Our hungry team met on Monday at seven o’clock, and looked around at the little restaurant’s upstairs table with anticipation. We have heard that using seasonal and local ingredients is the basic mode of operation here; which is – considering our mission -, a really important aspect.
We believe that nowadays, in our consumer society, we care little about how much the goods or services we purchase cost the Earth and society. Eating out is a luxury that doesn’t mesh with a sustainable and responsible lifestyle – however, it would be naïve to think that people give up this treat to protect the environment.
On the other hand, with a little attention, luxury and sustainability don’t need to be mutually exclusive. We should choose restaurants where they pay comparative attention to the minimization of these adverse effects. The goal is to find places that offer a good alternative instead of wasteful, lavish but unsustainable restaurants.
Emphasizing seasonality and using local food is one of the most important aspect of sustainability. By buying local ingredients we not only support domestic producers, we also prevent our food from traveling thousands and thousands of kilometers before it ends up on our plates, thus decreasing emissions. To our surprise, the M Restaurant doesn’t advertise this principle anywhere. This made us curious what other secrets could be hidden between the restaurant’s walls.
Fresh-cut flowers on the table, paper sheets on the walls and the tables – some of them wrapped in the same paper “cloth”. Behind us, under an “Explanation for M.” note, a few photos of György Petri decorate the wall. As we were informed, the writer was a good friend of the restaurant’s owner – the place opened after his death and named after the aforementioned poem.
The restaurant had just opened an hour ago, and only a few free tables were available, but as the night went on, the empty ones filled up. There were American tourists, who heard about the place in their hostel, couples arrived for romantic dinners, a group of friends came to sit and talk in the company of good Hungarian wine.
We saw many curiosities on the menu – which is written on pieces of paper – as it changes after every few days, depending on what kind of fresh ingredients the chef can purchase. Finally, we agreed that the starter, called “rooster balls with red lentils” couldn’t be missed. The decision split the group at first, however, in the end, everybody had a taste (and nobody regretted it).
In the list of main courses, the following items were written down in the waitress’ notepad: catfish with sorrel-spinach sauce and mush; pork tenderloin with cottage cheese dumplings and prune-sauce, and the “daily vegetarian” dish, risotto with vegetables.
After finishing up our more and more delicious dishes, we had a chance to take up some of Miklós Sulyok’s time, the owner of the restaurant. We asked his opinion about sustainability, conscious buying and their role in the restaurant’s life, and also tricks that other restaurants could learn from them in that respect. Mr. Sulyok told us the food they serve is seasonal, and they would rather go look around on the farmers’ market themselves than buy from suppliers.
Their favorite farmers’ market always changes; currently it’s Nagycsarnok, but Hunyadi’s got most of the producers, and it gives them the reason to go there often. Mr. Sulyok believes that everybody is conscious, but in a different way. Deep-frying is not allowed in the restaurant, they use only as much oil as the food can take, so there is no oil waste.
Milkos Sulyok has been working in the industry for 10-15 years, and he believes that people care less about what they feel or taste during dining than they used to. He doesn’t follow any new trends, doesn’t wish to get a Michelin star; he only desires to teach the few people whose priority it is more to eat something delicious, than to follow new, fashionable trends. As he mentioned, his old colleagues run spacious and bright restaurants, and for most of them, the goal to put something flavorful on the table has faded away behind extreme and temporary trends.
We were moved and sated when we stepped out to Kertész Street that night. Consequently, we believe it’s possible to manage a restaurant with love, care and environmentally friendly methods. Suddenly, we didn’t feel the need to ask about the energy-saving light bulbs, accessibility, recycling, the tap water that we got in a big jar without even asking for it, or the cotton towels (hung up in place of paper towels in the toilets).
Thank you Magdi Németh so much for translating the original article!
Originally published: January, 2012