The chic little restaurant on Nagymező utca differentiates itself clearly from the rest by offering an exclusive selection of hand-picked Hungarian wines, and it’s likely to become a favourite spot for wine connoisseurs due to its cosy atmosphere, exceptional, quality bistro kitchen and good price-value ratio.
As theatres and operas close their curtains for the day and the mass of satisfied spectators storm the streets, the N28’s golden hour begins. The small wine bar and bistro kitchen is one of the hottest addresses this autumn for having a glass of wine and a bite to eat after the evening show.
Organic and hand-picked wine selection
And what makes the casually elegant restaurant the place to go? It’s their wide selection of organically produced Hungarian wines. N28 serves the best drops from 22 wineries and also operates as a wine cellar.
The Szentesi and Barta wine producer families are the restaurant owners. The Barta family produces world-class Tokaj wines on 28 hectares, in the best spots of Mád. The Szentesi wine regions are near the Velence lake in Nadap, Sukoró and Pázmánd, and around the Etyek wine region. The winery dedicates itself to the cultivation of ancient Hungarian grapes such as the “Vörös Dinka”, the “Black Muscat” or the “Tihany Blue”.
These varieties have almost been forgotten since the phylloxera pandemic of the 19th century, which struck the Hungarian wine stock especially hard. Their cultivation is complicated and less profitable but the Szentesi family is committed to their unique taste, which comes from the continuation of long traditions. They produce exactly 1000 bottles each year, a part of them filled in half-litre bottles, so that the exclusive wines may be enjoyed by possibly even more consumers.
Barta and Szentesi share the same philosophy about cultivation that must protect the environment and save resources, and are committed to a particularly traditional and natural way of winemaking. These are the conditions that every winery has to meet in order to make it to N28’s wine card, as Kati Szentesi explains.
“Our selection is not that large but it’s really fine and exquisite: only Hungarian wines, no mainstream, all of them personal favourites,” she says. According to Szentesi, wines in N28 are not too complicated either. Since, as Anna Pallaghy adds: “Everybody should be able to find a wine here that is right for their taste, their food and their mood.”. She and her husband are both engaged in the wine bar too.
Cosy and elegant
It was these two ladies who moved the long-planned project forward. As Pallaghy tells us, they began looking for the right spot for N28 in 2019: “We wanted to settle in a place that is very frequented and close to culture, and we got lucky in Nagymező utca.” Although when the coronavirus pandemic struck, the project was put on ice for a while. A couple of infection waves later, as Pallaghy puts it, “the constellations were finally right” and N28 could open its doors at the end of July.
The interior design has a cosmopolitan vibe. Among its black shelves that house bottle next to bottle, its Art Deco tile elements and wall decorations you will feel like you are spending the night in a global metropolis. However, the N28 does not feel sterile; it is warmed by its cosiness. It meets the criteria perfectly for housing a casual meeting with family or friends.
Szentesi and Pallaghy wanted their winemaking philosophy to appear in the bar’s design as well, so they used organic materials such as wood and modern leaf motifs. The large window fronts let in a lot of natural light and offer a view of the Operetta Theatre just across the street.
As long as the weather is right, guests may also enjoy the busy atmosphere of Nagymező utca from the restaurant’s exterior terrace.
Great bistro kitchen concept
Although wine is obviously the centre of attention in N28, culinary desires are not being left unattended either. Usually you will only be supplied with a couple of breadsticks and olives in other wine bars, whereas N28 has a bistro kitchen that is fairly elaborate for its size and makes sure – while not aspiring to offer fine dining – that even the highest standards are met in terms of quality and presentation.
The owners took their time planning the menu card: “We have tried many different dishes over the span of two months. We are all very passionate about eating and we only wanted to have the best things on our menu,” Pallaghy explains. A small but fine menu emerged from the process, containing a few cold appetisers and snacks, a handful of warm main dishes and two or three desserts. Not so much for when you are really hungry, rather just for enjoying the taste – which is in harmony with the local wines and atmosphere.
The goat cheese salad with olives is a solid choice, accompanied by the wine “Zengő” of the Szentesi house, among others. “We always have two or three wine suggestions for each and every dish,” Szentesi tells us. She is continuously working on educating the whole team so that every employee has a comprehensive knowledge of the individual characteristics of each and every wine that they stock. N28 also offers wines in tasting size, namely 0.05 litres. “This enables our guests to try several wines and pick the one that suits them best.”
Even if the backbone of the menu is built from Hungarian ingredients, it also contains some exotic fishes such as Spanish gambas al pil pil with delicious scampi, or a superfood salad with avocado, chickpeas, quinoa and pomegranates.
Not only for theatre nights
While the ambiance and the selection offer a perfect symbiosis for an evening date, N28 does not want to limit its operations to only this time of the day. They are already open at 11 before lunchtime, so that exhausted shoppers from the neighbouring Andrássy út or business people looking for an exciting background for their conversation are able to walk in.
In the late mornings or early afternoons N28 offers its selection of Hungarian sparkling wines, which are just as unique as their wine selection. You can also find the bottles from the wineries Szentesi and Barta next to many others. The Barta house offers a sparkling wine made from the old Hungarian white wine variety Furmint, which has a fruity light note but still lays a strong foundation – just the right choice to move forward with your business negotiations. N28 is planning to introduce a business lunch special.
Besides the usual entertainment offers, N28 also hosts some events, where interested participants may learn more about wines. Besides the wine tastings, which present the old Hungarian grape varieties, for example, the producers represented in the bar’s selection also get the chance to regularly host new wine introduction events. It’s not decided yet whether these events will take place in English as well as Hungarian. “According to our experience, the foreign guests are especially open to familiarise themselves with our wine selection and especially with old Hungarian wine varieties,” Szentesi believes.
N28 Wine and Kitchen is a place for wine connoisseurs and those who would like to become ones. The selection of Hungarian wines is special even by Budapest standards, and it introduces the visitor to the niche of Hungarian organic wine farming and sparkling wine cellars. The interior design and the service make each visit a special occasion.
N28 is a good choice for smaller or larger parties too. At the end of the year many businesses are looking for a good place for their team Christmas party or other events – N28 can offer an upper floor area for such occasions, thanks to the recent refurbishing.
N28 WINE AND KITCHEN
Budapest, District VI, 28 Nagymező utca
Open daily 11am-11pm
Reservations: (+36) 70 659-4312
See the website at n28.hu.
Appetisers: HUF 2190-4160
Main dishes: HUF 2890-4860
Desserts: HUF 1340-1440