The site of the Ferenciek Bazaar, where the restaurant is located, was originally the site of the Franciscan monks' monastery built in 1748. In 1784, Joseph II donated most of the monastery to the university, which moved from Buda to Pest. The decision was not to the friars' liking, which was shown by the fact that they did everything in their power to reclaim the usurped building. Their request was finally heard in 1855, when Franz Joseph issued a decree returning the property that had been taken. As usual, a final settlement was not reached until a few years later, in 1872, and it was probably no coincidence that the University Library was begun to be built in 1873, next to the building.
The fact that the Franciscans wanted to replace the rather timeworn convent building with a modern tenement building is hardly a blame on them. The aforementioned Ferenciek Bazaar was finally completed in less than a year, in 1877, to the design of Lajos Frey and Napoleon Kéler. The bazaar literally wraps around the church, as it is in fact a passage building, although today this is not quite obvious from the street front. One entrance to the bazaar was from what is now Ferenciek Square, the other from Kossuth Lajos (then Hatvani) Street. Why was the Order interested in building such a passage house? They could use the income from renting out the premises for their own expenses, for example for building schools.
Apart from the milliners and tailors, the best investment among the rentable premises on the ground floor was of course the restaurant, but there was also a studio of photographer György Klösz upstairs. The first tenant of the restaurant was György Holzwarth, but the business itself was managed by Károly Csalányi. From 1899 to 1918, the restaurant was rented by Géza Neusiedler, who had the good sense to make the restaurant flourish by acquiring the exclusive rights to sell Salvator beer of Munich in Pest, and by this business move, he increased the turnover spectacularly. According to recollections, people often queued for tables all the way to the church.
From the Spolarich family
After a less successful period in the restaurant's history, in 1925, a new owner took over the restaurant: members of the famous catering dynasty of Pest, György Spolarich and his sons, became the tenants. The Spolarichs were responsible for the expansion of the restaurant and the creation of the unique interior spaces that can still be seen today. The family, which has Croatian ancestry, is said to have traced their family tree back to Miklós Zrínyi. We know that one of the Spolarich ancestors, a certain Márton, was Zrínyi's secretary. In 1920, the family published Zrínyi's famous work (The Remedy against Turkish Opium) in his memory, but dedicated to the Governor of Hungary, probably in order 'to awaken the consciousness of the Hungarian nation, which had suffered much in the revolutions following the World War, with Zrínyi's enthusiastic words'.
Returning to the restaurant, the transformation was determined by this self-consciousness, so the restaurant received a Szigetvár, a Zrínyi, a Regős and a Vitéz room.
The renovation was carried out according to the plans of architect and painter Károly Bodon, while the paintings were created by the excellent Lajos Pándy. It is important to note that the founder of the first Hungarian furniture factory Károly Lingel Sr. produced the restaurant furniture of great artistic value. The decorative glazings and stained-glass work of the restaurant were made by József Palka, who was particularly famous for his work in the field of ecclesiastical stained glass. The general decorative work was done by the Hantos brothers, while the lighting was the work of Károly Barta. Despite the energy and money invested, it has not survived as the Spolarich Pub. The name "Kárpátia", which is still used today, comes from László Károlyi, who ran the restaurant as a tenant from 1934.
Károly Spolarich, the owner, went bankrupt in the meantime, and it was rumoured for a long time that the former government counsellor tried to rebuild his fortune in Japan, but without success, as the Japanese were not interested in Hungarian flavours. The restaurant was later taken over by the state in 1949, and in 1957, it became part of the HungarHotels chain.
Although its popularity was undiminished, the food preparation space of the restaurant proved to be rather limited and renovation became an urgent task. The main aim of the designers was to renovate and modernise the rooms. The renovation of the restaurant took place in 1978-79, under the direction of two UVATERV designers, architect István Vellay and interior designer László Hornicsek.
Fortunately, the interior of the restaurant has remained relatively intact, thanks in part to the fact that its distinctive furnishings and decorations, which are of artistic importance, were declared protected by the Ministry of Culture in 1973.
After privatisation, in October 1997, the restaurant was bought by the internationally renowned and highly professional Ákos Niklai. Unfortunately, the imposing restaurant did not survive the pandemic period, and we now have one legendary restaurant less.
Translated by Zita Aknai
Gundel Imre, Harmath Judit: A Vendéglátás emlékei, Közgazdasági és Jogi Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 1982.