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The Gay Hussar (Bar, Restaurant)

Picture of The Gay Hussar in Soho, London

2 Greek Street, Soho, London, W1D 4NB
Cuisine: Modern European
Tel: 020 7437 0973 | Email to The Gay Hussar | Transport: Tottenham Court Road | Write review

The Gay Hussar Review

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Thursday 29th April 2010. In front of a television audience of millions, yet another twist in an already tumultuous election campaign was taking place in Birmingham, as the hitherto unflappable Saint Nicholas of Clegg was left grappling for words by a fierce interrogation from David Cameron on that most controversial of political issues: immigration.

With Clegg reeling from the rollicking and Gordon Brown’s comments lost amid the sniggers of an audience wondering whether he was going to call everyone bigots just for discussing the issue, Cameron seized the lead in the race for Number 10 with a declaration that immigration into the UK was too high, and that he alone had the policies to stem the influx.

Meanwhile, oblivious to call-me-Dave’s surging performance in the latest political ménage-à-trois, I was in Soho – an area of London long-frequented by politicians of all creeds for one reason or, ahem, another – risking the wrath of every Cameron-loving Daily Mail-reader by enjoying that oft-forgotten consequence of immigration: the fine cuisine of a foreign nation.

In this case, my short walk from Tottenham Court Road tube station had taken me past Greek, Indian, Chinese, American and Italian restaurants, to The Gay Hussar – the first, and still only, Hungarian restaurant I have ever been to.

Contrary to what you might expect from a Soho-based venue with the word ‘gay’ in its name, the interior of The Gay Hussar (which actually means ‘the happy cavalryman’) is a restrained, traditional-looking affair of dark woods, velour cushioning and subdued lighting. Appropriately enough for the evening, a light political theme also pervades the decor, with a matrix of framed political caricatures covering most of the wall, pictures of illustrious politicians from history adorning the remaining spaces (Churchill, Gladstone and Lloyd George are amongst those honoured), and a selection of left-leaning political books occupying the shelves that arch over the passage to the kitchen.

If The Gay Hussar’s decor was a politician, it would be Ken Clarke – traditional, conservative, but still relaxed and full of character. The food, however, is more akin to the daughter of Clarke’s old cabinet colleague Nigel Lawson. Like Nigella, it is rich, tasty, generously portioned, but impossible to take too much of in one sitting.

Individually, the courses rarely stray far from excellent. Of the starters, I can particularly recommend (for those who can stomach the slightly slimy texture) the marinated herring in soured cream, which was lifted to a level of excellence by a light kick of chilli. Having ordered one of the several available variations of goulash for my main course, I was initially brought the wrong dish – as often happens in politics, I was promised one thing and delivered another. However, when my partner and I did receive the correct mains, they were as wholly satisfying as the appetisers.

As tasty as these dishes were, however, visitors should be advised that all the courses are (as is the Hungarian wont) incredibly rich, particularly in the large portions in which they arrive. Consequently, my partner was unable to finish her main course, whilst I, having impolitely soldiered on alone (for the sake of Fluid readers, you understand), gave up half-way through dessert. As a fat man in a thin man’s body, with a seldom-sated appetite the size of Britain’s fiscal deficit, not being able to finish a meal was an unusual experience for me.

Anyway, a fortnight on and everything in UK politics had changed. Nick and Dave, previously sworn enemies, were now declaring their love for one another on the lawns of 10 Downing Street as Britain’s new Prime Minister and Deputy PM. A few hundred yards north, however, at The Gay Hussar, nothing had changed. As John, the charmingly blunt Polish manager of this Hungarian institution told me, tradition is very important there. Eleven British governments have come and gone since it first opened its doors in 1953, and the menu is still largely the same. From starters to mains to desserts, this entails food that is richer than an MP who has just recouped on an expenses claim, but is also a darn sight more palatable.

With a wide selection of Hungarian wines and bespoke cocktails also available, The Gay Hussar is well-recommended for anyone hungry for a taste of Hungary. All those actually taken in by the populist anti-immigrant diatribes of Cameron and his supporters in the right-wing press should also visit, if only to remind themselves of just what a wonderful contribution to British life immigration can actually make.
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Customer Reviews for The Gay Hussar

Average (based on 2 votes): 2 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of The Gay Hussar.

“If you are familiar with real Hungarian cuisine you will be very disappointed with the Gay Hussar. Most of the dishes are poor copies of the real homemade Hungarian fare and to be honest I would feel embarrassed to bring somebody to this eatery and proclaim it as being real Hungarian restaurant. The quality of the dishes is poor and the taste leaves allot to be desired. When I went there the other evening they had run out of Galuska (dumplings made of flour, eggs and water) that would be like a fish and chip shop running out of chips. The lame excuse from the waitress was that they had run out of eggs and they could not buy them locally as only very special organic eggs would be acceptable!! The Gulyas soup was over spiced, the gypsy pork medallions were over cooked without a hint of garlic or taste and the shredded liver was like rubber. Finally my partner decided to try and brighten up a miserable experience by ordering the Somloi Galuska, this tasty rum flavoured sponge bathing in lashings of chocolate sauce, raisins with fresh whipped cream on-top had been turned into a piece of stale dry cake with a few drops of chocolate sauce dripped over it. I think the chef has done more to destroy the identity of Hungarian food than anybody else. At £80 for two for such a disaster I would recommend that this place is avoided. Unfortunately, if you want to experience real Hungarian cuisine you have to travel to Hungary!”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
John Simpson, London (7 years 8 months 6 days ago)

“This is a classy venue, a nice change from many of the other flashy places you can get round there. Agree with the review about the food - nice, but very rich. I'd recommend that people have a look at the desserts at the same time as the starters and chose which you like the look of more, because you probably won't be able to fit both in!”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Mark Underwood, Dalston (8 years 2 months 2 days ago)

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Additional Information

  • Cuisine Type: Modern European
  • Dress Code: Not Specified
  • Group: Corus Hotels

The Gay Hussar Food & Drinks

The Gay Hussar Food Menu

The Gay Hussar specialises in Hungarian cuisine.

Updated 10/06/2007

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Loved

"Hi guys, I come here with my friends and have very good time. I like your place very much and is very good times. I come back when I can soon. Thank you very much." Which venue is this?

Hated

"Dreadful pub, run by people who have zero idea about hospitality or running a pub. Upon arrival we sat in the back garden that only had one other table occupied , when we tried to order off the lunch menu..." Which venue is this?

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