Kék Ló, Budapest – Fashionable but more than trendy
(Station no. 18, Budapest station no. 18 – the current location after 6 visits, the former location after several visits)
At the beginning of 2016 the eclectic-harmonic Kék Ló (=Blue Horse) pub has moved already to its second grandiose location in Budapest. The horse therefore seems to be a migratory animal, which gets quickly acclimatized. It used to be one of the first “creatures” in the evolution of the Bp. party quarter in its epicenter, the Kazinczy street. I wonder if it settled again to an uprising area in the Rákóczi Square, too?
Kék Ló is the only pub which I could visit under two completely different addresses during the last 14 months of my pub crawl. The development of the Kazinczy Street didn’t stop for many years. I became one of its returning guests (both day and night) in 2010. I’ve been observing and counting the new spots since then. As time passed, there was basically no more space left to open a new business. The exterior walls of the buildings had to be opened up for new spaces or people had to shout out from the basement areas to trade their new products, food or paintings. That’s why it was such a surprising and rebellious step from one of the oldest members to move on to a street by the Rákóczi Square in the 8th district where 3 years ago, there were only empty and closed shops all around. It looked like this: http://varosban.blog.hu/2013/10/07/egy_teljes_utcaban_lehuztak_a_rolot (sorry, the text is Hungarian)
Since then the area started to expand, a new metro station was launched two and a half years ago and a modernized, pleasant and vivid Rákóczi Square was re-opened instead of the several years ago still infamous older one.
The population is continuously getting refreshed and the gastronomy started to blossom.
I found out that the original Kék Ló also opened in the summer of 2010 as a fashion pub, so both of us started to write our mutual history with Kazinczy Street in the same time and when the pub moved away (February 2016), I have also stopped already being a resident party-quarter-animal, constantly stuck in that area, and extended my pub-attention even beyond the magnetic aura of Szimpla Kert (the primary ruin pub of Budapest) and its neighbors.
I learnt that it was a fashion pub because Virág Tóth, fashion designer, decided to connect her public wardrobe with gastronomy and culture here. I remember how reluctantly I felt about entering in Kék Ló that time. I had just been drinking in pubs for five years after a life-long period of being an anti-alcoholic, didn’t know too many pub genres and styles yet, and that was something completely new to me back then. I was thinking with the head of a traditional Hungarian countryside guy and I considered Kék Ló as “No country for men”. It was quite weird to see a clothes rack full of colorful dresses sooner than the beer taps beyond the threshold. Even though I already had drinks lying in a bath tub of Szimpla Kert and sat often in the old cut in half Trabant car there, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Kék Ló as an odd place with abstract poetry book readings.
I still remember the figurative design of the blue horse decorating the street. It functioned as a horse-shaped trade sign with a thick, blue covering. It looked quite original and remarkable. This was the only thing which I liked about it before I started to like the whole venue. It was a human-life-size and even human-shaped horse. I even came to know that quite many people took photos with it and its head was stolen twice. (Don’t try this at home with he loved one’s heads!) The first time, a girl took it back the next day saying that she found the head in her bag. Well, that must have been bigger than a puppy bag! The second time nobody returned with the head. Since then, the body faded away too however, I found out that the place was originally named after this blue horse, which was the fashion designer’s artwork and was older than the pub itself. Yet, you can find its successor in the new location.
The first time that I entered the second Kék Ló Pub was on an early Sunday afternoon in April 2016, when I was waiting for my friends to take part on the 100 Year-Old Buildings tour (www.budapest100.hu). There was only one couple having a menu in the entire place. But well, which pub would be any more crowded during this time of this day? And at least I could properly explore the inner design as if it was a silent exhibition. I must say that it looks magnificent!
Many of the design elements are blue and/or horses thematic.
The decoration is powerful, e.g. shiny cutlery is hanging from the chandelier and different plastic body parts of mannequins are hidden in every corner.
I met a cheerful and enthusiastic bartender girl then who just started to work there a week before. One of her favorite decorations was an illuminating cross right above the bar which (I quote her:) takes care of the alcohol. As former guest she was particularly happy about changing the location, getting rid of the annoyingly drunk people in the party quarter and she thought that this area was anyway improving. She believed that the new Budapest Soho was just about to arise here. By this time I had already given this title to the Kazinczy Street’s area. And by then (five years passed), I even came to like the previous Kék Ló. Once I had to join some friends there and the inner atmosphere immediately caught me. After that, I always returned gladly because I bumped into an interesting bunch of people, event or conversation all the time.
