…on a budget. When I travel I unashamedly plan everything around food – whether I’m heading to my favourite cuisine or not -, with the sole aim of eating the best for the least. In an ideal world, one where I have those money trees from the Sims, I would holiday every year in San Sebastian. This small Spanish city boasts the highest concentration of Michelin starred restaurants in the world. The super-concentration of amazing places to feast has meant that even the standard non-starred spots are still quite frankly, the dog’s bollocks. Or so I’m told, alas I’ve never been: still effectively a student, I have the spending power of a penguin in a suit.
Due to this predicament, I have become thrifty in my dining experiences, and not wanting to sacrifice quality adds another dimension to the challenge. I’m not much of a linguist so I’m also limited to popular tourist destinations where I can get by on frantic waving and determined pointing. So my holidays, ultimately, are in the same spots as everyone else who go for cheap pilsner, fun and a bit of something different: Eastern Europe.
This May I went to Budapest with my man-friend (£72 return if you book now – flight not the man) and we ate really well. Petrus, a Bib Gourmand with three courses for £22, was the highlight (Konyha a close second). For those £22, the cost for two at Five Guys, I had the best steak tartare I have ever laid eyes on and an incredible squid, Parma ham and beetroot salad. Plus a cocoa number to rival River Café’s ‘Chocolate Nemesis’.
The best part of all of this isn’t the price, the beauty of the city or even the food that left me so satisfied that I accidentally walked out with my jeans unbuttoned…it was the fact that we found this place within hours of hitting the tarmac. And that’s the great thing about today’s hyper-connectivity . In a completely new city where we knew no-one, we found ourselves eating in what’s considered a local gem. Ten, maybe even five, years ago you relied on what you researched before you went, what your Lonely Planet guide told you, and what friends recommended. Now, with wifi everywhere, smartphones lining every back pocket, and data roaming charges all but disappearing, the possibilities are endless. Or at least as endless as your patience for scrolling through Vice’s Munchies, Tripadvisor and the like.
But although the ‘classically’ best meal was found this way, word of mouth held its ground – my sister recommended Bors GasztroBar. This place produces the holy grail of a sausage sandwich; Mangalica (a super hairy Hungarian pig), onion, cheese, baguette. I cannot fault it; it was rich, meaty, succulent, and saucy and I’m genuinely still upset that I agreed to share it.
But whether it’s Michelin Guide or a hostel hot-spot, Budapest had some tremendous offerings for the tight of purse; and if you’re going to holiday anywhere, you may as well go where the beers are flowing and the pigs are hairy.