I recently discovered a new cocktail, the New York Sour, at Bar Chocolate on D’Arblay Street in Soho. For some reason, I drank more than one. It contains bourbon, lemon, sugar, egg white and, frighteningly, a red wine float. Having thought quite hard about it through the inevitable haze, I came to the conclusion that the New York Sour is a cocktail for someone who is pretending that they are drinking for fun, but is actually drinking to forget.


Aranyszarvas, 1013 Budapest, Szarvas tér. 1, Hungary

Really there is only one thing wrong with Aranyszarvas restaurant in Budapest and that is the fault of the European Parliament. Recently, a motion was passed to ban the chemicals routinely used every summer by the city council to kill off the monstrous mosquitoes which breed vociferously on the hot, humid banks of the Danube. This means that after a perfectly lovely evening on Aranyszarvas’s terrace, I write this lumpen and misshapen with huge, angry welts disfiguring my already not especially elegant legs. I look like a leper. Such are the lengths to which I will go for a good dinner.

Fortunately this was a very good dinner. Based on traditional Hungarian cooking, this restaurant drags an otherwise rather staid cuisine into the contemporary arena with huge success. I started with a duck liver cream with paprika caramel which was both sweet and smooth, with an almost citrusy freshness – you’d expect it to be horribly rich but it was light somehow, I suppose whipped with cream or perhaps with crème fraiche; almost like a mousse. Then followed a fabulous black pudding with chanterelles – three short lengths of succulent blood sausage, just the right quantity, and a scattering of lightly sautéed mushrooms. It was the side dishes that really sang though, since they so rarely do – clementine oil marinated courgette was a revelation. The courgette was still crunchy and the oil had a lighter, less overpowering flavour than you might expect, imparting just a hint of citrus and a bright freshness like that you find in cucumber. Pinched from other people: broccoli with anchovies and flaked almonds (genius, but then I think the addition of anchovies improves practically anything) and sautéed egg barley, which sounds revolting but was firm, nutty and incredibly moreish. We pondered about it for ages and came to the conclusion that they must cook up the barley first, drain it, then mix it with beaten egg and sauté it. I’d love to try it at home. I almost certainly won’t. The result if I’m wrong doesn’t really bear thinking about.