Mark, the son of the original owner was responsible for changing the location (without any conceptual reasons) and currently for running the place. I just asked over a delicious tomato soup the staff who the founder member is among them, and I got back later to meet him to find out about the missing details and stories for this post. He also told me that he felt a bit afraid about quitting the safe and secure 7th district but after that he found this corner, he had no more doubts and regrets. There are really less of the crazy stag party people and he doesn’t mind to have only those foreigners who come here on purpose after local’s recommendations or because they look particularly for this kind of pub. As for my opinion, even though the current Kék Ló is absolutely a world class place and open towards wanderers from all over the world, but in its present form it provides a much cozier gathering place for its regulars and it might even be a better location for organizing Hungarian language events such as the “finger puppet-opera” which I have just recently faced (a Don Giovanni adaptation by Sickratman, a Hungarian multi-genre artist).
The Kék ló Pub is quite multi-faceted nowadays. During the day, serious-looking, middle-aged people could show up here comfortably talking to each other, even to discuss social organizational issues by having a coffee and there are a wide variety of people also turning up to have a vegetarian/vegan lunch menu (which I confirm to be tasty based upon two experience already).
During the evening, diverse cultural programs are provided. Each day there is something different e.g. Talking Monday, Culture Tuesday, Movies Wednesday, Games Thursday, Concerts Friday or Party Saturday. I love when a pubs has more dimensions. The phenomenon of culture pubs is one of the best things one could create. Luckily enough, there is also demand for it here!
Besides, every first weekend of the month, there is a thematic party. I just managed to catch the preparations for the Nintendo party in October (8BIT Parade).
I made the following video then which shows how seriously they plan and organize these kinds of events. This is what they improvised in the basement hall (which by the way seems to be being under upgrading nowadays).
So they managed to find the right direction in terms of food, party and culture. According to Mark, there has been a boom among the guests too in the last month. I asked him about the changes in the hereabouts since this previously infamous district is continuously becoming one of the coolest and most livable area in Budapest. Mark: “It is obvious that this area is going to be a f*cking great location in the next few years.” He realized that quite many new people moved here in less than a year since they opened their pub. I am also thinking that a living urbanism history of the revival of this disctrict part will be made here I hope that I can come back for more pub crawls very soon.
Interesting facts about the Blue Horse:
There is a Kék Ló already in Berlin under the management of Virág Tóth, called the Blue Horse Vegan Café & Upcycling Fashion Store. That place thought would not quite suit my profile since they do not sell alcohol, it is only a coffee shop, boutique and a vegan restaurant. Though, knowing all its history, I will definitely visit the café if am once around.
The area of Rákóczi Square is full of pubs referring on animals in their names: apart from Kék Ló, there is Csiga=Snail, Macska=Cat and some other places have horses in their names too such as the HintaLÓ=Rocking Horse and the neighbor in the front, which already closed was called Cavallino which means pony in Italian. Hopefully someone will open a new business there too.
And if we already talk about animals… (this will hurt!) What is the difference between the Blue Horse and the Fekete Kutya=Black Dog (Gastropub)? In the Black Dog, there are no blue horses however, in the Blue Horse there is a black dog, a returning guest though we haven’t introduced ourselves yet to each other.
I especially like the slogan of the Blue Horse on their Facebook page: “Where clothes are having night life.”
DRY MATERIAL CONTENT:
On tap: Hekkelberg (lager), Hekkelberg Fux (red), Primator Weizen (wheat beer)
(a previous picture of the tap because I have to show this foot)
Water is served with the coffee which is especially highlighted in Hungary.
Pub food: The menu recurs every two weeks. There is A week and B week. They sell tapas and panini too but I haven’t tried those yet. And I have always seen something nice-looking sweets on the left side of the bar, oat cookies or oat balls.
Occasionally, there is exhibition on the walls.
Address: 1084, Budapest, 28 Víg Street
Open: 12:00-0:00 all day