Kolegerszky, Wampetics, Gundel - The world of Városliget's restaurants

Hungarian version of the article: Kolegerszky, Wampetics, Gundel – A városligeti éttermek világa

Written by: Péter Bodó

June 12, 2022 at 10:00 AM

For more than two hundred years, Városliget has been a popular excursion destination for people from Pest, where the gates of some restaurants have always been open to people who are tired of walking and boating. The golden age of the Liget fell by the time of the millennium: the millennium exhibition of 1896 was attended by nearly six million visitors, and accordingly catering services switched to a higher level.

From the end of the 18th century, more and more people started going on trips and the area became popular as a holiday and entertainment venue on the suggestion of Judge János Boráros. At the beginning of the next century, buskers also moved in under the trees of the Liget, and Lipót Grossinger, the first caterer known by name, was given the right to measure wine in 1810, but was also obliged to set up a carousel. János Kratochwill opened a café in 1830, and Fülöp Tauber opened a dance hall in 1838. By the middle of the century, we could already read about several restaurants in the press, but names are not yet mentioned.

Restaurant in Városliget around 1850 (Source: Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism)

We can only know the name of the restaurant dedicated to the Chimney Sweep [A Kéményseprőhöz in Hungarian] from its early period, which started in 1858, but it can be assumed that the Bródy family from Óbuda stood behind it. It was later taken over by Ferenc Ebner, under whom it flourished in the 1890s, by taking advantage of the fever of the millennium. He expanded the small building on Aréna (today Dózsa György) Road with a huge garden, so that it could accommodate up to eight hundred people. Despite its small size, it had architectural values, such as the so-called corner reinforcements and the accentuated cornices above the doors and windows in Neo-Renaissance style.

The Kéményseprő [Chimney Sweeper] in the 1930s (Source: Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism)

The success is perhaps also due to the owner's famous relatives: his half-brother was the painter Lajos Deák-Ébner, but only more distant threads attached him to Ferenc Deák, the "Wise Man of the Nation". At the beginning of the 20th century, there was another change of management, in 1910 it was taken over by György Waltz, from whom the restaurant was transferred to János Gráf at the end of the twenties. The building was demolished in the late 1970s and replaced by a hotel built in 1990.

Kolegerszky Kiosk was a popular garden restaurant (Source: Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism)

The Liget was later a paradise for garden restaurants, among them the Kolegerszky Kiosk - about which András Szántó also writes in the August 2014 issue of the Budapest magazine, A Városliget, amilyen volt és amilyen lehetne [The Városliget, What It Was and What It Could Be]. It was actually remodelled from the Waterworks Pavilion of the Millennium Exhibition and from 1899 operated in this kiosk next to Királydomb, first as a restaurant and then as a café. It lived its heyday under Viktor Kolegerszky in the 1910s and although it still had many owners after that, people remembered this name. However, between the two world wars, Vilmos Godt also managed it with a very good sense and restored restaurant services. The small building was eventually demolished due to the construction of the 1937 World's Fair pavilion.

Floor plan of the Francia Étterem [French Restaurant] (Source: Zoltán Bálint: Az ezredéves kiállítás architektúrája [The Architecture of the Millennium Exhibition], 1897)

Many innkeepers moved to the Városliget for the Millennium Exhibition in 1896, and their restaurants, like most of the exhibition pavilions, were built for a temporary purpose. Their designers, however, were among the most renowned architects. Ignác Alpár's work was, for example, the Balaton inn of Károly Trattner, and Géza Aladár Kármán and Gyula Ullmann prepared the plans for the Drexler restaurant and the Franczia restaurant. The latter is particularly well-executed: it is worthy of its name in the French Baroque style, which can also be seen in its floor plan, mass system and façade. Stairs led up to its wide terrace with arched stairs, and through a gate that opened in the central axis of the façade, guests entered a huge hall. Above the gate, typically baroque oval windows let the light in, and the façade closed at the top with segmented arched plastic ledges. The two sides of the building were joined by multi-storey wings crowned with a mansard roof, complemented by a balcony and a high gable. The façade was decorated with rich stucco ornaments to match the style. Unfortunately, like most of the pavilions, this one was demolished after the exhibition.

