by Blerta Koci

Just after getting off the Blaha Lujza tér, walking with my father along the Erzsébet körút of the Grand Boulevard a few blocks away from the Great Sinagogue, I bump into a gorgeous palace of a unique Art Nouveau style that carries a series of impressive mirror windows alternated with elegant lanterns supported by devilish fauns.

On the corner of the palace, the signs “New York Café” – intentionally left vintage – make me doubt to be in the ancient capital of the Magyar kingdom. Intrigued by this, I decide to enter.

My father and I both remain overpowered by the very elegant interiors. The magic mix of marble, bronze statues, stuccos and frescoes is close to perfection. We are inside the venue that was considered, at the beginning of the past century, “the most beautiful café in the world”, the center for Hungarian intellectual life where important poetry and literature works have come alive.

The eclectic building was built from 1892 to 1894 as a Hungarian branch office of the New York Life Insurance Company, under the guidance of architects Alajos Hauszmann, Flòris Korb and Kàlmàn Giergl, who expertly managed to mix the features of Greek, Latin, Renaissance and Baroque styles into a prodigious Art Nouveau composition.

After a long period of decadence following two wars, in 2001, a prestigious Italian chain Boscolo Hotels bought the building and commissioned, in collaboration with Hungarian authority for cultural heritage, its careful and scrupulous restoration.

The works assigned to architects Maurizio Papiri, Adam D. Tihany, Massimo Iosa Ghini and Simone Micheli have brought the palace to its original splendor: a contemporary design of the new rectangular lobby with the glass and steel covering magically matches the opulence of spaces and the quality of decoration of the historic New York Café, brought it back to the previous elite set.

It remains a unique place to Hungarian people; visiting the “New York Café” is compared to the monument’s visiting. Often it is used for the organization of the themed evening circles, addressed to local inhabitants, where special invited guests are writers, musicians, actors and painters, aimed to recreate the intellectual mood of 1920’ and a stimulating spirit of the past century.

That’s why my father and I – after having had an excellent coffee accompanied by a New York chocolate cake – decided to stay more than planned in order to take photographs of these fabulous interiors from every possible angle. We had a feeling as if we were attending a gala celebration, the only things missing were the residents of the XIX century and their dancing to the beat of a waltz.

Even the rectangular courtyard with its contemporary design seems to be contaminated with antique prestige of the neighboring halls. Four curvy sofas drawn close and forming a perfect circle point their seats towards the outside, bringing the visitor to admire the beige coloured facades with their architectural elements distinguished for every floor of the building, rather than having a conversation.

The clock built in a Baroque style canopy with four spring shaped columns, has reminded us, to our surprise, that it’s been almost three hours already. It is so late, but this visit was definitely worth it.

Photos by Blerta Koci