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Friday 13 October 2017

Discovering Foodie Zürich – Street Food Festival, Gin and Sausages Galore

A mere 80 minutes from London Heathrow, Zürich is much closer and more accessible than most Brits imagine. But with so many other choices within Europe, why should you visit Zürich?

Situated in the heart of Europe and at the foot of Swiss Alps, Zürich is Switzerland’s largest and most populated city. With an enviable public transport infrastructure and an airport offering connections to over 170 destinations across the globe, Zürich is also an ideal base from which to explore other parts of Switzerland or the world.

I spent 48 hours in the Swiss metropolis and was surprised to discover a multi-ethnic (32% of inhabitants are from overseas), culturally vibrant place, and most importantly, a city that offers great food from gourmet street-food to top notch, Michelin-starred fare to suit most budgets.

There are two distinct areas of Zürich I highly recommend to visit – cutting-edge Zürich-West and the charming Old Town. To facilitate this, make sure to buy a 24 or 72-hour ZürichCard when arriving in the city. The card allows you unlimited use of 2nd class travel on the public transport system as well as many other discounts. I give more details of both neighbourhoods and the ZürichCard in the What to Do and Getting to and Around Zürich sections below.

Whether you love food and want to discover some of the best Swiss produce and cooking, or enjoy nature strolling along the gorgeous Zürich Lake or the City’s Botanical Gardens, or even party the night away in Niederdorf or make the most of the LGBT scene in Langstrasse, there is something for everyone in Zürich for an enjoyable weekend get-away.

Food Zürich Festival

In its second year, Food Zürich Festival, taking place for about 1o days in September, is a celebration of the region’s finest produce and cooking with hundreds of participating restaurants, artisan producers and food retailers. There are lots of foodie activities on offer, from cookery classes and demonstrations, to pop-up markets, special festival menus, and even their own Zürich Street Food Festival.

And I was lucky to be in Zürich to experience some of this. Much like London, street food in Zürich has been making great strides in the last few years, with vendors serving excellent quality food that goes far beyond the usual burgers and fried onions.

One of the major highlights of the Food Zürich Festival is its Street Food Fest. With hundreds of food outlets under a single roof, this is a great place to spend a whole day or weekend familiarizing yourself with Zürich’s eclectic food scene.

Here, I got to learn about and try some of these offerings. Luma is one of Zürich’s top butcher delis, founded by two long-standing friends, Lucas Oechslin and Marco Tessaro. They are known for a patented process of dry-ageing Swiss fresh meat with a noble mould. The mould is said to give beef, pork and veal a nutty quality and a rich depth of flavour.

Luma’s dry-aged beef burger (£12) served with mayo and beetroot sprouts had a distinct gamey quality to it. The meat was richly flavoured and delicious although for my taste it was a tad overcooked.

Better still was Sanfish’s Louisiana Lobster Roll (£12) – Sanfish’s original restaurant is based in Vienna, Austria and their lobster roll was nothing short of outstanding - the brioche bap was fried in plenty of butter and filled with fat nuggets of lobster meat, salad and a sweet seafood sauce.

For dessert, I tried Austrian’s Kaiserschmarren. This is a light, caramelized pancake made from sweet batter which is then fried or baked in butter.

The pancake is broken up into small pieces as it is being fried, then sprinkled with icing sugar and rum-soaked raisins, and served hot with apple sauce and a plum compote. This was my first time trying Kaiserschmarren; it was a deliciously warming and substantial dessert and will look out for it again now that it is on my radar.

There were also many other foods to try at the festival. There was a stand selling Japanese taiyaki for example, this is a traditional Japanese snack shaped like a sea bream fish (tai), made of sweet batter and filled with red adzuki bean paste. 

I spotted other Japanese-themed stands too, selling okonomiyaki (cabbage pancakes), takoyaki (octopus fried balls) and yakisoba (stir-fried noodles with vegetables and meat).

Chinese and Thai sellers were offering everything from bao sandwiches to dumplings and curry. There was also the Dutch Royal Cocos, a stand dedicated to old-fashioned coconut macaroons with flavourings from pineapple to chocolate, and many others too.

There was a fantastic looking crepe stand I had my eyes on too, as well as other enticing offerings - Spanish churros, British fudge and even South American foods like Peruvian ceviches, Brazilian cheese bread and Colombian arepa! I was impressed.

The Food Zürich Festival takes place in September, and this is a good time of the year for foodies to visit the city. The Street Food Fest is one of the major attractions of this citywide festival, bringing to life the quality of ingredients and the ethnic diversity and cooking styles of Zürich.

