By Astrid Söderström
Grumpy is a little, two-storey café & restaurant in the heart of Budapest’s gastro hub of District 7, which stands out with its superb service and cosy atmosphere. The menu is as eclectic as the city itself, with options for breakfast, brunch, tapas and dinner, from a mix of cuisine from Hungary to France. In Grumpy, there is something for everyone and everyone is invited.
The bijou café is on Klauzal utca, within the reach of all city hustle and bustle but safely tucked away from it, neighbouring a greenish park area. It’s warm yellow lamps and atmosphere shines on the street, luring passers-by into its gentle buzz. The décor inside is colourful but simple, giving the place a home-like, living room ambiance. The owner’s pet cat, known for its grumpiness, models in the restaurant’s cartoonish yellow logo.
“Grumpy is the place that truly is me; it’s like coming home for me,” states the restaurant’s owner Sziszi on the website. She tells me that the café was founded mainly for herself, not for the customers, and that the name of the restaurant, Grumpy, comes from her long experience in customer service. She used to work on cruise ships around the globe, until resettling in Budapest in 2013, where she subsequently worked at the high-quality Hungarian restaurant Menza on Liszt Ferenc Square.
Both her experience and enjoyment of working in hospitality show in the way she runs the place. After Menza, Sziszi found the motivation to open the alternative breakfast place she now calls a ‘family business’, in October 2019. However, the first steps for the restaurant were uncertain since they were taken during the height of the pandemic. They struggled through with home delivery and now the business seems to be booming, which means 12-hour days for Sziszi.
Nevertheless, Sziszi and the other staff members never fail to greet old and new customers with a broad smile. The place works with an open-kitchen policy, where customers have access to Sziszi’s workspace, and she has immediate access to her clients. She promotes openness in other ways too, and the café is for example LGBTQI+ friendly. A place for working Grumpy is not, and it even brands itself as a ‘laptop free zone’. You’ll be served your coffee alongside a friendly chat or cooking sounds coming from the kitchen. Some unsuspecting guests might even be served a complementary shot of homemade palinka.
A menu that includes a little bit of everything, without focusing on a specific cuisine, might sound unappealing but that is not the case at Grumpy. It is refreshing to see in Budapest a menu that does not overwhelm you with its choices. The range is smartly put together, utilizes all ingredients to create as little waste as possible, and includes vegan, vegetarian, and meat options. Most choices, as far as the reviews and our own experience goes, are superb and mouth-watering, not to mention the affordable price. Some of the ingredients, such as meat, come from the owner’s father, who is a butcher in Fény utcai market, next to the Mammut shopping mall.
Grumpy has three breakfast menus to choose from, with all the basics covered: French breakfast (Continental), English breakfast (Big Boys’), and a healthier superfood option. In addition, the breakfast and brunch selection consist of toast, pastries, and cakes. The house specialty is definitely made-at-home soft croissants and the seasonal cakes, such as the balanced and juicy walnut cake. From brunch essentials, only fresh-pressed juice is missing but they make up for it in a satisfactory range of coffees.
For dinner, we got to sit at a street-side table with blankets and candlelight, while being served Transylvanian white wine. As appetizers, they offer goose and duck dishes, including duck liver, which is well suitable for a French-Hungarian fusion. The only appetizer option for vegetarians is the Tapas plate, which is a good but not mind-blowing selection of traditional antipasti from hummus to olives and home-made sour dough bread, another house specialty.
The mains vary from vegan tortilla to boeuf bourguignon and chicken tikka masala. The traditional Hungarian dish with oven-baked, layered potato with sausage and sour cream disappointed with its dryness. However, its close sibling, potato rosti with sour cream and salad, did not. Indeed, potato rosti is something that is simple but when done well, like they do, delicious. Another mention-worthy food is chili con carne, which was flavourful and filling. Overall, the main selection is full of dishes ranging from good to extraordinary, with a comforting cooked-by-grandma feeling.
After dinner, it is easy to stay just a little bit longer, enjoying the atmosphere and a cocktail. With the appetizers, main course, and drinks included, the bill will not exceed 20 euros per person. Overall, Grumpy is the kind of place you’ll want to come back to and are always welcome at.