„We were dreaming of a complex which is both gastronomic and cultural pilgrimage. This is the surroundings of an former barn with an overview to Szala-völgy (Szala-valley). On one hand its traditional and community building space, on the other hand it’s a real bistro from the 21st century which is worth to visit even from afar.” – That’s what you can read on the website of Pajta and this is not boastful from their part. The restaurant which is located in the Templomszer part of Őriszentpéter, -the center of Őrség- is really a place worth to visit. Not just the reminiscence of the taste is the thing that you take home!
Őrség became more and more popular recently. What is its reason? Everybody knows who was there. For those who haven’t visited, people who are living there are the most “earth-bounded” in Hungary. They move less in their life. – This goes on since centuries. This is the reason why they are the most traditional. For e.g. during our visit – at the beginning of May- we saw many maypoles. It’s impossible to visit every amazing natural assets and cultural values in 3-4 day. It’s a part of the country where you have to go back from time to time.
Our trip was spontaneous. We hadn’t planned anything in advance except our accomodation and the dinner in Pajta. So we started our trip by the center of Őrség National Park where we collected all information about the nature trails and other local monuments. Since our visit at Pajta hasn’t been planned at the first day we got some experience in the gastronomy of the region. There are surprisingly much inns. We could taste (mainly wild) meat dishes and tasty cheese. The wild mushroom soup was also not a delusion anywhere.
We reached Pajta after an encouraging beginning. Ferenc Kvasznicza was already waiting for us. Even if the weather conditions weren’t the best – it was rainy and murky – the sight was wonderful and captivating through the window wall of the bistro. By our table the region Őrség was unfolded in its full magnificence. We could also see the kaleyard where the spices are growing and also a small “kitchen for students” which is the private garden of Ferenc. The park- because it’s a better word than the garden – is kept good. There is a place where the nature takes over and we could see the colorful flowers, the waist-high grass and a lush field. It turns out that this doesn’t praise the work of a horticulture manager but the regulations of Őrség National Park. In order to preserve biodiversity it is forbidden to cut the grass by such big area. Some scattered garden furniture, red and blue beach chairs are waiting for the sun. Children find a wood carousel at the end of the garden and they are happy to use it in spite of the weather conditions. The landscape and the mood are just like in Italy. No spasticity and rigid “you MUST be happy here” feelings can be found here. Nay! The character of Pajta is charm. I imagine good weather conditions with 25 °C and the balcony would be opened. I would spend a day here by taking the pleasure in the landscape and sipping lemonade. I feel that the owners of this café know how extraordinary the place where they are working and living. That’s why they understand the tourists who are amazed by the place.
The building where the bistro is, is not so big. Small stairs are leading to the kitchen and on the first floor live the owners when they are in Őriszentpéter (Ferenc lives originally in Dunakeszi and his wife, Flora in Budapest). In the guest room there are only 5 tables. This is the answer why they ask you on their webpage to reserve a table in advance if you would come with more than 6 people. (Anyway it is recommended for everyone.) During our visit there were some couples and families with small children in the restaurant. As we saw it wasn’t their first visit there. Even if our visit was some months ago when I write theses sentences I can clearly remember of the scene: 3 blond children (possibly brothers and sisters) are running through the yard with a huge dog running after them and they were playing by the carousel. I remember that I was saying it was such romantic as sob stuff.
Before dinner –before the night became dark – I was escaping to the garden to take some photos. Ferenc was vigilant so in the rest of the day he was guiding me. He told me that he built the kalegarden during this summer. It is his place where he can make some experiment and he can also “call” the children. He would be happy if children coming from big cities would know how the tomato or carrot looks like before it reaches the shelf of a supermarket. The plants from the spice garden can be used in the kitchen.
As we returned to the restaurant Ferenc promised that I can ask my questions after dinner. And he passes by as fast as he can to the next table to take the orders from the newcomers.
