Now, I come from the land of shopping malls — Southern California — and for the last three years lived within a few miles of South Coast Plaza, The Lab, Fashion Island, the Irvine Spectrum and more strip malls than I’d even like to think about. In Budapest, things haven’t changed that much. I live within a few miles of West End City Center, Mammut, MoM Park, Arena Plaza and another mall that I only went to once (Evan, you can fill in the name). These are all multistory — and in the case of Mammut, multibuilding — sprawling complexes with plenty of brand-name retailers and restaurants alongside movie theaters, bowling alleys, smaller shops and plenty of bars.
The strip mall doesn’t exist here, though the independent shop is alive and well. But the malls are decidedly different, mostly because the lack of department stores or big-box retailers. Arena Plaza comes close, though, by having a Tesco, and there are some big electronics stores that you can find in most of the malls. But as far as I can tell, the malls’ only anchors are grocery stores.
Other than that, they’re pretty similar to the malls we have at home — crowded, decorated in their Christmas best at this time of year and expensive.
Evan and I went to Mammut, which means Mammoth, on Sunday to buy a few gifts, and as we rode up and down the escalators and walked its crowded corridors, we started getting a bit irritated, as neither of us would choose to spend much time in a mall anyway and it was pretty warm and stuffy. So we decided to sit down away from the crowds and have a snack.
We went to the top floor, which was a bit more subdued, and found a nice little cafe called Bitter Sweet, which seems to specialize in Italian chocolates. The walls were red, the tables were dark wood and the matching wooden chairs had upholstered white seats. There were decorated guitars and music-themed paintings on the walls, and the pastry case held an impressive array of delicate desserts.
The menu was huge and boasted a lot of delicious-sounding veggie options, though we weren’t ready for a meal — we has a big homemade breakfast of eggs and hash browns. There were also a lot of specialty coffee drinks on the menu that I would have liked to try, but the mall was hot, and coffee didn’t sound that great at the moment. So we found some mixed juice drinks and just couldn’t resist ordering the dark chocolate fondue.
The juices were quite sweet and syrupy — I got a tropical citrus, peach and grenadine blend that was quite refreshing, and Evan got a heartier and sweeter black currant-based drink. The fondue was decent, though the fruits could have been a bit more exciting and the cake a little less crumbly. And our water was served ice cold, quite a treat!