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Orban’s New Dilemma: a Belle-Epoque Eatery’s Almost-Free Lunch

  • New canteen at premier’s office sparks outrage over prices
  • Criticism comes as protesters say he’s undermining democracy
Gundel restaurant in Budapest in 2006.

Gundel restaurant in Budapest in 2006.

Photographer: Mark H Milstein/Bloomberg

A restaurant founded during the heyday of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is engulfed in a dispute over Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s governing style, which protesters have taken to the streets to denounce as authoritarian.

Criticized by opponents for lavishing benefits on a cadre of loyalist elite, Orban capped almost a decade of centralizing power this year by moving his office to a former monastery at Buda Castle overlooking the Danube. Gundel, a restaurant founded in 1894 on the edge of the city’s answer to Central Park, won the catering contract for the site’s new cafeteria.