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Hungarian cuisine leaves hearty afterglow

THE NOVOHRAD (New Castle) region, boasting the greatest concentration of castles in Europe, covers the southern part of central Slovakia and the northern part of Hungary. While the region is dominated in Slovakia by the town of Lučenec, Hungarian cuisine, heavy on pork and spice, dominates the table fare.
The newly-opened Novohrad restaurant under the Bratislava castle brings the region's fiery cuisine to the capital. My friend and I chose to explore it on a rainy Monday evening.
Not overly fond of hot and spicy, I went for the light and simple cibuľačka (onion soup), enriched by diced smoked cheese that formed a mass at the bottom of the bowl. Thinking I had let the first spoonful cool sufficiently, I took a bold sip. A fire filled my mouth, and my flapping arms brought a surprised look from my table companion.


A TASTE of Novohrad cuisine in Bratislava.
photo: Ján Svrček

Novohrad Restaurant

Where: Zámocká 3
Open: 11:00-24:00
Tel: 02/5463-0444
English menu: Coming soon
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 9 out of 10

THE NOVOHRAD (New Castle) region, boasting the greatest concentration of castles in Europe, covers the southern part of central Slovakia and the northern part of Hungary. While the region is dominated in Slovakia by the town of Lučenec, Hungarian cuisine, heavy on pork and spice, dominates the table fare.

The newly-opened Novohrad restaurant under the Bratislava castle brings the region's fiery cuisine to the capital. My friend and I chose to explore it on a rainy Monday evening.

Not overly fond of hot and spicy, I went for the light and simple cibuľačka (onion soup), enriched by diced smoked cheese that formed a mass at the bottom of the bowl. Thinking I had let the first spoonful cool sufficiently, I took a bold sip. A fire filled my mouth, and my flapping arms brought a surprised look from my table companion.

"Is it really that spicy?" he asked.

But in this case spice played no role - instead it was the cheese that had burned the inside of my mouth and left me with what felt like no taste buds. So much for the restaurant review, I thought, but luckily my friend volunteered to help me ghost-write a vicarious review of his food.

Thoroughly engrossed in his cesnačka (creamy garlic soup), he admired the loaf of bread in which the soup had been served, which came equipped with bread handles on the sides and the top. He also enjoyed my cibuľačka after blowing the fire out of it, despite having problems separating the sticky cheese from the spoon and the interior of the bowl.

The restaurant menu lists around 30 Novohrad preparations of pork, beef, poultry and fish. Many bear interesting names, such as Tanier Ohnivák (The Plate of Fire, spicy pork with potato pancakes), Sen starej dievky (The Spinster's Dream, roasted pork cutlet baked with roquefort cheese and cream), Zbojnícky mešec (The Thief's Pouch, a pork slice filled with sausage and vegetables) or Mäso babky bylinárky (Meat of Granny the Herbalist, chicken breast with herbs).

They also offer the restaurant's own version of American buffalo wings, called Ohnivé krídelká. The prices of all meals are very reasonable, averaging Sk120 ($2.50).

We were attracted by the Novohradské prasačinky (roasted marinated pork cutlets with garlic), which translates as Novohrad Dirty Jokes (prasačinka is derived from the word prasa, meaning pig), and could not restrain our curiosity about the salty Hermelín (a camembert-style cheese) covered in a sweet and sour sauce.

The food arrived beautifully arranged on the plates, with side dishes of potatoes and rice separately. Once we started eating I felt my taste buds stagger back to life.

"Now I feel like Novohradská prasačinka," said my friend after almost licking his plate, caressing his taut belly with a limp hand.

While we were finishing the rest of our wine, a decent local Chardonnay (the wine list features five recently bottled and four archive wines, all produced in the Novohrad region), we ordered for desert the Šomlói halušky (Hungarian cake covered in fruit, chocolate and whipped cream).

The bill came to Sk500 ($11) for the pair of us. As we paid and switched off the table lamp in our booth, we stopped to look at the oil paintings by Július Szabó, a Novohrad painter known across Europe, which cover the restaurant's interior. The pleasant feeling which infused both our stomachs and our souls could not be washed away even by the heavy rain that welcomed us outside.

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