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The sweet side of Hungarian culture well worth a taste

LOCAL culture buffs looking to expand their horizons can get a taste of Hungarian culture at the Budapest Art Cafe at the Hilton Shanghai Lobby Pavilion.

Organized by the Hungarian Consulate General, the month-long festival is a celebration of the shared identities of our two cities.

According to Tamas Hajba, consul general of Hungary in Shanghai, Budapest is one of the most important cities in modern Europe and, as well as being extraordinarily advanced, is well-known for its cafe culture.

"Our cafe culture is very important not only as a theme but also as a venue itself," says the consul general in fluent Mandarin. "People do not just visit a cafe for coffee or to try some confectionery, but it is also a place for conversation and the exchange of ideas. Cafes were a hotbed for businessmen, politicians and artists alike."

The "Cafe" is built around two central themes. The first is a photo exhibition presented by three local journalists who traveled to the Central European nation last Autumn at the invitation of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Education, including Wenhui Daily's Guo Yijiang.

Together with International Finance Times' Xia Yunpeng and Shanghai Evening Post's Chen Huanlian, the trio amassed thousands of pictures conveying their understanding of Hungarian culture, cuisine and wine culture while also studying the opportunities a Hungarian higher education can offer.

The photojournalists' rapid assimilation of the rich Hungarian culture impressed Ferenc Csak, Hungarian State Secretary for International Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Education.

"The people of Shanghai know much more about Hungarian culture than people in my country," he says. "Because our cultural activities have been very focused in the last three years in Shanghai, we now have 'a common cultural heritage.' We can speak of a special relationship between the small country of Hungary and the big city of Shanghai."

The photos are displayed on the walls of the hotel's Lobby Pavilion and depict Hungary's centuries-old palaces and monuments, its stately castles, the 2,000-year-old Roman ruins and Central Europe's largest lake, Lake Belaton, as well as its people and everyday life.

More astute observers will recognize the architectural styles highlighted in the prints - a number of Shanghai's most prominent buildings were designed by the Hungarian architect Lazlo Hudec in the 1920s and 1930s, and his roots are evident in his work.

Also central to the cafe theme is Hungary's rich tradition of confectionery, showcased by an afternoon dessert buffet specially prepared by guest pastry chef Laslo Mihalyi.

The Budapest native has 22 years experience in the kitchen and has introduced food lovers across Europe and the world to the delights of Hungarian pastry.

The buffet, which costs 98 yuan (US$14.30) and includes a free flow of coffee and tea, features lip-smacking, mouth-watering treats such as the legendary Dobos Torte - a devilishly sinful chocolate sponge cake with whipped cream and nuts that came to prominence in the 1896 Millennium Exposition.

Other treats include the country's iconic raspberry mousse and sour cherry strudel.

Chef Mihalyi is renowned for his own style which is elegant, clear yet emphatic. He keeps one foot firmly rooted in the tradition of his country's exuberant creations while incorporating elements of French confectionery into his creations.

"Hungarian flavors and traditions are very determined and should be followed," he says. "But the form should also be followed."

As well as the Budapest Art Cafe afternoon dessert buffet, those with a sweet tooth can satisfy their cravings with take away selections from the Gourmet Corner at 25 yuan per piece or 140 yuan per 450 grams of cake.

Address: 1/F, 250 Huashan Rd

Tel: 6248-7777 ext 1840


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