Let’s not hear any more complaints about the poor standard of service at Budapest’s restaurants. As a victim of a small “foreigner tax,” cold soup, or the cold shoulder for your lack of linguistic skills, you got off lightly. Imagine a gang of uniformed cops in ski masks storming in and spilling hot (or, if you’re lucky, cold) gulyás in your lap before proceeding to beat your fellow diners to a pulp. That’s exactly what happened to guests, some of them innocent foreigners, dining out at the traditionally Hungarian Magyar Étterem (pictured) on October 23 while Budapest’s more violent and threatening elements were outside throwing rocks at police, reports Magyar Nemzet.
As with most things October 23-related, the motives for the attack are unclear. According to Zoltán Sz., who works as an engineer and was quoted by the Nemzet in its article, he was enjoying dinner at the restaurant with two friends, one of them a young woman. Around 7:30 p.m., a police van stopped in front of the building and between eight and ten officers jumped out. Two attacked guests sitting on the terrace, the others entered the restaurant, shouting, “We’ll beat up everyone’s heads, you rotten filth!” They attacked the guests, including foreigners, and also the cook working at an another restaurant next door.
The cook of a neighboring restaurant asked the officers not to harm him, as he was working. He was told, “You don’t work, your … mother, you’ve never worked in your life.” (We cannot verify whether these police accusations are true as the restaurant in question was not named.) Sz. said that teargas was then fired into the restaurant, the door was shut in the face of the owner, a woman, and the officers left.
According to the restaurant manager, who we spoke to, the attack wasn’t quite as bad as Magyar Nemzet paints it, (only) four guests were beaten shortly after entering the restaurant, but it is true that the officers filled it with teargas on leaving. The operation of the restaurant has been disrupted, but the number of patrons has fallen noticeably.
American tourists were also reported to be at the restaurant at the time of the incident and were forced to hide in the bathroom for around an hour. They said they had only experienced abuse of this kind in apartheid-era South Africa. Uniformed personnel also beat up a Canadian man and a German couple, but this claim was not substantiated by restaurant staff, who are still trying to track down the Germans, who took photos of the incident. However, it is true that several guests did burst into tears, and this time it wasn’t the work of the surly waiter.