Zurich consistently ranks top in global polls for the world’s most liveable cities and, after a short break there, it’s easy to say why. There’s a relaxed feel generally, the air is clean, the lake sparkling and people seem to contentedly go about their business and daily life knowing that they have it better than many other places.
The city’s most famous culinary son has to be Daniel Humm, maestro at Eleven Madison Park in New York - the winner of the World 50 Best Restaurants 2017 - and he kindly recommended Kronenhalle and Odeon Café as must-visits. Here’s a look at them, along with three other dining options.
Kronenhalle has been a Zurich institution since 1924, with gold lettering marking the name on a slightly austere exterior, while inside it’s all warm wood-panelled rooms, lace curtains, stained glass, brass lamps and white linen tablecloths. The clientele seems old school and moneyed, happy to be served by white-jacketed waiters and waitresses in black dresses with white pinnies, dishing up Swiss classics, many tableside.
The strength of the Swiss Franc generally means that dining out is expensive, pretty much everywhere in Zurich. Here the lunchtime veal special comes in generous slices in a rich golden jus - pickled cucumbers and tomatoes cut through the richness in a potato salad that accompanies. It's one of the cheapest lunch main courses at 46 CHF - around 40 euro - but they do offer more meat or salad.
Rämistrasse 4, 8001 Zürich
Another Humm recommendation is again a historical spot which has been serving for more than a century. Café Odeon opened in 1911 and its breath-taking Art Nouveau interior is still a sight to behold, even after restoration. Everyone who has counted in Zurich has eaten there, from James Joyce to Einstein, picking from a menu that is high on comfort. That means Rösti Balls stuffed with Gruyère and served with sour cream dip – luckily the nearby mountains let you walk it off. ‘Fischer’s Fritz’ brings deep-fried pieces of perch from Lake Zurich served with brilliant tartare sauce.
Limmatquai 2, 8001 Zurich
The Restaurant, Dolder Grand
Heiko Nieder oversees The Restaurant, the simply-named but stunning venue for some of Switzerland’s finest contemporary cuisine. Tasting menus at dinner allow Nieder and team to show why they are one of the most exciting tables anywhere, with impeccable Brittany lobster served with marinated rhubarb, cucumber, ginger, sorrel and vanilla. Another standout is steamed line-caught Arctic hake with basil, wasabi and woodruff. To finish, strawberries multiple ways with buckwheat, tarragon and Aji Amarillo are a sublime, light way to end an exceptional meal.
The Restaurant, Dolder Grand
Kurhausstrasse 65, 8032 Zurich
Kantorei sits in the heart of the old town, overlooking an ancient fountain and adjoining a 15th century house that was once home to three former mayors. Their meatloaf is not what many would expect and is more like a cured luncheon meat, but serves well as a light-ish lunch alongside a bacon, cucumber and potato salad and dish of Wholegrain mustard with a serious kick. Elsewhere the menu encompasses Swiss classics with occasional innovative touches.
Neumarkt 2 8001 Zürich
At the different end of the spectrum comes the burgeoning food truck scene in the form of the Street Food Festival. The diversity of trucks and cuisines reflect the city, with every flavour imaginable from Peruvian to Tibetan, Australian to Japanese. This being Switzerland, it’s beautifully-organised and spotlessly clean, while a big circus ten features live bands and plenty of indoor seating. Outside is where the main action is, however, the challenge being how to choose what to eat next. My standout, a simple but delicious genuine Swiss goulash, served in a bread bowl. Fantastic.