Opening one’s eyes to find Scarlett Johansson gazing back must be one of the better ways to wake up, and there’s a more than normal chance of it happening if you book the right room above Budapest’s Balthazár bar and grill, where a mural recreates her film role as the muse for Vermeer’s famous painting. If Dutch masters don’t get you up in the morning, you could opt for Keith Haring’s lively dancing figures from a few decades ago instead.
Balthazár comes from the team behind crash-bang-wallop restobar Spiler, but aside from Haring’s ebullient dancers, this place is a more laid-back, cosy affair where lounging would seem to be the most appropriate pastime. Comfortable chairs and sofas abound in the 11 rooms and public spaces, and although the books covering the whole of one wall aren’t real, Balthazár is a perfect spot to relax with something to read while digesting what is served up in the restaurant downstairs. There is plenty to peer at over the top of your tome as well thanks to interior designer Tibor Somlai and graphic artist Géza Ipacs. A flying elephant mural in the dining room and a version of Grant Wood’s American Gothic with a Magritte twist are two more artworks that the duo has brought in to share a roof with The Girl With the Pearl Earring. To help one unwind there’s a big cellar of Carpathian wines to delve into, and an especially fine selection of gins – an unusual speciality but a very welcome one indeed.