Mercifully for its devotees, the modern ‘GH Soho’ sign outside the time-honoured red frontage doesn’t signal a flashy rebranding. Inside, all is as it should be at the Gay Hussar: dark wooden panelling bedecked with political portraits or Martin Rowson caricatures; nicotine-brown ceiling; polite, prompt Hungarian staff; and shelves of political biographies.
Gladstone stared bleakly down at our wooden settle, having perhaps eaten one too many dumplings. Since the restaurant’s 1953 inception, the powerbrokers of the political left have dined here. Despite the odd tourist party, they were still in evidence during our good-value lunch. More than a dozen traditional Hungarian dishes are offered for starters and mains. On a sweltering July afternoon we should have ordered the chilled wild cherry soup, or even the fish terrine with beetroot sauce and cucumber. Nevertheless, bean soup, a hearty, salty, wintery ‘soup of the day’, was lifted by slices of intensely smoky sausage. Intense flavours also characterised a main course of paprika-rich venison goulash, served with splayed out gherkin, tangy red cabbage and couscous-like tarhonya. A glass of Bull’s Blood (just £4.50) made a satisfying match.
For afters? The fruity, jelly-like mixed berry pudding provides needed refreshment; were he still active during the Gay Hussar’s 60-year lifetime, it might even have cheered up Gladstone.