The waiters in Kéhli can be a bit rough at the edges, eyeing you with a polite aloofness that suggests they expected more of you. Better knowledge of wine, perhaps; a more informed choice of side dish. The gypsy band interrupts their songs with idle chatter, they make plentiful cigarette and soup breaks. Their enthusiasm subsides if you’re the only people in the restaurant early on a Friday and have made the beginner’s mistake of coming without cash — card payments are possible, but obviously not to the band.
As we wait for our orders, lovely food scents escape the kitchen, the cooks bicker loudly, some locals arrive and are automatically served their usual drinks by the wordless waiter. The breeze ruffles the leaves of the tall trees shading the inner courtyard. This is obviously time travel, to the heart of an early 20th-century novel when this part of the world was still safely cocooned in the bosom of a confident empire. A book perhaps written by Gyula Krúdy, the novelist of noble origins whose table of choice is proudly marked in one of Kéhli’s indoors areas. He was a lover of food, drinks and leisure, and his presence hovers over the place like a gentle ghost.
It helps that the food is excellent (the pork medallions with blue cheese sauce are highly recommended), but the best thing about Kéhli, and it comes for free, is a fleeting taste of what it was like to live in the golden age.