The story of the Apostles began in 1903, when János Förster, a second-generation member of the Förster restaurant dynasty, founded his restaurant in Kígyó Street. At that time, it was not considered a restaurant but rather a pub. If you look at the menus of Budapest restaurants at the turn of the century, you will see that the beer selection was very modest. While there was plenty of white and red wines and even mineral waters to choose from, the beers were usually ale or stout. Who would doubt that freshly draught beer has no equal? It was no coincidence that the restaurants tried to sign a contract with a brewery, such was the case with the Matthias Cellar and the Apostles, where visitors could quench their thirst with Löwenbräu beer from Munich. In 1913, minor modifications were made, but the internal layout of the taproom remained the same with the row of boxes.
The heyday of the business undoubtedly began in the 1930s. In 1927, János's sons Pál and Miklós took over the business. According to the house rules, the restaurant was quiet and sober, with a capacity of around 180 people. The catering place was then known as the 'Brasserie and Wine Bar addressed to the Apostles' and also had a restaurant. In 1929, an extension to the building was carried out, partly incorporating the courtyard of the tenement, to create the Small Saloon, originally called the Irredentist Saloon.
As for the interior, the so-called Large Saloon or Apostles' Hall had 6-6 numbered boxes (booths) along the sidewalls, each separated by a bench in front of it. Most of the photos in our gallery are from this room of the restaurant. Both the restaurant and the room were named after the mosaics of the Apostles, created by mosaic and glass painter Imre Zsellér. The artist's work is scarcely documented, but it is thought that he may have completed them in 1929. Zsellér's works included the stained glass window ensemble in the Nádor Hall of the Institute for the Blind (now the School for the Blind) and the mosaic on the façade of the Műcsarnok (Art Hall).
The furnishings of the Small Saloon, or Irredentist Saloon, were very similar to those of the Large Saloon, but here the boxes are distinguished by cityscapes instead of numbers. They depict the typical buildings and famous natives of annexed cities, from Pozsony (Bratislava) to Szabadka (Subotica) and Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mures).
The interior of the restaurant is a veritable treasure repository of artisan masterpieces, from the furniture to the brass hat and luggage racks to the cut glass lampshades. In the late 1950s it was referred to as the Pilsen Pub, later became part of the Pannónia Hotel and Catering Industrial Company. In the 1980s, it was still a mysterious dimly lit place. Today, thanks to the glass walls, the place is lit by a flood of light, but the original vaulting and wood panelling have remained. In 1991, it became the property of the French Accor, owner of Pannónia Hotels Rt., and now shares the premises with the Ice Buffet at 4-6 Kígyó Street.
Translated by Zita Aknai
Gundel Imre, Harmath Judit: A Vendéglátás emlékei, Közgazdasági és Jogi Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 1982.