Restaurant Review – The Gay HussarPosted on: 12 September 2011 by Alexander Hay
An evening of Hungarian delights at Soho's favourite render-vous for both politicians and journalists alike
Beyond the name, which evokes nervous giggles these days, Soho's presumably only Hungarian restaurant, the Gay Hussar (don't start) is also famed for being a haunt of journalists and politicians, especially in the private rooms upstairs, where many a plot has no doubt been hatched. Despite this, the atmosphere was pleasant and we were made very welcome by the staff who were both friendly and helpful.
Now, one other facet of the GH experience is its cost. Expect to pay around £45 a head per three course dinner, not including tip. We took advantage of a special offer on The Telegraph's Selected web site, which gives you discounts if enough of your fellow bargain hunters sign onto the same deal. This cut the cost no end, so our dinner came to the grand total of £36 for two. Meanwhile, a 3 course meal from the lunchtime menu (served between 12.15 and 14.15) will set you back £22 each, before you add drinks.
Once we were seated, the most apparent features were the many, many framed caricatures on the left hand side of the restaurant, care of regular (and Guardian cartoonist) Martin Rowson. Consisting mainly of politicians and journalists (ranging from Jon Snow to Glenda Jackson), they seemed to capture the essence of each diner with uncanny accuracy. Sometimes, this was an unnerving experience - Will Self glared out of his canvas with the dead-eyed stare of something that used to climb up trees to eat our ancestors. Roy Hattersley, meanwhile, radiated a toad-like malevolence.
This didn't put us off our starter, or the generous helping of bread and butter assigned to each table. The smoked pork sausage with horseradish was textured and tasteful, while the goose and pork pate had a subtle strength and blended its various flavours well.
For the main course, we had chicken in creamy paprika sauce and galuska (dumplings), and grilled sea bass with leek and potato cake.
The chicken was succulent and moist, while the sauce was tangy and rich. The galuska were also very filling and tasted good too. The fish was well cooked but with a sturdy mix of tastes, helped along by a nice side salad and a large, flavoursome potato cake.
Dessert was some nice ice cream and an apple strudel. The latter was very enjoyable, though my co-diner thought the cinnamon used in the recipe was too strong (I really liked it). We also each received a free glass of Hungaria Grand Cuvee, which was surprisingly refreshing and understated. We also had a bottle of fizzy mineral water, a Budvar and Earl Grey Tea which all went down very well indeed.
Two things to bear in mind, however. It's advisable to book your table at least 24 hours ahead, as demand can get quite pitched, especially on Saturday nights. Secondly, Hungarian food is actually akin to 'the best of British' cuisine, as my partner put it, so don't expect anything too exotic, especially if you frequent polski skleps and their similar range of dishes. Nonetheless, it was a great experience all round - though we'll have to wait for another special offer, or make our fortunes, before we go again. Senior hacks and politicos need only put the bill down on expenses.
The Gay Hussar is open for lunch between 12.15 and 14.30, and dinner between 17.30 and 22.45. For bookings, ring 0207 437 073, or e-mail at email@example.com
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