For more information about Food Zürich Festival 2018, visit their website here.

Where to Eat in Zürich

Zürich is home to the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world – Hiltl.  Founded in 1898 by Ambrosius Hiltl, the restaurant is now at the heart of a large group of vegetarian establishments, but is still privately owned and managed by Rolf Hiltl, the 4th generation of the family.

I had a lovely lunch at Hiltl. The buffet has over 100 vegetarian dishes from all over the world including cold salads as well as hot pasta, rice and other dishes. Diners select whatever they want from the buffet and have their plate weighed at the till - my plate weighed 333g, and cost me £12 (£36/kg).

I enjoyed the food at Hiltl – it was fresh and well-seasoned and made use of interesting ingredients. Noteworthy were the edamame, soba noodles and hijiki salad (a type of Japanese seaweed), the Thai curry with a rather dense type of tofu which was delicious, the well-textured dried French bean salad, and the deep-fried Jalapeño chillies filled with cream cheese.

With various restaurant locations across Zürich, Hiltl also has a food shop, a nightclub and a cookery school, and at the latter is where I learnt how to make their popular Hiltl Tartar. More information about my cookery class at Hiltl Akademy in the What to Do in Zürich section below.

Though I did not eat at Smith and de Luma Restaurant on this trip, I tried and was impressed by their beef burger at the Street Food Festival. I did get to visit Smith and de Luma to attend a sausage making class, which I also describe in the What to Do section below.

Smith and de Luma opened recently serving the noble mould, dry-aged Luma meat they are famous for. The restaurant has an industrial look with plenty of wooden surfaces, exposed lights and plumbing making the restaurant feel both modern and warming. There is also an excellent wine shop adjacent to the restaurant.

The menu is surprisingly short, and well thought out with only a handful of choices for starters, mains and desserts. I look forward to eating at Smith and de Luma on my next visit to Zürich.

Located on the first floor of a Guild House dating back to 1315, Zunfthaus zur Waag is an elegant restaurant with great views over the historic town square of Münsterhof and the Fraumünster Church with its famous Chagall windows. 

The restaurant serves traditional Swiss dishes and offers a lunchtime 2-course menu priced at £36, and this is what I chose. I started with lightly smoked pieces of raw artic char (same family as salmon), served with horseradish cream, apples, herbs and nuts; this was refreshing and beautifully flavoured.

For main, I had veal steak in breadcrumbs served with pasta, vegetables and a red wine reduction, which was also well-made and delicious.

I enjoyed my meal at Zunfthaus zur Waag, the food and service were faultless and its beautiful location is ideal to explore other sites in and around Zürich’s Old Town.

What to Do in Zürich

Gin Tasting at Turicum Gin Distillery

I had a fascinating visit and gin tasting at Turicum Gin Distillery, the only gin distillers in the city of Zürich. Opened as recently as two and half years ago by friends Oscar Martin, an ex-marketeer and designer, and Oliver Honegger, a former chef and bartender turned distiller, they have now been joined by two other partners, and together produce over 4,000 gin bottles a year. 

I loved their story and enthusiasm for Zürich gin – using only natural Zürich water and 12 different botanicals, many of which come from the city itself like lime blossom and pine needles. They have certainly put Zürich in the gin map of the world.

You may like to know that Turicum has a gin lab where visitors can try out different styles of gin and also create their own by blending different gins macerated with single botanicals. Noteworthy was their Bacon Gin!

Due to the founder’s background, Turicum is heavily involved in various pop-up dinners and gastronomic events across town where you have the opportunity to try a selection of dishes with Turicum gin-based cocktails. For more information about these events and Turicum gin, check out their contact details in the Travel Essentials section at the end of this post and start planning your visit.

Exploring the Old Town

With narrow cobbled streets, colourful old houses, and quaint little shops, Zürich’s Old Town (Kreis 1 or District 1) is must-see for any visitor. It spreads over four different quarters - Rathaus (town hall) and Lindenhof (lime trees courtyard) which correspond to the parts of the medieval city left (west) and right (east) of the Limmat River, and Hochschulen (universities), and City which include the area of the Early Modern city west and east of the medieval walls.

I spent hours walking around this part of Zürich along the gorgeous Limnat River, and among the many distinguished buildings and winding cobbled streets I came across, I stumbled on a charming, old-fashioned food store called H.Schwarzenbach.

