VOLANTE Elyse Glickman indulges in Zürich, a city that bridges present and future, with more than chocolate and museums—its food scene is particularly memorable
Photographed by the author
The refinement, sophistication and practicality that sets Zürich apart as a national and international capital runs deep through its historical roots. Spend a day or two in town and it’s clear that grand buildings, infrastructure, businesses and green spaces have been built with intention and purpose. Even the world-famous chocolatiers have operated their businesses with precision.
While luxury expresses itself in elegant old school ways in cities like Lausanne, Lucerne and Genève, Zürich is about living in the present and the future, even with its own rich assortment of historic buildings and attractions. Look around, and you’ll observe practically everybody appreciating the ways life in Zürich sets the standard for the good life for the rest of the world to follow. Lifestyle trends evolve effortlessly, and the public just lives them as they’re happening, much like a leisurely afternoon stroling the sidewalks flanking Lake Zürich. Furthermore, residents don’t feel like they have to wait for the weekend to appreciate what they have.
Not surprisingly, Zürich is a great shopping city, with one side of the Limmat River overflowing with top-tier jewellers and familiar global designer luxury brands and the other side, skewing a bit younger with a mix of fast-fashion chains intermixed with funky ateliers with eye catching items for one’s wardrobe and home. Between March and November, the Rosenhof Market adds to the ambiance and packs some glamourous surprises, with several jewellery artisans sparkling among the typical mix of bohemian wares from Asia and Africa. If you can’t make it to the market, swing by Shahirazad whose sterling silver designs and lovely owners make it standout among the many gem shops.
Markthalle at Im Viadukt, located in the industrial area-turned-arts and residential district Zürich West, is aspirational shopping experience with its maze of artisanal food products and boutique imports. It also has a namesake bistro and high-end fast casual kiosks offering everything from pizza to sushi. While it anchors the Viaduct’s expanse of art galleries and high-end specialty stores, the Friday market at Wochenmarkt Bürkliplatz draws a more diverse crowd shopping for foodstuffs from area producers. This is the place to go if you want to put together an unfussy yet top-quality ad hoc picnic with cheeses, charcuterie and fruits and vegetables specific to this part of the world. And if it’s amazing vintage and designer clothing finds you crave, head to the same spot on Saturdays for the weekly flea market.
Beyond the shops and markets, you can’t help but feel that Zürich offers a taste of the future, with a huge emphasis on sustainability that defines the forward-thinking residents who make the city a model for how other urban areas around the world should function. In the centre of all of this, Hotel Ameron Zürich Bellerive au Lac is an ideal place for a base camp to explore what makes today’s Zürich tick. Opened in mid-2021 and encased in a building dating to 1928, the hotel is designed as a tribute to the early days of Switzerland’s film industry. Even with the dominant 1920s and 1930s æsthetic, however, several fun elements of mid-century modern and late-20th-century design in the public and private areas add unexpected pops of colour and visual interest.
Although the hotel has an excellent restaurant as well as a small indoor gym, you’ve got Lake Zürich outside of its front doors, so why settle for a virtual run, ride or swim when you have the real deal right across the street, along with people-watching and scenery a machine can never duplicate? To experience the incredible range of things outside of the hotel, the Ameron Zürich Bellerive au Lac also offers packages that include a three-day Zürich pass that includes unlimited rides on public transportation, including easy access to a train direct to the Airport at the Zürich Stadelhofen four blocks away to avoid the crowds at the main train station. Even if you end up buying the 72-hour pass à la carte, you will get a lot of use from it as it also has free and discounted museum admissions as well as special promotions offered by different restarants. Museums worth a long, lingering visit include the Kunsthaus Zürich, FIFA World Football Museum, and the Swiss National Museum, a stylishly eclectic collection of decorative interiors, furnishings, military history, an impressive ring collection stretching through history, and a vast collection of art, crafts and fashion items.
Speaking of which, if you want to understand Zürich’s food scene, look no further than the chocolatiers that are among the city’s biggest draws. While the generations-old chocolate houses Läderach, Sprüngli, Teuscher and Lindt are thriving (Lindt even has a new museum experience that comes close to replicating the Willy Wonka factory fantasy, minus Oompa Loompas and clever punishments for naughty children), there is plenty of room for newcomers with their own distinctive and whimsical spin on luxury chocolate.
Vollenweider, one of the newer players in the chocolate game, has its own modern take on form, flavour, function, and ice-cream. If you want to sum up the experience of shopping here in a few bites, splurge on one of its gelato cornettos. The stratchatella cone’s core is a thin but powerful layer of chocolate that punctuates the rich but balanced ice-cream it holds. The packaging is at once sweetly old-fashioned in a ’50s way but also contemporary. And speaking of great packaging, to impress friends back home, present them a superior chocolate bar that’s also a real golden ticket (2 per cent dark chocolate with 22 ct gold, US$19).
While the opening of the new Zürich Convention Centre and Tonhalle (concert hall) last year generated much excitement for business travellers and music lovers, the adjoining Lux Restaurant & Bar has quickly become a showcase for modern Swiss cuisine, executed with a definitively Swiss sense of fun. The experience begins with beautifully produced menus that puts into focus executive chef Gerhard Rentz’s sustainable-but-glamourous culinary approach and interior designers Jasmin Grego and Stephanie Kühnle’s light-hearted use of pastels and mid-century modern silhouettes. This, along with a large outdoor patio, with prime views of Lake Zürich, starts the conversation before you even get your hands on its coffee-table book quality menu.
