Sunday, April 29, 2012

Swiss Rösti in Zurich

Big money is never far away in the small city of Zurich – it is in the gleaming facades of its financial institutions, historic guild halls and churches, abundant cultural offerings, and opulent shops. The city’s classic dishes – liver with herbs, or veal in cream sauce – also have a soul-satisfying richness, especially when served with the delicious potato pancakes known as rösti.

Zurich is a city of commerce. The clink of coin has accompanied trade, manufacturing, and not least – from 1755, with the creation of Bank Leu & Cie – the banking sector, which has made this city of around 400,000 inhabitants one of the world’s leading financial centers. Nestled on the shores of Lake Zurich and straddling both banks of the Limmat River, Zurich saw the passage of Celts and Romans before settling into its solidly Teutonic mold, which has shaped the diet of the city’s burghers.
Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, strips of tender veal cooked in a cream sauce, and Leberli, calf liver pan-fried with garden herbs, are two favorites, especially when accompanied by rösti. These buttery potato cakes are made by boiling unpeeled potatoes until semisoft; they are then peeled and grated, and shaped in the frying pan into a round pancake. The taste of butter and a little salt permeates the cake, which is soft within and a crusty golden brown without.
Rösti may be a local star, but Zurich has much more to offer the taste buds. From Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) in a bakery tearoom to bistro food, ethnic restaurants, and temples of Michelin-starred refinement, there’s much to savor. Very much part of the mix is the street market held twice weekly at Bürkliplatz near the lake – a riot of seasonal fruit, vegetables and flowers, and wild mushrooms in fall.
Despite its wealth, Zurich remains a small city – and its manageable size is what makes getting around downtown on foot, or via Zurich’s clean and efficient tram system, the preferred option. Leading straight down toward the lake from the Hauptbahnhof, or main train station, is Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s answer to Bond Street and Fifth Avenue. Some of the largest banks mingle along this stretch with a lush spread of retail havens. Off to the left is part of Zurich’s Old Town, linked by several foot bridges to the rest of the Old Town on the other side of the river. Aside from its medieval guild halls, crowning Old Town glories include the Chagall-windowed Fraumünster church and the Grossmünster (cathedral), surrounded by art galleries, antique stores, chic boutiques, eateries, and food shops. Mixing art, café culture, and shopping is Cabaret Voltaire, a reminder that the Dada movement began in Zurich in 1916.

Classic Swiss rösti may be served with a fried egg on top as a weekday meal, or as an accompaniment to veal or liver dishes

Best Places to Eat Rösti
In Switzerland, many fashionable city eateries either don’t serve rösti or reinterpret them into dainty patties. However, at Kronenhalle there’s no fooling around with the rösti; it’s the real thing – a large, rich, buttery potato cake that’s eaten with the restaurant’s Châteaubriand steak, Wiener schnitzel, or veal bratwurst.
This establishment has been home to Zurich’s crème de la crème for generations and has a collection of art by masters such as Miró and Chagall. Whether you’re in the front room or one of the two dining rooms, the buzzy atmosphere is that of a chock-ablock brasserie rather than a hallowed hall of gastronomic distinction (although the food is very savvily done). With so much history – it opened its doors in 1862 – to go with the art and the beautiful people, the Kronenhalle is quintessential Zurich.
Rämistrasse 4, Zurich; open noon–midnight daily;
Also in Zurich
Once the home of the city’s mayor, the building housing Restaurant Bierhalle Kropf (; moderate) is a magnificent piece of heritage, dating back to the Middle Ages; try their house specialty of Würstplatte – a selection of sausages – mit Rösti. At the Rössli (; moderate) in Zollikon, an upmarket area just outside the downtown, try your rösti with calf liver, garlic, onions, and herbs. Zunfthaus zur Haue (www.; moderate) serves its Geschnetzeltes mit Rösti with added calf kidney for that extra zing.
Also in Switzerland
Lucerne’s iconic Wirtshaus Galliker
(+41 41 240 10 02; moderate) is a bastion of homely Swiss cooking, with rösti galore. Café du Grütli (; inexpensive) in Lausanne serves up Swiss classics with rösti including local saucisse à rotir (roast sausage).
Restaurant Schnabel (www.restaurantschnabel. ch; moderate) in Basel has a whole selection of rösti dishes as main courses as well as accompaniments to liver dishes such as the Basel specialty Suuri Läberli (sour beef liver).
Around the World
In Canada, order rösti as a side dish with the Swiss classic emincé de veau à la Zurichoise (strips of veal cooked in a cream sauce) at Montreal’s La Raclette (; moderate). In Hong Kong, Chesa (www.; moderate), at the Peninsula Hotel, serves rösti (which they pronounce “roastee”) with both Geschnetzeltes (listed on the menu by its French name, emincé de veau) and bratwurst.
What Else to Eat
Savory Swiss cuisine can be rich, but be sure to leave room for Zurich’s many sweet treats.
Confiserie Sprüngli ( on Paradeplatz is not only a favorite meeting point but also the place to buy sinfully good macaroons called Luxemburgerli. Café Schober ( on Napfgasse in Zurich’s Old Town is deservedly popular. Its decor is as Baroque-extravagant as its pastries, cakes, and cookies; the hot chocolate is not to be missed.
Teuscher ( on Storchengasse is one of the world’s finest chocolatiers; don’t miss their superlative Champagne truffles, made with Dom Perignon. There’s no café here, but visitors enjoy the extravagant decorations that change with each season. There’s a smaller branch on Bahnhofstrasse.
A Day in Zurich
Switzerland’s largest city is not just for shopping and eating, but also for culture, as a considerable amount of Zurich’s wealth – private and public – goes into art and performance. The Old Town bears witness to a rich history, and the lake, particularly in summer, lends the waterfront an almost Riviera-like quality: walk along the promenade parallel to Utoquai to soak up that vibe.
MORNING : Visit the Kunsthaus, a world-class fine art museum with an extraordinary collection of work by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti, as well as significant works by Edvard Munch, Van Gogh, Picasso, and leading Expressionists.
Leave some time for shopping in the Old Town and Bahnhofstrasse.
AFTERNOON : Check whether the E. G. Bührle Collection is having a public viewing, or visit the Museum Rietberg, a Mecca of non-Western art housed in part in the villa where German composer Richard Wagner wrote the Wesendonck Lieder. Families may prefer the Swiss National Museum or Zurich Zoo.
EVENING : Enjoy chic wine bars, trendy dining, and clubbing, or book a concert at the Tonhalle or a performance of opera or ballet at Zurich’s Opera House.
Getting to Zurich
Flights from around the globe land at Zurich Airport. Trains leave every 10 minutes for the 10-minute ride to Zurich’s main train station.
Zurich’s tram system covers the city.
Where to stay in Zurich
Hotel Leoneck (inexpensive) uses Swiss icons such as dairy cows to create a fun, friendly space.
Romantik Hotel Florhof (moderate) is a charmingly converted patrician home.
Hotel Widder (expensive), in imaginatively converted Old Town buildings, is pure luxury.
Zurich main train station; +41 44 215 40 00

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