Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Gay Hussar: are you Hungary?

Tired of burnt pans and the endless washing up, I decided this year to eat out on Pancake Day. Hungarian Soho Square Staple The Gay Hussar was offering a special Shrove menu, and mentioned something about deep fried pancakes. I was sold.

Shrove Tuesday is traditionally the day that Christians use up all their food stuffs before the 40-day lent fast. Given the amount of ingredients it used, the Gay Hussar must have a very full pantry indeed.

This may be partly because the restaurant was empty when we arrived. The ambience was more like a library. My companion and I whispered conspiratorially while exchanging guilty glances, worried that a waiter may come and “shh” us. Towards the end of the evening it began to fill, but by then we were too distracted by the glorious food to notice.

The downstairs room is a cosy mix between a living room and train dining carriage. The waiters were friendly and delighted to talk about the food, wine and history of the restaurant. Being just south of Soho Square, it has seen its fair share of the highlife. The walls are adorned with caricatures famous politicians and journalists that have eaten there, a social circle it fully justifies.

Their pancakes are world away from the lemon and sugar creations soon to be stuck to kitchen ceilings throughout the UK. My deep-fried goulash-stuffed pancake was as hearty as any British stew and had a depth of flavour that belied its simple roots, although the veal itself was slightly overpowered by the sauce.

Our bottle of Tokaji Muscat Blanc powered through, however. Its floral nose, sweet start and dry finish cut through the heavy sauces. Hungarian wine is not exactly a staple of restaurant lists, or indeed supermarket shelves, but their white wines are often worth a risk.

For pudding I had the walnut pancakes, made famous by Budapest celebrated restaurant Gundel, after which the pudding is named. The dark chocolate sauce and walnut and rum filling were savoury enough to stop the dish being overwhelming, and the raisins gave short, sharp bursts of sweetness. After such a heavy main however, the second pancake could have easily been replaced by some light cream, to balance the plate. Chocoholics would doubtless disagree.

The menu was traditional, varied and reassuringly expensive. The only flaw I could find was that there was too much on the plate: too much thought, too much food and, sometimes, too many flavours. But in hearty cuisine this is not necessarily a bad thing and I left contented, feeling like I had prepared for a 40-day fast. (50% off you bill here)
0207 4370 973

2 Greek St, Soho, London. W1D 4NB

Gay Hussar on Urbanspoon   Square Meal

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