The cold! Oh it’s got to me. The freezing air as soon as it hit my face numbed it. All I could think of was coffee or shots of Pálinka. We had frequent breaks in the kávéház of Budapest because it was a necessity. We stepped in to Café Gerbeaud in Pest one morning. A Dobos Torte, a Sissi Kave and cappuccino did its job.
The Dobos Torte is a Hungarian delicacy made up of layers of chocolate and buttercream sponge, finished with a glazed caramel top. The torte was not the best order in the café I suppose. I was comparing it to the kind of gorgeousness I had experienced in Demel in Vienna. I see that knowing smile if you have been within the portals of the wonderful Viennese cafe. Yet the Sissi kave was perfect, doused in Grand Marnier liqueur. The orange liqueur married beautifully with hints of cinnamon, cardamom and clove in the coffee that did justice to the beauty of the Austrian empress, Sissi, after which it’s named.
But a warning, the café is expensive. We paid 20 Euros but once in a while you know you have got to do what you got to do, right? Plus we were paying for the atmosphere of the place. It is old world, alright. The extensive wood panelling, ornate chandeliers derived from the architectural styles typically associated with Austria, wallpapered rooms, the Rococo stuccoed ceilings inspired by Louis XIV of France and tables that were sourced from the world fair in Paris. The style of the café is Gründerzeit, an architectural style that belonged to a 19th-century economic phase in Germany and Austria that preceded a great stock market crash.
The guy who started Gerbeaud in 1858 was Henrik Kugler who had confectionery in his blood you could say. He travelled through 11 European cities that included Paris where he met Emil Gerbeaud, a Swiss confectioner who was born in Budapest. Kugler invited Gerbeaud to Budapest to make him his associate and Gerbeaud took over the store.
There you go, a peek into a Budapest coffeehouse.