What A ‘Hungarian-Italian fusion’ winter pop-up bar and kitchen, right in the heart of Holborn (for now)
Temporarily homed in The Plot Twist in Russel Square
While Hungarian and Italian might not sound like the most naturally complimentary cuisines, they are united by one crucial characteristic that we all crave at this time of year – stodge.
Pasta’n’Goulash is the brain child of partners in business and in life, Agata and Tamas, and comes to the bellies of Londoners at a time when we need it most (because nothing trumps winter quite like potatoes served in bread).
On arrival, we were greeted by the aforementioned couple who, I think it’s safe to say, were no less than the most charming hosts I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I am a sucker for schmaltz so fell hook, line and sinker for their tale of love at first sight. Originally from Parma and Budapest respectively, the pair met in London and ‘from that moment decided to share life together’, uniting their native cuisines in the process. Beautiful stuff.
The seasonal menu – as the name suggests – focuses on goulash and pasta dishes. With total disregard for our waistlines, we of course tried one of each. The traditional goulash soup served in a bread bowl (bowl perhaps doesn’t do its size justice, it was more of a bread sink…), while not something I would usually go for, was really quite scrumptious. Rich, tender and perfectly seasoned, it was just the thing on a cold winter’s day.
The pasta Tubetti was next up. Made with potatoes (you can never have too many…) and sausage, I would strongly advise sporting your roomiest attire if going for this dish. However, for the visual spectacle of it being made before your eyes in a flaming wheel of parmigiano cheese, this sartorial trade-off is a small price to pay.
I am ashamed to say that I was not looking forward to my owner-recommended desert before it arrived. Perhaps it was naïve but, for me, the concept of cottage cheese covered in chocolate is simply not that appealing. But God loves a trier and try I did. Thank heavens and praise the lord, etc, because it was spectacular. Known as Turo Rudi, what we were presented with was a very pretty, delicate plate of chocolate fingers that were seriously moreish and resulted in a licked-clean plate. Hungary’s most popular chocolate desert for good reason.
Carb-loading wasn’t the only one of Londoners’ favourite pastimes they had on offer though, oh no. It seems that the Hungarians and Italians do booze very well indeed. With a wide range of traditional wines from both countries available, as well as more than ten award winning craft beers from Hungary, the drinks list was a pleasure to behold – as was evidenced by our stumbling and slurring on exiting the building.
While the ephemeral nature of the pop-up experience is inherent to its charm, it does have its draw backs. In the case of Pasta’n’Goulash, it is the location that has suffered somewhat. Aside from the fact that Tamas and Agata’s brand of open-arms service and hearty cuisine would sit better in, say, Highbury, than suited and booted Holborn, the venue itself leaves one a little cold… both literally and figuratively speaking. It is not, as my companion wryly commented, somewhere you would choose to impress a first date, but it’s nothing that a few nice lamps wouldn’t fix.
If you’re in Holborn and in the mood for a winter warmer, you could do a lot worse than Pasta’n’Goulash. This is not fine-dining, that’s for sure, but it’s tasty, wholesome cooking that makes a pleasant change from the usual London restaurant roster. And with more beige food than you could shake a stick at, I will almost certainly be going back for more.
Approximately £30 per person for a three course meal with wine
51 Red Lion St, WC1R 4PF London