Zurich’s five-star hotels, a myriad of dining options and the required raclette
Every major city of the 21st century needs hotels and restaurants with as much traditional character as true modernity, which is certainly the case in Zürich, both in the older and newer parts of the city.
As an established classic, the Baur au Lac The hotel, opened in 1844, has welcomed everyone from Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot to Marc Chagall and Alfred Hitchcock. During this century, it has kept pace with contemporary ideals of comfort and cuisine with a $ 50 million renovation that reconfigured 32 rooms and suites into 22 larger ones with luxurious new marble bathrooms, Bose sound systems, 25 English TV channels, reliable Wi-Fi and a beautiful new roof terrace with city views. The entrance hall and living room have been completely renovated, now with a magnificent raised glass ceiling. Yet one way or another, everything seems the same in many ways.
During two visits in five years, I have seen the evolution while enjoying the same warm friendliness of a staff whose members speak several languages and do not have any of the pretensions that I find too easily in
many five star hotels. If relaxation is at least as important for business travelers as it is for romantics, then Baur au Lac, located on the quieter left bank of the Linmat river and less than ten minutes from Bahnhof train station, is ideal. for both.
There are three restaurants—The terrace, which has become one of the city’s most popular cocktail spots, with a light menu; a new casual Baur (opening planned for mid-September); and the gracious Flag, done in pastels of fauna and rich colors of purple, with an inviting archway and a view of the gardens. The acoustics are perfect for conversation, despite an unintended “gallery of murmurs” effect that allows certain corners to hear conversations from across the room, which I am told is the reason for this. which lawyers do not sit at these particular tables.
This year Pavillon obtained its second Michelin star for the cuisine of chef Laurent Éperon, while its enthusiastic sommelier, Marc Almert, who seems too young even to drink wine, received the prize of the “Best Sommelier of the World 2019” awarded by the Association de la Sommelerie Internationale, overseeing a 38-page Wine List, with an admirable focus on Swiss labels at less than 100CHF.
There is a two-course lunch at 76CHF, as well as a la carte, and at dinner an à la carte menu and a nine-course “Harmonie” menu (205CHF, with food and wine pairings at 95CHF and 110CHF) – prices which, although expensive, are well below what one finds in the restaurants of two-star hotels in Paris, such as Le Meurice Alain Ducasse and Le Gabriel at La Réserve.
My wife and I requested two different three course menus, each exquisitely presented. There were of course bonuses amused As Gougères cabbage with caviar and vegetables in a dashi broth. We went for the king crab lightly flavored with red curry and a scallop topped with an emulsified olive and lemon sauce. Then came a delicately thin ravioli stuffed with wild turbot and osietra caviar.
A main course was actually several combined: Rabbit meat in one ballotine; roasted loin with fragrant rosemary; his liver in cannelloni; the flesh of the thighs in a marbled yogurt. The veal came “à la Metternich”, with morels, foie gras and a bunch of celery puree, with carrot jelly. Our desserts were hazelnut truffles brought spectacularly in a steaming glass bell and juicy pomelo with a light meringue.
The meal showed how Chef Eperon marries tradition with his own modern creativity in every dish. And Almert’s accompanying wine choices were perfect throughout.
Very different in style and just as modern as any hotel in Europe, the Park Hyatt focuses on a contemporary approach based on efficient and friendly service by a young lobby staff with a mission to go beyond all required answers to business and tourism questions as well as personal insight into this happening in Zürich, from new restaurants to arts and entertainment.
The hotel is only 12 years old, with only 138 rooms. (Oddly, Zurich doesn’t have Ritz-Carlton, Mandarin Oriental, or Four Seasons hotels, so the Park Hyatt is ideal for those expecting that level of luxury and five-star service.) The 1-bedroom Presidential Suite 722 square feet on the top floor, enjoys lots of light and has both a large marble tub and separate showers. Zürich is a quiet city and the rooms at the Park Hyatt are even quieter.
There are two restaurants here: The onyx bar and the living room, located just off the lobby, are casual, chic, and comfortable spaces with sofas and club chairs, with high ceilings, whimsical modern artwork, and soothing fireplaces. The menu is light but the cuisine is plentiful: My wife and I enjoyed dishes such as risotto with white garlic and poached egg (17CHF); delicate pastry tiles filled with a creamy cheese mousse (25CHF); lake pike perch with fregola in a subtle reduction (38CHF); and a burger made with Alpine chicken and an egg and fries (38CHF). Two desserts – crème brûlée (13CHF) and chocolate fondant (14CHF) – were excellent, as you would expect in Switzerland.
The slightly more upscale dining option (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) is the parkhuus, a large wood-paneled room with high ceilings, glass walls and candles on the tables. You pass an open kitchen with wood-burning oven on entering, where chef Frank Widmer offers sophisticated and modern cuisine made with Swiss ingredients. The wine list is superbly selected.
Here we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner starting with a to amuse smoked trout with small lentils; an impeccably reduced beef consomme with a beef stuffing ravioli; a classic rack of lamb parsley wrapped in parsley, with mashed potatoes; a massive veal chop in a lush demi-glace, with mushrooms and fried potatoes; a selection of cheeses; and a bitter orange dessert.
Families and children are welcome; they always offer porcelain bowls for children as well as small books to occupy their time.
(This winter, the Park Hyatt Zürich is offering a winter package that includes two days in Zürich with transfers to the Grand Bellevue Gstaad for four nights, from CHF 5100)
A visit to Zürich is essential for a traditional Swiss raclette meal, and the Raclette factory (Rindemarkt 1), on the Right Bank since 1985, comes alive at lunchtime and until late afternoon and dinner, so the cook rings a cowbell every time an order is ready. It’s a one-room affair, with counters, a bright, gemütlich atmosphere and innovation in Zürich: raclette to take away. You can buy a t-shirt with the words “DITES FROMAGE”.
The raclette is made from the cheese of the same name, which is matured between three and six months, and this restaurant offers variations (15CHF to 19.90CHF, or at will to 49.90CHF) of regional cheeses such as Blaue Schalk blue from Schalchen , truffled with Käserei and goat cheese from Girenbad. In addition there are wonderful, smoky ones tarte flambée (21.90CHF to 22.90CHF) garnished with crème fraîche, bacon and other ingredients.
One of the most popular Italian restaurants in Zürich is the Santa Lucia, part of a Swiss chain, located on the corner of Waagstrasse and what is aptly called Paradeplatz, offering a wide view of passers-by. . Inside is a pleasant two-level dining room with agile staff on the move, taking orders, pouring wine and delivering delicious pizzas (18CHF to 22CHF) and well-crafted pasta like spaghetti. all’arrabiata with red peppers (19CHF) and risotto with wild mushrooms (24CHF).
For those looking for a very traditional Swiss restaurant, the venerable Kronenhalle (Ramistrae 3), dating from 1924, endures, still adorned with its astonishing original works of art by Picasso, Giacometti, Chagall, Bonnard and others hanging casually on the walls above your table. The Swiss beer is good, the Wiener Schnitzel huge and the desserts generous. But the prices have gotten really high, and this, once my favorite places in Zurich, is now kind of brainstorming and thinking madness.
Remember: prices shown include taxes (3.7% for hotels, 2.9% for restaurants) and service charges.