This family-owned specialty store has been trading in the Old Town for over 100 years, and is now run by the 5th generation of the same family who founded it. 

They sell a huge variety of teas, coffees, dried fruits and pasta, confectionary and artisan products from Switzerland and abroad. Entering H.Schwarzenbach is like entering a time-capsule where the decades seem to have passed unnoticed. It is a magical place with wonderful coffee aromas wafting through the air, and I highly recommend a visit.

Discovering Cutting Edge Zürich-West

Zürich-West is the former working-class and industrial neighbourhood of the city (Kreis 4 and 5 districts), which has been turned into an ultra-trendy quarter with plenty of shops, restaurants and entertainment options. Zürich University has a large campus here so the area is full of young students making it one of the most vibrant and happening places in Zürich. 

Here you will also find the Im Viadukt – the viaduct is an area made up of a series of train arches, which have been completely refurbished and turned into a number of shops, restaurants and other commercial units.

Markthalle Im Viadukt is the covered market area within this viaduct, housing some excellent food sellers and restaurants. One of these is Berg und Tal, a Swiss food store owned and run by András Németh. I briefly caught up with András for a chat about Swiss food.

Due to its proximity to the Swiss Alps he explained, Zürich people spend a great deal of time on long treks in the countryside communing with nature. In doing this, they acquired a love for game and turned it into their much-loved dry and fresh sausages. Berg und Tal had a number of these sausages on sale alongside various local cheeses (perhaps Swiss’ no.2 favourite food - think Swiss fondue).

Talking of cheese, also at the Markthalle Im Viadukt, I got to meet British cheese specialist, cheesemonger, and writer Michael Jones. Jones set up his cheese shop in 2007, selling exclusively British cheeses and products like clotted cream, jams, chutneys, and crackers.

Michael Jones is a real champion for British cheeses in Switzerland - Jones explained that Great Britain is the world’s largest producer of cheese measured in different styles (a fact I am yet to verify), and that British cheeses are not better than Swiss cheeses, they are just different.

But Zürich-West is not all about food. Beyond the Im Viadukt, the neighbourhood is also home to the CityWave and the achingly trendy FREITAG Flagship Store. 

CityWave is a large undulating pool with fast running water that creates artificial waves ideal for surfing. The pool was closed on the day I visited though online videos (see link in the Travel Essentials section) make it look a lot of fun in the summer months.

The FREITAG brand of bags was created in 1993 by graphic designers Markus and Daniel Freitag who were looking for a functional, water-repellent and robust bag to hold their creative work. Inspired by the multi-colored heavy traffic that rumbled through the Zürich transit intersection in front of their flat, they developed a messenger bag from used truck tarpaulins, discarded bicycle inner tubes and car seat belts. This is how the first FREITAG bags took shape in the living room of their shared apartment – each one recycled, unique, and costing an alarming £400 or thereabouts.

Today there is a range of over 70 different FREITAG bags designed in various sizes, shapes and colours (each bag is still unique in its composition) and available in 16 F-STORES in Switzerland as well as at over 450 resellers around the world. I loved their story and the backpacks I saw in their flagship store, though be prepared to prise open your wallet if you decide to pay a visit.

Sausage Making and Craft Beer Tasting Classes – Smith and de Luma 

In addition to their flavoursome meats and wines, Smith and de Luma also host cookery and drink events at their Taste Akademy. I attended one of these as part of Zürich Food Festival, and had a go at making Swiss sausages and learning about the thriving local craft beer scene, followed by a tasting.

The “Wurst” (sausage) making class was headed by Markus Bühler (The Sausage Maker - http://www.derwurstmacher.ch/) and was a hands-on event that involved everything from preparing the sausage stuffing to filling the casing and cooking it.

It was great chatting to Markus and hearing his story – a trained chemist and physiotherapist, Markus left his day job to dedicate himself to the love of sausage making, and he is doing very well at it. His class was informative, well-paced and most importantly, his sausages were delicious! 

Marku’s class was followed by a craft beer tasting from Doppelleu for their Chopfab range. I loved their beers, they were incredibly well-made and flavoursome, particularly their oak-aged Oak Wood Red Ale and also their Chocolate Stout, both wonderful.

I would have liked to say more about Doppelleu’s beer tasting, but as it was conducted entirely in Swiss-German with no English at all being spoken, there wasn’t much else for me to do than get drinking!

I recommend the cookery and drink events at Smith and de Luma, but do make sure before signing up that events are catered for English-speakers. 

