o and i finally made it to the gay hussar. tucked into the corner of greek street in the heart of soho, this is an unassuming dining room with a very established reputation. the dining room has a homely feel. its wood panelled walls are lined with framed caricatures (mostly politicians) courtesy of martin rowson. there are book shelves on one side with a range of political biographies and titles. this isn't surprising as the gay hussar is a frequent haunt for politicians, journalists, artists and writers alike. o loved the gay hussar and with good reason, given his political leanings and love for political satire.
on to the food.
dining at gay hussar is a relaxed affair. appetisers, entrees and dessert make it to the table at leisurely pace and perhaps if we visit again it would be wise to have some wine. this time round we had ample time to enjoy the warmth and culture of the dining room itself. most of the people who eat here appear to be regulars. our waitress is particularly helpful when i ask her for recommendations - she says the goulash, which is what i was learning towards anyway but the question was which one; beef or venison? she said the venison as it is very tender so that is what i ordered whilst o went for the beef.
both our entrees came served in shallow white bowls and both our goulash's were rich and bursting with deep flavours of wine and paprika and texture lent by the accompaniments. my venison was a deep reddish brown and was served with red cabbage and tarhonya (lit. egg drops). this is an egg barley that tastes and looks quite similar to wheat berries. it is quite dense and filling especially when eaten with the stew. pickled cucumber added a rather tart and vinegary edge. o's beef goulash came with galuska - thimble egg dumplings that texture wise are similar to gnocchi. they came resting in the stew, absorbing its rich flavours and finished with a flourish of cream.
despite being quite full o and i decided that there had to be dessert. we were split between the sweet cheese pancakes, a dessert made of rum, cream and walnuts and the poppy seed strudel, as they were recommended as being quintessentially hungarian. as we love poppy seeds, it was the poppy seed strudel that we had. i can safely say that this is the best poppy seed strudel i have had so far. paper thin flaky pastry dusted with icing sugar encasing a centre of poppy seed paste - moist poppy seed, soft fruity apple, sultanas soaked to the point that they melted in the mouth. i am pretty certain that there was a hint of liqueur too. the strudel was served warm which seemed to add a depth to the flavours.
we finished on after dinner coffee. mine was a strong cup of filtered coffee that balanced the sweetness of the dessert and o had a cappuccino. if you haven't already been, both o and i would recommend at least one visit to the gay hussar. and if you are having dessert, make a beeline for the strudel. it is well worth it!