Nana – The preserved social scene
(87. stop, 70. Budapest stop, after 6 visits)
There are a couple of surprisingly casual pubs even in the upper-class fifth district. Supposedly and unfortunately, there are less and less of them and we could exactly count their number as it is getting quite limited. From these, I introduce Nana first, which is located by the way located in a modernized and posh neighborhood with a fancy pavement like this:
Nana is a completely different world. It was New Year’s Eve when the first time I went there with a friend of mine on the occasion of a lucky pub crawl, when were fortunate enough to get to great places only (Paris Texas, Púder, Nana, Janis Pub, For Sale and as last one Orsolya, which is already closed by now). There was live music. One of the bartenders, Imi, who did not work that day, was singing the song One of us of Joan Osborne and playing on his guitar with a hat upside-down on his side. At the end of his performance, I also applauded. That vibe got me back then.
Nana is labelled as Czech brasserie outside.
However, I only managed to discover the relation only on the basis two types of Czech draught beer, lots of bottled Konrad, and the atmosphere of a real Czech pub which was not supported enough by the rest of the available beverages. They also sell Hungarian craft beers, Szarvasi and Kápri and Disznótoros Pálinka. There is not any Czech food available either. Occasionally and on demand, fatty bread is offered, which is also rather a Hungarian habit.
As for the decoration, I could not find anything more international than this: rarely seen Hungarian retro posters, barrel tops of Löwenbrau München, Steffl and Egri bikavér (<famous Hungarian wine), a montage-poster with different fridge magnet icons such as the London Eye, Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge or the Pisa Tower.
However, here neither the decoration, nor the sign makes the pub. Whoever comes here will enjoy this place thanks for the relaxed casualty and because good beer is sold on a good price. There are in total two halls with an absolute community friendly set up as well as separated boxes. The service was always nice. Unfortunately, I could never see more than two-three tables reserved except for New Year’s Eve. However, the photos pinned up above the counter suggest that there is more going on sometimes. By the way, the piece of paper at the counter saying “the renovation was funded by the donations of our votaries” could not be left without a smile.
My other favorite phrase can be found in the men’s room:
By the way, the origin of the name is actually not Czech but French. It comes from the novel of Emile Zola, titled Nana. Lajos, the manager educates me by telling that the title hero was a courtesan. He does not know either why the place, operating since 1972-73, was named like that already in 1986, when he took it over. The neighborhood was never (in)famous for that however, Lajos still remembers of the women hanging around in former truck park behind our well-known Central Market Hall nearby.
He kept the name because he had known the place for a long time already and it was a cultic place amongst the local university students. He told me that only ten other pubs were operating that time. The formal student groups, in which the freshman connected to senior students used to come here who mostly listened to hard rock and despised all the Hungarian greatest hits. Then as time was passing and these young people had more and more drinks, they had best parties listening to typical Hungarian music of Ferenc Demjén and Charlie (<the two most known Hungarian male singers alive).
According to Lajos, this diversification is still common these days. Most of the people did not learn how to have fun, only how to show up. They feel anxious about showing off by going to the coolest places even if they spend the whole week saving money up. He also saw several times girls turning up at similar small pubs just to whine around then after the pre-drinking, they headed to the posh places to show off.
Today’s appearance and wall decoration of Nana is mostly based up on Crêpe paper. This reminds me of elementary school carnivals where we also used to decorate everything with Crêpe paper. Marcsi, the barmaid tells me that the current decoration in red-white-green was prepared at the times of the UEFA Euro 2016 and it has remained like that since then. The New Year’s Eve decoration was much more colorful. Imi, the former pub-musician had already left for Balaton when I returned several times after eight months however, the place still had a nice atmosphere without music, too.
I especially liked the daytime. The guests have a cup of coffee and chitchat after having placed a loaf of bread on the bar chair right next to them. And they always stay two or three minutes more than they actually planned. What is more, they even turn back at the doorstep to discuss a few more ideas with Lajos. He is very good at telling stories and he actually has a lot to tell. I once left my laptop and work behind and rushed into the indoor hall because they were discussing about the historical golden era of coffee houses of Budapest and Vienna as such.
Lajos: How much do you know about the history of coffee? Let’s see then the historical facts – and he is telling the story… – and my mother used to scald the coffee beans, then ground it with a hand grinder and brewed it on a stove top coffee maker. And that “moka” coffee maker sometimes blew up and sometimes not…but usually it did.
It is not that good to work here anymore since it is too good – but he wants to fulfill his role well, intentionally, and he seems to enjoy it as well. He fist bumps the beer suppliers dropping a gentle hint suggesting that “I already told you the last time, we are not buying anything”. He proudly preserved the atmosphere of the old small pubs which used to be real social scenes and he thinks about this gladly. He tells: “Then comes Hacsek and Sajó, they grab a coffee, talk to each other and then the both go to do their own business”.(Hacsek and Sajó were two fictional characters from a Hungarian Cabaret from the 1920’s)
The pub used to open at 7 am but the working people were banging on the shutters already at 6.30 am asking “What’s going on, are you in afternoon shift?”. These days, people do not come that early any more. Lajos does not know why this has changed like this despite having such a wide perspective of ideas about the most recent years’ pub life. Nowadays, the place is open from 9 am until 11 pm.
INTERESTING FEATURE: There is a Finnish flag above the vault. Lajos has a Finnish friend who comes in most of the days. He is a wrestler and it reads in Finnish that if you are in trouble, call that number. We can feel a strong Finnish devotion and Finnish guests regularly turn up in the pub, too.
PERSONAL FAVORITE EXPERIENCE: I had one of the best and longest spontaneous pub-sociology discussion here.
DRY MATTER CONTENT:
Beers on tape: two types of the Czech Konrad beer and a Hungarian craft beer, Kápri
Wines are from Eger!
Address: 1053 Budapest, Királyi Pál utca 18.