Vegetarian Cookery Class - Hiltl Akademy

The Hiltl Akademy is the cookery school of the renowned vegetarian restaurant Hiltl, reputedly the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, which I wrote about in the Where to Eat in Zürich section above. 

With various restaurants in Switzerland and abroad, the Hiltl promotes vegetarianism through its many cookbooks and cookery classes and events at the Hiltl AkademyThis is where I learnt how to make the dish they are most famous for – their vegetarian tartare, a  heavily guarded recipe that was only made available to the public two years ago.

The two important ingredients in this recipe are okara (soy bean pulp, a byproduct of tofu making) and beetroot powder. Other ingredients include roasted aubergine flesh, ketchup, mustard, red onions, capers, salt and pepper.

Hiltl’s vegetarian tartare had a surprisingly meat-like texture but it was lighter, it tasted fresh and tangy, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

For Hiltl Akademy’s full programme of classes and events, visit their website, details can be found in the Travel Essentials section at the end of this feature.

Globus Food Hall – Zürich’s Finest

In the basement level of Globus Department Store you will find Globus Food Hall, Zürich’s finest food store.

Here you will find some of the very best of Switzerland’s produce – vegetables, fruit, cheeses, meat and wines as well as ready-made food and hot meals.

Similar to Selfridge’s Food Hall, prices are in keep with the quality on offer, so approach with care!

Strolling Along Zürich Lake Promenade

The huge, long Lake Zürich stretches far beyond the city of Zürich itself, in fact the metropolis is only found at its far western-end corner. Lake Zürich used to be a route for traffic and transport in the past, but today it is a popular place for excursions and boat trips.

There are a number of cruise companies that provide round-trip excursions, the Lake Zürich Navigation Company is one of them. Recommended by the Zürich Tourism Board, a Lake Zürich boat-trip with this company can cost as little as CHF 5 if you have a ZürichCard.

I would love to do a boat-trip on my next visit to Zürich but with 48-hours in the city, I had just enough time to enjoy the views over a relaxing stroll along the lake’s beautiful promenade. I spent a peaceful couple of hours here, taking stock and people watching. I highly recommend it.

Visiting the Gorgeous Botanical Gardens

I love visiting Botanical Gardens around the world, and was surprised to discover that Zürich has not only one but two of these gardens – the Old Botanical Gardens right in its city-centre and the Botanical Gardens of the University of Zürich in the Weinegg Quarter, District 8 of the city. I visited the latter.

Open in 1977, the gardens occupy 5 acres of land, including three huge domes filled with the most exotic of tropical plants, flowers, insects and birds.

The grounds are also a sight to behold, with different styled gardens and small lakes. I spent a couple of fascinating hours here marveling at greatness of nature and recharging my batteries for the trip back to London. 

Getting To and Around Zürich

Zürich’s international airport lies seven miles north of the city centre and is well served by SWISS (0845 6010956; swiss.com) from Heathrow, London City, Birmingham and Manchester. British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) flies from Heathrow and London City. EasyJet (0330 365 5000; easyjet.com) flies from Luton and Gatwick. I flew with SWISS in economy class, out of Heathrow returning via City Airport – the flights were surprisingly short at around 80 minutes duration each, and complimentary drinks and a sandwich were offered. 

On arrival, I recommend purchasing a 24- or 72-hour ZürichCard, priced at £17.50 and £35 respectively. The card allows unlimited use of 2nd class travel by bus, train and cableway in the city of Zürich and surrounding region, as well as short boat trips and the Limmat river cruise for £4.

The train fare from the international airport to the centre of Zürich costs as much as half the price of a 24-hour ZürichCard, making the card excellent value for money. 

In addition to unlimited use of the public transport system, the ZürichCard also offers free or reduced admission to the majority of the city’s museums and a 50% discount on the tour “Stories of the Old Town” operated by Zürich Tourism. A ZürichCard brochure is supplied with every card sold detailing all participating museums, art galleries, restaurants, shops and other outlets with their corresponding discount offers. I made great use of my card in the 48 hours I was there. For more information on where to purchase a ZürichCard, visit their website here.

