I’ve spent the last week in Budapest, Hungary.
It’s my second visit here — the last being in 2016.
It’s a wonderful city, although very cold this time of year — it snowed overnight in the city. They really welcome tourists here and as they have not adopted the Euro, it remains astonishingly cheap.
During my first visit in 2016 I visited a wonderful local restaurant that has remained my favourite memory of Hungary ever since. We stumbled across it one evening without a reservation but were welcomed inside, and enjoyed an amazing meal with some of the best service I have ever experienced in all my travels.
I won’t name the venue but readers very familiar with Budapest may recognise from the description — while it’s an upmarket bistro, the unique fit out is of a cute children’s playroom in a cellar basement.
It sounds odd but it was a really cool and memorable design (and worked really well).
We were welcomed with a free glass of sparkling wine as soon as we walked through the door. The waiters, who all spoke perfect English, then explained the unique menu to us and then encouraged us to try a glass of local Hungarian wine.
We both agreed but had no idea what any of the wines were. Rather than just bringing us a glass of their choice and hoping we liked it, they listened to the styles of wine we would usually drink and then, even though we were only ordering a glass each, brought three different bottles (with three different glasses).
They poured us a small taste of each, so we could try each before committing to one, even though we were ordering only a glass each, not a whole bottle.
The little touches like this really stayed with us and we’ve recommended this venue to loads of friends. The staff took so much time and care to ensure we had an amazing meal.
Unsurprisingly, at the time, it was one of the top rated restaurants in Budapest and was the most memorable part of our 2016 visit to the city.
So, returning for the last week we were excited to return to ‘our favourite Hungarian restaurant.’
We went there last night after looking forward to it all week. The first thing we immediately noticed when we walked in the door was that it was in a new venue. It was significantly bigger — I’m guessing the original concept was so successful they moved it to a much larger capacity space.
Okay, we thought, so it’s not a cozy cellar, but the concept is still the same.
The entire experience was really disappointing. While the food was okay, the service was dreadful. We were completely forgotten about once our meals arrived — we only had one drink the entire meal purely because we were never offered any more.
We ended the meal both agreeing we would never want to come again.
Upon afterwards checking online how the restaurant is rated in the new venue, its rating has slid down considerably. Having watched the service flow it seems like the staff can’t deliver the same amazing, personalised experience in the newer, much larger venue.
It also loses so much of the charm of the original concept — it’s no longer a cute, unique experience — it’s just a big, fairly commercial restaurant.
We left feeling a bit dejected because not only had we had an average dinner, it felt like the original memory from 2016 was ruined.
I’ve had this happen a few times in my travels and I’m interested to know if you guys have too. You have an awesome travel memory, you then return to the same place to try and repeat it, and then it’s not as good and sours the original memory.
Whenever I think of this restaurant I now think more of the disappointing recent experience rather than the amazing experience a few years ago.
There are some memories I’ve had that are so special that I avoid ever trying to repeat/recreate them for fear of ruining the original memory.
For example, I had an incredible week in Israel a few years back which was one of the best weeks of my life. Everything just went absolutely perfectly. I am unlikely to return to Tel Aviv for the sole reason that I doubt it could possibly be as good as my first visit so I feel like I’m setting myself up for disappointment.
Has this happened to you? Has recreating cherished travel memories actually ruined them? Do you ever avoid repeating something to avoid this happening?