During our recent trip to Switzerland we spent a day sightseeing in Zurich. My husband had planned to surprise me with lunch at Hiltl, the world’s oldest continuously open vegetarian restaurant, but he’s rubbish at keeping secrets and told me the week before! I didn’t mind at all, in fact the anticipation only added to the enjoyment. My transition to vegetarianism has been gradual, from only eating certain meats, to being pescatarian, before becoming completely vegetarian at the beginning of the year. On the other hand, my husband loves meat, so I wondered if he’d enjoy his meal at Hiltl or just suffer it for my sake.
Having seen the menu beforehand we knew what to expect, but even so, it took me ages to decide what to order. We didn’t have a starter because we wanted to save room for dessert. I managed to narrow my choice down to a dish from the Indian & Asia section but everything looked so delicious. It was very hot that day and if the restaurant had air con it wasn’t working very well because I was boiling, so very spicy food was a no-no. I eventually opted for the Sri Lanka jackfruit curry, while Pete ordered the cordon bleu. Isobel, true to form, had the spaghetti bolognese…she loves her pasta! As well as the à la carte menu there is also a buffet, with the option of an all you can eat price or paying per 100g.
The menu makes it very easy to see what the dishes contain with the list of symbols. If you have any allergies all the information is there for you too see at a glance. My main course and dessert were both vegan, but some of the non-vegan dishes can be adapted to suit your dietry requirements. I’ve toyed with the idea of becoming vegan but don’t feel ready yet. In the meantime I’m just trying to cut down on dairy.
While waiting for our meals I sipped on the most delicious ginger and lemongrass mojito I’ve ever had…it was worth the 17CHF, which is about £13.70!
The Sri Lanka jackfruit curry was mildly spicy and full of flavour. The jackfruit is a species of tree in the fig, mulberry, and breadfruit family and is native to South India. It has a firm texture but a rather neutral taste so it takes on the flavour of whatever it’s cooked with. The mild coconut milk-based sauce complimented the roasted cashew nuts and tangy orange pickle it was served with.
The Hiltl cordon bleu is made with organic smoked tofu instead of meat. Obviously I had to taste it for research purposes (not having had a cordon bleu before) and it was so tasty. Even my meat-loving husband said his meal was absolutely delicious and that he didn’t miss meat at all. In fact since then he’s cooked some fabulous vegetarian meals for us all. The cordon bleu was served with yummy thick chips which I gladly helped out with! If you can’t finish your meal the staff will box it up so you can take it home (the restaurant also operates a takeaway service).
I was so impresed with Hiltl: the service was fantastic and the range and quality of food is amazing. It’s not cheap, but then nothing in Switzerland is, especially when you’re from the UK and the exchange rate is poor (thanks Brexit!). Even so, it was worth every penny and if I lived in or near Zurich I’d be back there every week. I think it’s fair to say that my husband was a bit concerned that we would rarely eat together after I became vegetarian. Eating at Hiltl has shown him that vegetarian dining can be every bit as tasty and enjoyable as a meat feast.
We were pretty full after our meal but managed to find room for a scoop of vegan ice cream, which was more like sorbet. I had the lychee and raspberry ice cream, which was perfect for finishing off a wonderful meal.
The restaurant takes its name from Ambrosius Hiltl, a tailor who took over a struggling vegetarian restaurant after his health was transformed by giving up meat. Since 1898, it has been personally maintained and cared for by the Hiltl family. Haus Hiltl holds the Guinness world record for being the oldest continuously open vegetarian restaurant in the world.
In November 2013 the Hiltl shop opened next to the restaurant, with the first veggie butcher of Switzerland. At the “butcher’s counter”, meat alternatives such as tofu, seitan, tempeh and soya sausage products are offered. Other specialities such as the popular Hiltl Tartare, Züri-Geschnetzeltes (sliced strips of veal in a cream and mushroom sauce) or homemade cordon bleu are also available.
After our delicious meal at Hiltl we had a little wander along to the Jules Verne bar, as recommended to us by our hosts. The cocktail menu is very impressive, as are the views over the city. I had an El Floridita Daiquiri (sticking to rum after the mojito) which was quite sharp and very refreshing thanks to the grapefruit, lime and peppermint.
Isobel decided she’d rather sit at the bar by herself watching the bartender make the cocktails while we enjoyed the view.
After finishing our cocktails we did a bit of window shopping before getting the train back to Zug. I thoroughly enjoyed Zurich and hope to return there soon.