Michelle Chenery reports on a restful yet invigorating short trip to Hungary’s capitalOur group trip to Budapest was multi-faceted. Hungary’s capital city is a destination that is always very rewarding and the Corinthia Hotel Budapest, our base, was a visitor attraction in itself. And then, as valuable extras, we were treated to expert presentations on diets for delegates and ways to improve sleep.
The building was opened in 1896 as the Grand Royal Hotel and has been lovingly restored by Corinthia Hotels to create a modern luxury hotel that retains its historic features of marble floors, grand sweeping staircase and six-storey atrium.
There is nothing of the old days, however, in the check-in service. Guests can be in their rooms within minutes, complete with their luggage and ready to settle down with local wine and macaroons.
Groups are immediately made to feel very welcome. In Le Bar Library we were served with canapés and a choice of fruit cocktails with or without alcohol and bite-sized chocolate treats.
The 5-star Corinthia Hotel Budapest has an imposing central location close to the Danube. There are 414 rooms, including 31 suites and 26 apartments. All provide free wi-fi and cabled internet access.
It boasts the city’s largest 5-star hotel conference facilities. Its Valletta Conference Centre and accompanying spaces can be configured into 31 meeting rooms, the largest, the Ballroom, catering for up to 500 delegates theatre-style or 320 for a banquet in beautiful Baroque surroundings.
We, as a group, were able to savour the meeting rooms for ourselves. We gathered there to hear presentations on the latest thinking that now underpins two important aspects of Corinthia’s services for delegates. They concern cuisine and sleep.
- Atrium Atrium
- Ballroom Ballroom
- Bock Bistro Bock Bistro
- Executive King room Executive King room
- Corinthia Hotel Budapest Corinthia Hotel Budapest
- Lobby Lobby
We learned how the Corinthia Hotel group has worked in association with nutrition specialist Jeannette Hyde to produce guidelines based on cutting-edge research. It highlights sugar and refined carbohydrates as real problems to our health, to our energy levels and to our concentration and mood. It was suggested that nuts are not as bad as they have been portrayed in the past and that some of the fats in them can be good for weight management and can help with concentration and may even relieve stress. Full fat yoghurts and fermented milk drinks, such as kefir, have beneficial bacteria that may help to improve focus, mood and sleep. Gluten has been removed from the Corinthia menus, as this is sometimes associated with brain fog (unclear thinking), anxiety, mood swings, exhaustion and disturbed sleep, which no delegates want to experience during an event.
The presentation explained that the usual sugary and high fat content items often available during coffee beaks have been replaced with more balanced and slow energy release items. The aim is to give delegates a more balanced day without the need to be sitting there craving more chocolate or coffee just to keep awake or to get through the next meeting.
Jeannette Hyde commented: ‘There's a perception that healthy foods are likely to taste boring or come across as a bit holier than thou. No chance of that when you work with chefs from the nine Corinthia hotels. It has been an absolute delight for me to work with these guys, because they have used their talents to transform healthy foods into mouth-watering deliciousness. They have taken nutrient-rich foods such as rainbows of vegetables and fruits, wild meats and fish, gluten-free grains, fermented foods and nuts and seeds and conjured them into delicious, vibrant dishes ideal for a power break or a mentally-recharging lunch.’
Jeannette’s tip that was my favourite for focus and concentration was: Include protein with every snack and meal. So, for snacks, offer a handful of nuts or seeds. At lunch provide a piece of meat the size of a pack of playing cards, or fish the size of a cheque book. Or a couple of eggs can do the trick too.
Then what better way for our group to put all that to the test than to try some of the new snacks that were on offer during our break. They included locally made yoghurts, home-made coulis, almond balls, banana bread, Linzer cake and dark chocolate bites, with green tea and pecan and sesame bars. I noticed that, although there was coffee available, our group mostly followed the advice they had just heard and went for the green tea.
Later, the lunch we ate on the hotel terrace overlooking the atrium comprised gluten-free teff tortilla wraps with chicken and shrimps, romaine lettuce and mint, followed by grilled codfish fillet with cornflakes, carrot cream, white asparagus and ginger butter sauce. It was nicely rounded off with chocolate cream with Granny Smith sorbet and cucumber-celery sauce.
And now to sleep
Not only is Corinthia keen to keep delegates awake during the day, it has also teamed up with sleep expert Dr Guy Meadows to provide the best possible night’s sleep. The aim is to offer helpful tips in dealing with a change of time zones and a switch of environments. Winding down before going to bed is of extreme importance. So, 30 minutes before preparing for bed make sure to switch off all electronic devices. Five minutes before going to sleep stop checking emails, facebook or twitter. Apparently our internal body clock keeps to time via a mass of 20,000 cells just behind our eyes. The light from electronic devices stimulates rather than relaxes.
My favourite tip is the cat nap. It is a highly efficient and speedy way of recharging batteries during the day, the most effective time being between noon and 3pm. A nap of no longer than 20 to 30 minutes can leave you feeling refreshed and even more efficient than first thing in the morning. Research proves it to boost creative problem solving, memory processing, focus and attention.
