We have booked three nights in Budapest, and the truth is, neither of us knows what to expect. Except, having checked the weather forecast, it turns out Hungary is going to be hot. Our friends, clearly imagining us off on a Moscow-style short break, all stoic and freezing, are wrong. It is early May and Hungary is boiling. Arriving 9pm, the warm-aired optimism kicks in straight from the plane. We get a cab to our temporary home, Brody House, and the 40-minute journey only costs 5,743 Forints (yep, the Hungarian currency has turned us into big-balling thousandaires), equivalent to €20.
Landing at a gigantic wooden door down a quiet but central road, we are just a couple hundred metres from the Hungarian Natural History Museum. A titchy plaque on the buzzer says ‘Brody House’. There’s no sign of what it is like beyond. Soon we are welcomed by a sun-kissed smiling face who informs us, as we scurry inside, that there is an electrical problem with the original bedroom we booked. The building is incredibly old and listed, so to paraphrase the words of our new friend, getting things fixed here can be a right, well, arse-ache. The good news is that she’s put us in a snazzier suite called the Claret Room.
We’ve been here less than 10 minutes and we are already lusting for Brody. The sweeping dimly lit staircase leading us up to reception is enchanting in itself. The vastness hits you straight away: a ceiling so high you become a happy Borrower; and the walls are unapologetically distressed. The setting wouldn’t look out of place as the opening scene of a Molière play. Beware though. If you wear stilettos (oh, and Brody will make you want to), or should you fill your mouth with too much Bull’s Blood (a traditional Hungarian wine) you could rather too easily fall down these very stairs. They make you breathy and excited. As does the discreet flipbook that you’ll find in the lounge hidden among various coffee-table hardbacks. Among this portfolio of press cuttings about the hotel is page after page of fashion shoot with BH as the backdrop – the Tinei Room has even been the scene for a fully nude and supersexy Playboy centrefold.
And so, to the Claret Room. Along a fabulous glassed corridor (yep, even the hallways are great) overlooking a courtyard, we find ourselves ejected like an old cassette tape out of our ‘London headspace’ and, in the ever-truthful Cumbrian words of Mr Smith, into ‘the nicest room I think I’ve ever seen’. It’s all white and mind balancing – it would only be right to run the Jacuzzi bath exposed in the corner of the room. Though it does involve a tightrope-balancing act round the edge to get to the actual tap, not so practical when there is lava-hot water beneath. It prompts us to cement our ‘Budapest song’ while waiting for it to cool down. Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ bellows, from our laptop and we dance around the Claret like the sleep-deprived but chuffed souls we are, before nearly falling asleep drinking one beer in the steaming corner bath…
The next morning, we look at Brody and we are still into it. It wasn’t a delirious one-night thing. In the sunlight, it still looks sexy. We delightedly eat fruit salad from a bountiful selection and order a fresh smoothie and eggs Benedict on top of what’s on offer, happly to pay the supplement. Who cares – we’re in love. Our original room still hasn’t been fixed so we are moved to the equivalent rank room – not quite as spangly as the Claret Room.
All rooms at Brody are decorated differently: our abode for the remaining two nights is a mini apartment called the Yusuke, which is accessed via the central courtyard. It’s replete with kitchenette, DVD player and mezzanine. While it’s not as luxurious it can be applauded for niftiness and privacy; and when faced with a kitchen, Brody suddenly becomes a potential longer-term affair. ‘Ooh we could come here for a week,’ I think to myself as I look out at the other doors accessed also via the courtyard; I am by now picturing all my best friends staying behind them… My imagination then patters towards what an ideal spot it’d be for a party. It seems I’m not the only one… Our smily hotel host friend tells of a German stag party that booked nearly every room recently and how they all got a little ‘wild’. I was secretly thinking more of a brass band and wedding-type fandango – Brody’s surroundings really are that lovely. But hey? It’s good to know that Brody isn’t opposed to a proper knees-up.
As for Budapest itself, the main thing that you need to know is that it’s split in two by a river. One side is Buda and the other Pest. Both are gorgeous, historic and everyone walks everywhere. We spend each day doing exactly this, sauntering about. Plus we have a choice of eight thermal pool spas dating back to the 16th century – where you’re encouraged to sit about in the sunshine or splash about warm water like contented baby elephants. It’s brilliant. We visited the most popular Hotel Gellért one day and couldn’t resist trying the Szechenyi Bath and Spa the next. Think ‘faded glamour’ rather than ‘princess pampering’. Bring flip-flops, a book and maybe smuggle a picnic if you’re planning the whole day there: food is definitely not a highlight. But back to Brody: it is outstanding. And it’s a wonder Budapest has so undeservedly alluded my attentions until now. But sshhhhhhh. Keep this hotel to yourself please, it is partly so wonderful because it feels like your own very cool, and quite naughty, secret.