Memories of The Merleg
In 1999 the greatest restaurant in Budapest closed its doors for the final time. It was the eatery in which Brown Sound bassist Trickey first met many members of the band, as well as several of the flock latterly known as the Brown Sound Collective. The late Luke Harvey ate there on a near weekly basis between 97 and 99, more often than not with teller of tall tales and unstoppable movie-trivia machine Jo Coley. In fact, at one time or another, all members of the original Brown Sound line-up must have filled their faces, sunk a few beers and been undercharged by the waiters at the Merleg Vendeglo, Budapest.
It was an elusive quality that made the restaurant so popular. To the mind of your correspondent, it was the constantly changing menus available on the blackboard, from whence I probably learnt my extensive vocabulary of Hungarian foodstuffs. How then does one explain Jo Coley, who ate there more frequently than I, and almost without fail ordered the Vineta Piritosan (Creamed aubergine on toast), followed by the mushrooms stuffed with ewe cheese? For her, perhaps it was the repartee with the waiters, one of whom in particular would make hearty recommendations and make no secret of his revulsion when you ordered otherwise. Or it could have been the frequency with which they miscalculated the bill in our favour. Or the manager, whose resemblance to Donald Pleasance could not go un-noted.
Mr. Pleasance recently opened a new restaurant on Kertesz utca, not far from the bustling café-crawl that is Liszt Ferenc Ter (Whilst there were 2 bars and a pizzeria in 97, this square now boasts no less than 8 bars). It's called M, but when asked if this was in homage to The Merleg, he seemed surprised that we even recalled the place. 'This will be better,' he insisted. And perhaps it will. The menus are hand written on a daily basis, and the décor is unique, featuring hand drawn furniture on its walls both upstairs and down. The food certainly passes muster, and would not have been out of place in its distinguished forbearer. But without the collective, what hope for this Bistro? We can only hope that it will nurture future Brown Sounds. Perhaps it will even be home to the Jools Brown Jam.
In the mean time, join me in my meaty reverie as we recall such delights as the Merleg Steak, bloody and bound in bacon. The Moroccon special, where the chickpeas and couscous were served with generous quantities of roast Hungarian sausage. The pepper steak with its sauce so green. What are your fondest memories of the Merleg? Post them on The Vic's message board, care of stevebrownsound.co.uk
Thanks to the late Luke Harvey, for his assistance in writing this article
By Micky Helium, 21st February 2003