Often described as the best coffee house in the world, the New York Café in Budapest is the most inspiring of places for writers, artists, travellers and tourists. Originally built in 1894, the building was the headquarters for the New York Life Assurance Company and later a bank, before falling into disrepair after the Second World War. Renovated by the Boscolo Hotel brand, the café reopened to great fanfare in 2006 with the true beauty of the building brought vividly back to life. The gilded interior almost defies description especially the ceiling frescoes of Gusztav Mannheimer and Ferenc Eisenhut that hark back to the Renaissance, and the gold plated stuccoes, which adorn the structures’ marble columns.
Palatial and lavish in equal measure, the interior evokes a sense of creativity and one is gripped by a sense of the buildings provenance. Thoughts turn wistfully to Hemmingway writing notes whilst gazing out of the window across the Boulevard, or Editors of Nyugat Magazine eagerly checking proofs as they flitted up and down the staircases to their offices above, or artists sketching in thick notebooks as they sipped their coffee. Romanticised perhaps, but when you sit in the Café, your are struck by the buildings legacy, by Hungary’s chaotic political past and a feeling of relief that the city now benefits from more gentle times and the breath taking beauty and purpose of the building is fully restored.
Open to the public as well as Hotel guests, the Café provides everything from afternoon tea to fine dining in the adjacent restaurant. No matter what the purpose of a visit, the atmosphere and service combine to create the most memorable of experiences. The Boscolo team have completed the most sympathetic of restorations and have captured the essence of the building, its history and cultural contribution for future generations. I really wish I had taken more photographs during my trip, but I hope to return before the end of the year to soak up the spirit of this beguiling, magical place.