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Pub/Bar of the Month June 2018: Élesztöház, Budapest, Hungary

Élesztöház, Budapest, Hungary.

If you’re looking for peculiar drinking experiences, head for Budapest.

ElesztoOne of the quirky features of the handsome Hungarian capital is the way in which derelict and forgotten buildings have been turned – rather wonderfully – into popular night spots.

The so-called ‘ruin bars’ began with a place called Szimpla Kert, which I can only describe as a cross between an antiques emporium and a squat.

Essentially, it’s a bombed-out shell of a building that has been appropriated for fun.

Within the battered, crumbling walls are a number of rooms on two levels housing bars or food outlets, a broken concrete floor leading through – eventually – to a rear courtyard where pride of place is given to a beaten-up old Trabant car.

The décor is both banal and bizarre. One room has a collection of knackered old TV sets; another area uses a broken gymnastics pommel horse as a table. Graffiti lends character/ugliness (delete as appropriate) to the walls and puffing on a hookah pipe seems the second most favoured pastime after drinking.

Yeast House

There are some decent beers to be discovered in Szimpla Kert but there’s another ruin bar that goes much further on that front. A little further away from the main tourist centre, but only a few stops on the Metro, is Élesztöház – the name means ‘yeast house’ – which is tucked away in a residential sidestreet and entered via an archway.

The same sort of eccentricity reigns here, although with a more industrial feel to its main areas. The large bar at the back appears to be a disused workshop, with hard, bare floors and mostly long tables for sharing.

ElesztoThis is the area to seek out for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a welcome haven from the smoking in the courtyard and, secondly, this is where the beers – served at two separate bars – can be found.

A sign reads ‘please ask the bartender’, which implies that the staff know their stuff.

Blackboards list the current keg offerings, with Hungarian breweries sharing space with craft imports. Two handpumps are sometimes used for cask beer.

As with other ruin bars, this place plays to a wider audience than just raucous beer nerds. A vaulted cellar bar, furnished only with red velour theatre seats in long rows, provides a quieter drinking environment, a ‘butcher’s kitchen’ dishes out plates of meat and there’s a separate wine bar for those whose tipple is not beer.

If you’re teetotal, check out the impossibly twee tea-and-cake shop at the front of the complex, where the eyes of a thousand fluffy teddy bears bear down on you as you sip your cuppa.

But beer is the prime mover here. The presence of an onsite beer hostel proves that – yes, you can actually stay here and enjoy a 24/7 supply of beer from your own private beer taps.

As with all things ruin bar, just put your preconceptions aside, go with the flow and savour the absolute barking madness of it all.

Élesztöház,  Tüzoltó 22, 1094, Budapest, Hungary.
Tel. +36 (0)70 336 1279
Opening Hours: 3pm–3am

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