Chef Rentz pays homage to Zürich’s local culinary roots with several updated comfort food dishes, including a Zürichsee plate (lightly fried perch with a touch of saffron mayonnaise) and Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, a just ever-so-slightly lighter version of the creamy veal and mushroom stew served with Rösti potatoes, and a Wiediker Plättli crafted with local cheese—all made with a lighter-than-traditional hand.
Rentz’s kitchen also turns out several originals, such as a grilled turbot adorned with crispy chorizo, sweet potato, roasted red pepper and butter sauce; a slow-cooked salmon dressed up with poached sage and fennel vegetables, buckwheat and miso–lime dressing and a divine crayfish bisque with white tomato foam and Zürich gin. The bar, meanwhile, has an impressive list of red and white wines from local Zürich winegrowers and intriguing signature cocktails. Highlights include the Minerva (gin, pineapple, lemongrass, ginger, lime, basil) and General Guisan (Bourbon whiskey, sweet vermouth, apricot brandy), both with spirits and elements exclusive to Switzerland.
If you’re a previous visitor to Zürich, and have not been there in a while, Europaallee’s presence can be a bit surprising. However, if you are familiar with Carlton, the beyond-classy brasserie devised by Markus and Daniela Segmüller, you will feel right at home at Loft Five, the restaurateurs’ latest venture. While the splurge-worthy Carlton a few blocks away is a can’t-miss for its elegant continental menu and clubby setting, Loft Five is an upscale feng shui emporium of whimsy designed by Liechtenstein interior designer Günther Thöny. The five different rooms are all perfect backdrops for innovative cocktails, imaginative bar snacks and a few surprising riffs on American comfort foods.
Chef Philipp Heering and his kitchen team clearly have fun transforming seemingly seasonal and basic dishes into something simultaneously elevated and fun. A standout is the BBQ short ribs, with Swiss meat cooked on the bone in a house-made barbecue sauce for hours to attain a buttery texture. The presentation is complemented with crispy fries and fresh, Asian-inspired cucumber salad. Updates on “traditional” Swiss selections include pickled salmon (adorned with Swiss-made Turicum gin, beetroot carpaccio, mustard sorbet and egg yolk cream) and various expressions of beef tartare. The bar’s Pub Grub menu is also a charming pastiche of European and North American flavours, and includes currywurst, chicken wings, and Cæsar salad (localized with Swiss chicken breast pancetta). Signature cocktails such as the 1786 (a bourbon concoction with lemon juice, cherry syrup and Antika Formula bitters) and the Smash (with Henkes gin, ginger beer and raspberry purée) are as refreshing and colourful as the décor.
For cocktail aficionados, however, the Onyx at the five-star Park Hyatt Zürich is a definitive mixology destination, thanks to the talents of Hercules Tsibis, an internationally award-winning bartender with author (his cocktail recipe books for professionals) and inventor (embedding QR codes connecting to video demos with the recipes) credentials. Cocktails run the gamut from delicate champagne cocktails (strawberry and rhubarb Bellini) and non-alcoholic drinks (Yemeni, with coconut, lime, kombucha and cumin) with fresh muddled fruit and herbs to bold gin (Lime Tree Collins) and barrel-aged brown spirits creations. Many are rendered in colours that play off the plush, jewel-toned seating and accompanied by Indian and Thai-spiced bar snacks.
The drinks are also perfect foils for an impressive food menu with a few items adapted from 15 Gault Millau-rated restaurant Parkhuus (helmed by chef de cuisine Tarik Lange). While the enormous Swiss-beef hamburger is the stuff of legend with its rich, refined toppings, for a late dinner, Tsibis recommends a surprisingly flavourful protein bowl with grilled salmon that’s also available in vegan and vegetarian variations with the same base of grilled and chilled vegetables and quinoa. If anything, a last meal like that prompts curiosity to find out what dining in the main restaurant is like on a return visit.
It’s tough to turn away a hotel breakfast, especially if your hotel is a five-star property. However, you’ll want to make an exception for Milchbar, tucked away into Paradeplatz (just off main street Bahnhoffstrasse). During the warmer months, the leafy patio and tempting mix of fresh baked goods and global menu selections make it a great breakfast or mid-afternoon spot. Highlights include fresh-squeezed juices, house-made Kombucha, and aromatic siphon-brewed coffee, espresso and cappucino drinks with roasted brews from Araku in India, Panama, Costa Rica and others. As Zürich residents love their picnics and beautifully merchandised gourmet food shops, be sure to pay the shop on the second level a visit for charcuterie, cheeses, and condiments galore.
While Haus Hiltl has been a local institution for over a century, and its many offshoots around Zürich are go-tos for the locals, fourth generation owner Rolf Hiltl makes it a point to ensure there is always something new and exciting for vegans, vegetarians and even omnivores with the restaurant’s constantly evolving approach to plant-based foods, including some new Korean items as well as the fact that the fabled Hiltl Buffet is now 72 per cent vegan. What makes Hiltl so innovative is that it is designed for flexitarians who all want to find creative ways to bring more plant-based foods into their diet. •
Elyse Glickman is US west coast editor of Lucire.
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