Interesting Facts & Figures about Zürich

Did you know …

  • Municipal Districts and Quarters - The City of Zürich is divided into 12 municipal districts and 34 quarters.
  • Lake Zürich is 28km (17 miles) long, up to 4km (2.5 miles) wide and max. 143m (469ft) deep.
  • With a population of over 400,000, Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland.
  • The spoken language in Zürich is the Swiss German dialect; High German is the official written language.
  • Drinking Water Everywhere You Go - Zürich has the highest number of public fountains in the world (1,224). The majority offers the same high quality mix as the local tap water – 70% lake water, 15% ground water and 15% spring water
  • The mean maximum temperature in summer is 22° C (72 °F) and in winter, average temperatures range between –2 and 3.5° C (–28 and 38 °F)
  • Renting is In - The majority of Zürich residents are tenants; only 7% own their own home.
  • Birthplace of the Dada Movement - The Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich is the birthplace of Dadaism. In 2016, Zürich celebrated the centenary of the Dada movement.
  • Important Employer - One out of every nine jobs in Switzerland is in the City of Zürich. In addition, 74 of Switzerland’s 270 banking institutions are domiciled in Zürich.
  • Creative Sector - The cultural and creative sector is the second most important economic pillar in the Canton of Zürich after the finance industry. Every 8th Swiss cultural or creative enterprise is based in Zürich.
  • Cosmopolitan and Multicultural - At the end 2016, 32% of Zürich’s population were foreigners, representing a total of 169 different countries.
  • Roots in the Reformation - The Reformation in the 16th century gave rise, among other things, to the Anabaptist movement. Nowadays it exists in the form of Amish, Mennonite and Hutterite communities, which are principally to be found in the USA.
  • James Joyce on Zürich - “This city is so clean that if you were to spill your minestrone soup on the Bahnhofstrasse, you could eat it up without a spoon”.

Discovering Zürich via @thelondonfoodie Instagram Page:

The @Hiltl was the first vegetarian restaurant to open in the world (or at lest since records begun) in 1898 in Zurich. . Today the @Hiltl is a large group with various restaurants in Switzerland and abroad. It promotes vegetarianism through its many vegetarian cookbooks and also through their cookery classes and events at the Hiltl Akademy. . This is where I learnt how to make the dish they are most famous for - their Vegetarian Tartare - a heavily guarded recipe that was only made available to the public two years ago. . The two important ingredients in this recipe are okara (soy bean pulp, a byproduct of tofu making), and beetroot powder. Other ingredients include roasted aubergine flesh, ketchup, mustard, red onions, capers, salt and pepper. . The vegetarian tartare had a surprisingly meat-like texture but it was lighter, it tasted fresh and tangy, I enjoyed it thoroughly! . Thanks @Hiltl for the delightful class and food. . #vegetarian #vegan #tofu #okara #myswitzerland @visitzurich #tartare #travel #traveler #travelblogger
A post shared by Luiz Hara (@thelondonfoodie) on

The #VisitZurich campaign was created and sponsored by My Switzerland, the National Tourism Board of Switzerland. The London Foodie maintains full editorial control over all content published on this site as always.

Travel Essentials

Zürich Food Festival

Zürich Tourism Office
Stampfenbachstrasse 52
CH-8006 Zürich
Phone +41 44 215 40 10

Haus Hiltl (Hiltl Vegetarian Restaurant)
À  la Carte Restaurant, Buffet, Self, Take Away, Café, Bar/Lounge & Seminar
Sihlstrasse 28
8001 Zürich
+41 44 227 70 00

Hiltl Akademie
Cooking Studio, Further Education, Events, Kitchenpartys, Chef's Tables & Yoga
Sihlstrasse 24
8001 Zürich
+41 44  227 70 13

Smith and de Luma
Grape Street 27 
8045 Zürich
(0041) 77 411 31 22

Restaurant Zunfthaus zur Waag
Münsterhof 8
8001 Zürich

Turicum Gin Distillery
Liebensteinstrasse 1
8047 Zürich

Schwarzenbach H.
Münstergasse 17
8001 Zürich

Markthalle im Viadukt
Limmatstrasse 231
8005 Zürich

Berg und Tal
Limmatstrasse 231 
Market Hall In the Viaduct 50 
8005 Zürich 

The British Cheese Centre
Limmatstrasse 231 
Market Hall In the Viaduct
8005 Zürich

Geroldstrasse 15
8005 Zürich

Freitag Flagship Store
Geroldstrasse 17
8008 Zürich

Markus Bühler (The Sausage Maker)

Doppelleu Brewery (Chopfab Beers)

Globus Food Hall
Theaterstrasse 12
8001 Zürich

Lake Zürich Navigation Company 

Botanical Gardens of the University of Zürich
Zollikerstrasse 107
8008 Zürich

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you had a fabulous time, the food looks luscious :-) x


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