The Francia Étterem in a contemporary photo (Source: FSZEK Budapest Collection)

There were also a good number of restaurants in and around Liget, welcoming hungry visitors at all times of the year. It can be seen from the research of András Szántó that the Aréna Nagyvendéglő (in a two-storey, Neo-Renaissance villa), the Bácska restaurant, the Kék Flaskó restaurant, the Pálmaliget pension and the restaurant and the Putzer Restaurant were all close to each other on Aréna Road. But also, for example, the Mémosz Általános Fogyasztási Szövetkezet [General Consumption Cooperative] had a restaurant here, and towards the inside of the grove - opposite the castle of Vajdahunyad - also the Capital City had one.

The pavilion of the Capital City was also converted for the purpose of a restaurant (Source: Fortepan / Budapest Archives. Reference No.: HU.BFL.XV.19.d.1.09.026)

The latter was originally built as a show pavilion for the Millennium exhibition by Sándor Wellisch and Gyula, but the iron-pavilion was converted for catering and rented out after the ceremonies. It was a respectable 1,900 square feet, but when its garden was opened, about 2,500 people could sit at a table. Its most famous tenant was Ignác Weingruber, who also set up a children's playground next to the restaurant, and the music was provided by military and police bands.

The Vadászkert [Hunting Garden] Restaurant in the 1970s (Source: Fortepan / No.: 113176)

The restaurant, known as the Zöld Vadász [Green Hunter], was located on the other side of the grove, in the 1890s it was run by the circus owner Barokaldi. It was demolished in 1925 due to the construction of Kacsóh Pongrác Road. Not far from this, on the corner of Hermina Road and Erzsébet királyné Road, people could enter the Hungária Garden, which also had a huge garden and a popular bowling alley also does not stand today. The Trieszti Nő, on the other hand, is still in the service of hospitality to this day, although its name and the appearance of the building have also changed. The entrance to the classicist-style, ground-floor restaurant was originally opened under a portico crowned with a triangular tympanum. Its name was changed to a Vadászkert [Hunting Garden] in the second half of the 20th century, and today Trófea Grill operates in the building with a new upper floor.

The Wampetics restaurant in the first half of the 1890s (Source: Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism)

Gundel, arguably the most famous restaurant in Városliget, also welcomes guests to this day. In its place, in the end of the 1860s, the restaurant of János Klemens operated, who rented the building with a tympanum resembling a rural classicist mansion from the Zoo. There was a great turning point in 1889, when Ferenc Wampetics took over its operation and flourished into the most upscale restaurant of his time. An omnibus transported guests from the inner city, who were greeted by cheerful music. In the highly successful operetta Béla Zerkovitz's Csókos asszony, the well-known hit Éjjel az omnibusz tetején [Night at the Top of the Omnibus], which evokes the atmosphere of the Liget, it is sang: "The band played in Wampetics ”. But it was also popular to listen to the song "A Wampeticsba járok vacsorázni és hallgatom a katonazenét" [“I’m Going to Wampetics for Dinner and Listening to Military Music”].

The garden of the Wampetics restaurant around 1900 (Source: Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism)

The successful enterprise outgrew the old walls in a few years, so in 1894 Ferenc Wampetics built a new Neo-Renaissance restaurant at his own expense, according to the plans of Ervin Bauer. The ground floor is enlivened by line art, and the arch of the window openings is followed by a so-called quadration imitating regular stones. The great hall was designed upstairs, the significance of which is indicated by the ornate twin windows in the common box on the façade. In their apron, a renaissance puppet railing runs along, and above the openings, plant ornaments covered the facade, all the way to the main ledge. The slightly protruding protrusion in the middle of the building - the so-called risalit - is also accentuated by an ornate mansard roof.

The Gundel Restaurant in 1916 (Source: Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism)

Ferenc Wampetics retired after more than twenty years and chose Károly Gundel as his successor, to whom he handed over the restaurant in 1910. He was not only a talented businessman and a creative food inventor blessed with exceptional taste, but also a prolific writer, whose works are the cornerstones of the gastronomic literature. His name has become a concept, and his restaurant is still the culmination of the hospitality profession that has characterized the Városliget for two hundred years.

Cover photo: The Franczia Restaurant (Source: FSZEK Budapest Collection)


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