Since we came by car we were drinking only lemonade. After this we were staring to study the menu which changes every week – so it’s always seasonal and mainly made of fresh ingredients. We can choose between 2 starters and 2 soups. As we are big fans of soups one of us choose the bread soup with garlic and spinach, the other choose the cold kapia pepper soup (although I was thinking of trying duck liver with fermented vegetables). We didn’t regret it but we are debating on which dish is tastier. There were 3 main dish on the menu: one with chicken, the other is with pork and the third (our choice) was catfish with vegetables and lemon sauce. The portions were big but there were more place in our stomach for tasting some wonderful cheese which was made by János Molnár who lives close to this place.
While we are sitting back to our chairs satisfied, Ferenc arrives.
In the world of inns it was brave to create a restaurant like Pajta. Where did this idea come from?
From Flóra. She was propounded to create a pure bistro here in Őriszentpéter. The half part of the building would have been great for events, but it’s also a part of Pajta. We open it in case there are too many visitors. Creating an inn didn’t seem to be a good idea even if we could earn more. We would create a higher quality restaurant. We were thinking of a place where we also could spend our time.
What kind of cuisine are you running?
It’s hard to define. It’s not an exact style. Our chef is working with fresh, seasonal and if possible local ingredients. This means that some special ingredients from Őrség region occur frequently like polenta, buckwheat and mushroom. There’s always some red meat on our menu.
What’s up with vegetarians and others who are suffering from food allergy?
That’s why we are asking you to reserve a table in advance. Then we are asking you if you don’t eat meat or you have an allergy. We are making for fulfill everybody’s needs. It’s hard to avoid milk from a dessert but it’s not impossible if we know it in advance. That’s why we are asking flexibility from our guests. There’s always something without meat among starters and soups and we have cheese.
Who runs the kitchen?
We know a talented young chef called Csaba Söre. He was staring as in intern in Costes, which is a resatauran with Michelin-stars, than he continued in Csalogány 26 in Buda. His last workplace was in 67 Reastaurant and Bistro in Székesfehérvár. We were lucky to get to know him, because he lives now here in Őriszentpéter.
How difficult is to buy ingredients from local farmers?
It was important from the beginning to be in a good relationship with local entrepreneurs. This concerns not only to farmers, but also the owners of the surrounding accommodations. The thing that farmers produce is value. I know it better since I’m also gardening, because there’s so much work with it. So it’s not a question to help them by buying their products. There were some farmers who came in after we opened and they asked us if we can accept their products, and there are others that we were searching for. Naturally at wintertime it’s impossible to buy local products. It would be great to have some greenhouses around.
What are the products that you can’t buy locally at all?
The fish. We buy them fresh from the fish market at Budaörs. Catfish is Hungarian, but sometimes we use see fish. In Őrség there’s no fishery. We know that this is not accepted at short supply chains. As we don’t buy big amounts we cannot solve it by suppliers.
Where are your guests coming from?
Most of our guests come from Zalaegerszeg or Szombathely. There are some who came from abroad, mainly from Slovenia. We don’t advertise ourselves consciously. It would be an overstatement to say that they are coming only for us. We are just a small point in their holiday in Őrség. Some local people also offer us that we are very pleased.
I can just confirm this. You were commended by our accommodation. What kind of environmental solutions do you use?
We are trying to cause the less damage for the environment. Unfortunately we use too much water but there’s an aerator by every tap. We are flushing the toilets and giving water for the plants from the well. Fortunately we should water the grass only during heat waves. On the other days there is no need to do this because of the morning dew. We try to use every ingredient. Our chef is managing well. He cooks a broth from the “falling” meat and bones. There’s selective waste management in the town. One of our cook takes green waste home, because he feeds chickens and goats with it. The other part of it is good for composting. The used oil is collected separately and taken away by a special company. We don’t use a special frying system or a microwave oven, so we are using just the minimum electrical appliances. The napkins are textiles, so they are washable. Fish came on Styrofoam plates. We give them forward to people to keep salad in them. So their life cycle can be longer. We have some solar panels. We are closed in January. This is also a way of consciousness. Firstly in this time period are the fewest guests, secondly we can spear on heating and thirdly we can have a rest. We don’t want to gut our stuff and ourselves.
Written by: Viki Doró, translated by: Zsuzsa Éliás