Right in the heart of Budapest’s lively 5th district, a short walk away from Váci utca, lives a small coffee shop.
As the hipsters tap away on a sea of MacBooks on the first floor, regulars slip in and out ordering lattes to take away. Madal is reviewed favourably in plenty of Budapest guides, and often makes top ten lists of coffee shops in the city, and for good reason. On top of simple espresso, Madal offers coffee fans access to weird and wonderful brewing systems from around the world, such as the V60, aeropress, and a few that I don’t know how to pronounce. Their offerings don’t stop there, with tea and a few more luxurious soft drink options if you’ve already hit your caffeine limit for the day.
The simplistic interior design eschews the warm, cushioned tones of chains like Starbucks and Costa, opting instead for beechwood and white paint, giving the café an almost nautical feel. It’s easy to feel like you’ve spent too long here – there’s as much free tap water as you can drink, but the benches and seats inside are hard on the backside. During the summer season, there are tables outside – a great spot for people-watching just a stone’s throw from Ferenciek Tere, and the seats outside are a little more comfortable.
Madal’s main crowd seem to be relatively wealthy young people – foreign students and ‘work-from-home’ twenty-somethings, and the prices unfortunately do reflect that. A simple espresso will set you back around 500 forints, with fancier brews costing more. However, one big bonus is the availability of alternative milks – Madal have a selection to choose from for a small fee, which should suit even the most restrictive diets.
The service prioritises satisfaction over speed, so while service with a smile is standard, it can take a little while for your coffee to be brought over – this reflects the chilled out atmosphere of the café overall – it’s not a ‘stop off for coffee’ on the way to somewhere else, but a destination in its own right.
The majority of Madal’s visitors are individuals – occasionally you’ll hear a couple chatting, a few friends discussing weekend plans, or a language lesson, but for most people, Madal is a place to drop down with a laptop and headphones. For those that choose not to slip in their ear buds, ambient music is a bit on the hippy side, but unobtrusive enough that it’s easily ignored.
When your coffee arrives, it’s served on a tranche of wood, engraved with the Madal logo – it’s a nice touch, and is in keeping with the theme of the place. For me personally, the coffee is a little acidic, but there’s no doubt that they take the quality of their coffee seriously.
A word to the wise: while you can order a few vegan treats and several types of baguettes, Madal’s main focus is their coffee, and their food selection is limited.
NB: Madal also have another two locations, a smaller shop out in front of Parliament (1054 Alkotmány u 4.), and another just to the north of Parliament (1136 Hollán Ernő u 3.).