our meal and day however, was the exquisite dessert: The French toast. Our waiter had insisted that we try it, which I wasn’t so keen on. I have never particularly enjoyed French toast, and there was no need to try it at the Four Seasons. How wrong I was!
This was by far the most delicious dessert I have ever tasted. The French toast (a deep fried strawberry shortcake) was light yet pleasantly dense with a creamy, sponge, melt-in-your-mouth consistency. It was not, however, overtly sweet, and instead quite subtle in its sugariness. The toasted topping with the caramelised glaze offered it a slight sweetness that fed through the rest of the sponge, whilst the crumble that lay around it gave it a crunch to balance it out. The raspberry ice-cream was perfectly cool and fresh, giving an edge to the toast, whilst the caramelised strawberries gave it a well balanced dose of fruitiness. I hadn’t planned to finish the dessert, but I did, as did my guest, and our compliments were sent to the chef. You must, must try it.
After enjoying two glasses of the typical Hungarian Tokaji wine – which was better than expected at the Four Seasons – we had the arta, Late Harvest Furmint, Tokaj, Hungary, 2010 Lenkey – we parted ways with the beautiful restaurant.
Our experience at Kollasz was what we would have hoped for at a Four Seasons dining institution. The food was of the most exceptional, highest calibre – it boasted the freshest ingredients, most immaculate presentation, and delectable taste. The staff were attentive, courteous and welcoming. The venue was both elegant and relaxing, stylish and casual. It was an excellent lunch and one that I hope to enjoy as a dinner sometime soon.
KOLLÁZS BRASSERIE & BAR
Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest
Széchenyi István tér 5-6.