Jet lag can be minimised by synchronising your internal body clock to the local time zone by getting out into natural light, as well as eating, working, socialising and sleeping at the local times. Even something as simple as changing your watch to the local destination time as soon as you board the plane can help. In this way, you can use the duration of the flight to start adjusting.
Dr Guy Meadows commented: ‘Get into the habit of switching off all electronic devices, dimming the lights and enjoying a calming book for half an hour to tell your brain that sleep is on its way.’
Dinner that evening was served on the Roof Garden. We watched the Head Chef at work outdoors preparing a spit-roasted hog, barbecued meats and prawns. Duck was served in pancake rolls. We were given an insight into some of the ingredients used and then, as the light faded, the tables came to life with an array of coloured lights. Soothing hues of pink, purple and blue faded in and out throughout the rest of the evening. We were treated to a Rubik’s cube performance by courtesy of the local DMC, Motivation. Two guys completed a wide selection of cubes in seconds and topped off their performance when one asked the group to mix up a cube and then he solved it whilst blindfolded. Needless to say that I had a great nights sleep after following the tips I had learned.
The following day was an interesting exploration of Budapest, getting around on public transport. We found our own way, but we were accompanied by a guide who filled us on facts about the buildings and areas of the city as we went.
We took in the sights of the cafes and bars round Liszt Ferenc (Franz Liszt) Square and then the iconic Opera House on the Pest side of the Danube. We rode the underground to Bajcsy-Zsillinsky Street and to a wine tasting at Domus Vinorum (the Home of Wine). It seemed to be a normal wine shop until we headed down the stairs and into the cellars. We sat in alcoves lined with myriad bottles and sampled red and white wine and the famous Tokaji Aszú.
The next surprise was a visit to a strudel house. It was fascinating to watch the pastry being gently teased out to form a layer so thin we could read a paper through it, before conducting an air test, trimming and adding fillings and finally being baked. Then, in teams of four, we had a go, each teasing out one side until it was ready to pass the paper and the air tests to be ready for a filling. The female group was successful and were then informed that they were also worthy of Hungarian husbands. Apparently, in former times, this was a requisite for any would-be bride. We sampled strudels with three different fillings, including cabbage, cottage cheese and one created from chocolate, poppy seeds and cherries.
- Atrium Restaurant Atrium Restaurant
- Room welcome treats Room welcome treats
- Wine tasting Wine tasting
- Pálinka tasting Pálinka tasting
- Glass Bridge at Corithia Hotel Budapest Glass Bridge at Corithia Hotel Budapest
- Royal Spa Royal Spa
On the Magaréta terrace we experienced another great taste sensation, Pálinka. This is a brandy distilled from a variety of fruits, including apricot, pear, plum and cherry, once thought of more as a digestive medication than a drink. We drank some of the plum and the peach whilst soaking up the views of the Parliament Building, Fisherman’s Bastion and the cityscape.
A stroll then took us past the National Dance Theatre and the Sándor Palace, where we witnessed the changing of the guard before continuing to the funicular to descend to river level. We walked back over the Chain Bridge and then took a tram to the Market Hall, a fascinating vintage wrought iron structure.
There, as well as inspecting an array of colourful stalls with local produce, we tasted the deep-fried dough of Lángos with a variety of toppings, such as sour cream, garlic and cheese. How could we visit Budapest without tasting goulash, so a large bowl of that was delivered to our table and I don't think there was a drop uneaten by the time our group departed.
It was then a good time to sample the spa at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest, which is in partnership with ESPA. There we had a choice of a swim in its 15-metre pool, a Jacuzzi, steam baths or massage. I opted for a nice relaxing Swedish massage in one of its seven treatment rooms. I could feel all the tension being massaged out of my neck and shoulders, so much so that I all but fell asleep on the treatment table.
Dinner was taken at the hotel’s Bock Bistro, which has been awarded a Bib Gourmand by the Michelin Guide for its good value. It specialises in Hungarian-inspired dishes fused with Spanish tapas. We enjoyed Hungarian spicy sausage, peppers, cheese infused with paprika, fish and veal neck fillet, rounding off with cottage cheese cake.
But it wasn’t time for bed yet. We were lucky enough to go on to take in the sights of the city as we cruised along the Danube aboard a glass roof boat. The city’s most famous landmarks were all illuminated, including the Parliament building, Fisherman's Bastion, Royal Palace, Gellert Hill and statue, and Balna Budapest.
Corinthia events service
Corinthia promises to acknowledge event enquiries within three hours with full details to follow within 24 hours. A customised page is set up at www.corinthia.com for each event and a dedicated and highly trained event assistant gives round-the-clock support. A cellular phone is pre-programmed with local contacts and credit, an event room is fully prepared at least one hour before the event is due to take place, there is complimentary Wi-Fi and an upgraded organiser suite is provided completely free of charge.
Being piloted currently on the Corinthia Hotel Budapest website is a new room planning option allowing event planners to set out any of the hotel’s event spaces to their requirements and send it directly to the hotel for a quote. This is due to be rolled out across the rest of the group in the near future.
For more information on any of the Corinthia Hotels please visit: corinthia.com/contact-us/To see more images of Budapest please take a look at our facebook album