Thursday 21 June 2012


the entrance hall of the Jókai Mór summer villa, Lake Balaton, Hungary

With the delightful prospect of the imminent arrival of friends from England, to be followed by planned trips to Krakow in Poland and Lucca in Italy, we find ourselves with such pleasurable demands on our time over the next few weeks that, as such, there will be little opportunity over for posting, responding to comments and, of course, visiting the many blogs which we so enjoy and which have become so much a part of our lives.

We trust that you will excuse our absence. We shall, however, much look forward to our return when we very much hope that you will be able to join us for our next post on Monday, 23rd. July. Until then, we send you all our warmest wishes. 

Monday 18 June 2012

A Private Members' Club

We were to have met at 5pm. Our friend is a founder member of The Club and we had been invited to discuss joining its elite membership.

below the street sign a plaque commemorates the writer and dramatist, Sándor Bródy

We know the area well. The Jazz Club, Hungarian Radio and the Italian Institute are all within the immediate vicinity. The National Museum is there, on whose flights of steps the poet Petófi once famously declared the start of the War of Independence on 15th. March, 1848. The surrounding cobbled streets are home to a variety of gracious villas and palaces, dating back to the great nineteenth century building boom of Pest.

So where was Brody House?

only a very discreet sign to the right of the entrance door announces Brody House

There surely, we felt, could be no mistaking the street, named after the famous Hungarian writer and dramatist, Sándor Bródy. True, Budapest can hide its secrets well, of that we are fully aware, but, in this case an underground bunker would, in all likelihood, have been more visible.

At 5.45pm we abandoned all hope of our friendly assignation and headed for home. Of course, had we been equipped with Smartphones, Satellite Navigation Systems, or even a street number, we might not have had a wasted journey. But, perverse and foolish, oft we stray!

looking from the hall door of Brody House towards the fine, cantilevered staircase

the view back from the hall towards the street entrance - an example of C19 Pest architecture

It was therefore with a heightened sense of excitement that, two weeks later, we rearranged our Brody House meeting. This time, aided by a Google Map and the full address, there would be no mistake.

And so it was, feeling rather like Howard Carter on discovering the tomb of Tutankhamun, we pushed open the heavy street door and entered the secret world which is Brody House.

the main Reception Desk is situated on the second floor of Brody House - a steep climb

looking from the window of an upper floor into the inner courtyard so typical of Budapest

In a decorating style described by its owners and designers, William Clothier and Peter Grundberg, as 'rough luxe', peeling plaster is overhung with vast pieces of contemporary art, floorboards are bare, hi-tech sound systems sit alongside ancient 'Bush' radios, the antique, the modern, the glamorous and the commonplace are all combined with the skill of individuals who are clearly talented in the visual and creative arts and who give new meaning to 'shabby chic'.

a second floor drawing room where we sipped iced cucumber water on a hot summer's day

Established in 2009, Brody House has received rave reviews as 'the coolest place to stay in Budapest'. But it is so much more than somewhere to rest one's head at night. A bohemian members' club, it is a twenty-first century hub for showcasing the Arts. A packed social calendar provides a forum for 'open-minded, creative, inventive and socially curious' people to meet and to exchange ideas. And one can always book a room if the hour becomes late.

one of the guest bedrooms at Brody House - an example of 'rough luxe'

an 'unfitted' bathroom much loved by the English in their country houses 

Our friend is on the membership committee where the fate of prospective members is sealed. We have declared ourselves to be the only Hattatts in Britain, possibly Europe too, to be of sound mind, though some might doubt that, never to have been made bankrupt, and we do not eat peas with our knives. Will we next enter Brody House with membership cards?

Monday 11 June 2012

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

It is an unwritten but well observed rule that one is not invited to dinner at anyone's house in England for the food. Indeed, we can recall several dinner parties where the food was atrocious, burnt to a cinder, inedible or, quite simply, did not appear at all. But this matters not a jot, since on such occasions, what is offered to eat is far less important than how it is eaten and this, in turn, is far less significant than the conversation which accompanies each course.

Our own dinner party culinary calamities are legion. A spicy chicken main course, the name of which long escapes us, when Cayenne was mistakenly used in place of Paprika resulted in our guests attempting to put out the flames in their throats with copious quantities of wine. We have never known a merrier gathering. 

And whilst chewing with an open mouth, pointing at fellow diners with the flatware, and eating pudding [which in Britain should never be confused with dessert] with a spoon are all disasters of English dining etiquette, there is nothing more guaranteed to make our own dinner invitations cease to be issued than the inability to amuse, entertain or delight at the dinner table.

an amusing napkin, never a serviette, recently photographed at Brody House

Our friend, Anthony, is charm personified. Capable of elevating the dullest of tomato salads to food fit for the gods, his perfect manners, impeccable taste, witty conversation and sparkling humour ensure that his social calendar is never empty. And so too our American-Italian friends who, with glass of wine in one hand, canapé in the other, can 'work' a room with the professionalism of the captain of an ocean going liner navigating the smallest of harbours. Little wonder that the Marchesas, Princes and Princesses of Italian aristocracy vie with each other to entice them to the tables of their palazzos.

And whilst one will never go hungry in Hungary, since dining is given due deference, cooking is cherished, and eating is enjoyed by one and all, a hushed silence, rather than gales of laughter, is, alas, more likely to reign over the goose liver than not.

Jó étvágyat!

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Double Dutch and Daisies

We had not expected our two Dutch friends to arrive with anything. It was enough, more than enough, that they should take time out from their busy lives and work to fly from Amsterdam to visit us here in Budapest over a long weekend just past.

detail of the daisy [translated into Dutch as 'madeliefje'] vase, a gift from our Dutch friends

But what excitement and joy when they appeared in the drawing room with two large, mysteriously shaped packages which, we were later to know, had been carefully nursed on laps throughout the flight to ensure a safe arrival.

First, an outer wrapping of pretty papers which, discarded, tantalising resulted in layer upon layer of protective 'bubble' wrap which, in turn, the last shreds eagerly torn away, revealed the most beautiful and thoughtfully chosen cups and saucers and, as though they were insufficient in themselves, a further gift of the most handsome and wonderful 'daisy' vase.

two exceedingly pretty 'Limoges' cups and saucers of a floral pattern
the 'daisy' vase catches the eye displayed on a corner of a bookcase in the Morning Room

The cups and saucers, of the finest porcelain, herald from Limoges and date from around the 1930s. Roses abound, set upon a grey coloured background upon which there is a further impression of flowers, the whole effect one of lightness and dancing movement. Held to the light the cups become translucent - a further delight. Too precious to be used we shall, on special occasions, as the days darken, in the manner of Jane Austen characters, sip hot chocolate from them on winter nights and think fondly of our friends, absent but present.

the 'Limoges' cups waiting on a table in the Drawing Room to be filled with hot chocolate!

And how well they know us. For the vase, perfect in every way for the Morning Room, is exactly our kind of thing. Manufactured in the town of Gouda in the mid-twentieth century by Plateelbakkerij Zuid-Holland [PZH] and marked 'Royal Zuid Holland', the pattern 'Sinia' is rare, making this very much a collectors' item. The trademark,  'little house', stamped on the base, depicts the Gate of Lazarus, the stone doorway of the old leper infirmary of 1609.

the maker's marks are clearly visible on the base of the Dutch daisy vase

Today, a wet morning, which matches our sadness at the departure of our friends, the vase's sunshine flowers, against an intense cobalt blue criss-crossed in gold, dispel any gloom and cheer away the clouds.

How fortunate are we.