Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hiltl

June 10, 2012
Cindy and I are off on a month-long jaunt through Europe. I started early and took the camera with me to Stavanger, Norway to document all the wonderful vegetarian food on offer there. Sadly, the one vegetarian place in town closed down a few weeks before I arrived and I was left (with my fellow vegetarian conference buddies) to scrounge up some fairly mediocre offerings around the place. But then, nobody really goes to Stavanger for the food.




It's a beautiful, beautiful place, and I can't recommend the hike up to Pulpit Rock enough - one of the most beautiful walks I've ever done.

But you're here for the food! After finishing up in Stavanger, I met up with Cindy and some old friends of ours in Zurich, where we headed to Hiltl. It's been running for more than a century, making it Europe's oldest vegetarian restaurant (albeit in fancy new digs).

Hiltl is incredibly popular - our plan to visit for brunch was foiled (the first open table was something like 3pm) so we booked in for the evening meal. Downstairs is a bustling bar area, while the tables upstairs are a little quieter and more suited to the long relaxed meal we had planned.

There are two basic ordering options: the buffet (where you pay by weight) or a la carte. We took one of each, with Cindy ordering the Zuri Geschnetzeltes, a traditional Zurich dish done here with mushrooms and seitan (rather than veal) in a creamy white wine sauce and served with a massive rosti (32.50 CHF ~ AU$34).

I only snuck a few bites of this - the seitan was done in thin little slices, leaving the mushrooms to provide the bulk of the dish. The sauce was rich and tasty, and the roesti soaked it up perfectly. Yum.

I couldn't resist the buffet - it's got a massive range of hot dishes and salads, with a heavily Indian theme (although there are other bits and pieces as well - the picture below is less than half of it!).

You pay by weight, which means that I know that I picked up a tiny bit under 700g of food (for about 38 CHF ~ AU$40).

All of the curries were excellent - particularly the spicy cauliflower curry and the chana masala - while the fried bits and bobs were a bit of a mix. The onion rings left me a bit disappointed, while the battered jalapeno chilli popper really hit the spot. There are so many options that you're sure to find something that takes your fancy - it's all prepared pretty well and they don't fall into the trap of churning out bland inoffensive curries that are all interchangeable.

Even with 700g of goodness for dinner, I agreed with Cindy that we should sample the dessert menu. We shared two dishes: firstly the brownie with vanilla icecream, hot chocolate sauce and cream (8.50 CHF ~ AU$9).

The icecream was super rich and creamy, which worked well with the slightly dry brownie. The sauce came in a cute little pastry bowl, which looked nice but made eating it a bit awkward. Still, not a bad dessert.

We combined it with the ice cappuccino (mocha ice cream with coffee sauce, cashews and cream, 8.50 CHF ~ AU$9).

Similarly, this was good without being amazing - there was a nice strong coffee flavour in the sauce, and the cashews and fruit added a bit of texture and tang, but the cream and the ice cream didn't really sparkle. Although we both quite enjoyed these dishes, we were hoping for a little more from the dessert range.

Our Hiltl experience was pretty satisfactory - service was friendly and helpful: they quickly provided us with English versions of the menu, took some happy snaps for us and were generally around when we needed them. The food was pretty damn good - although like all food in Zurich it doesn't come cheap - vegans will probably be a bit disappointed by how much of the menu isn't aimed at them, but will be happy to see how comprehensively labelled everything is. Zurich is not a vegetarian paradise, so vegos who visit will almost certainly find themselves at Hiltl. Based on our experience, they won't be disappointed.

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An uncomprehensive poke around the web finds pretty positive reviews - La Cuisine de Sarah, The Apprentice Foodie, MyKugelHopf, All Things Delicious, Adityaajmera's Weblog, My Food Sirens, One Big Yodel and The Real Picky Gourmet all thought it was pretty good, while Vegan Dublin was a bit annoyed by the lack of vegan options.
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Hiltl
Sihlstrasse 28  8001 Zurich, Switzerland
044 227 70 00
mains 24.50-32.50 CHF (~AU$26-34), weight-based buffet ~ 40 CHF (~AU$42) for a very full plate, desserts 8.50 CHF (~AU$9)
http://www.hiltl.ch/
 
Accessibility: There are a couple of small steps at all the entrances to the restaurant (although this isn't a problem if you use the outside tables). The upstairs dining area is up a flight of stairs, but there are some tables on the lower level. The self-service buffet is at medium height. Ordering and payment takes place at the table. 

12 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. But did you see the prices, Carla? Switzerland is RIDICULOUS.

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  2. Have an incredible trip! Look forward to reading about it

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  3. *claps and squeals ecstatically* THE OVERSEAS! THE OVERSEAS! Oh, I can't wait to read each and every post of your adventure! Hurrah!

    P.S. I have no idea how much 700g compares to my average meal, but considering how many vegetable I eat, I think I might get close some nights :P

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    1. Ha - Michael had the same conundrum because they have a set discounted price for a kilo of buffet food. He reckons he could have done it. :-P

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  4. Love the scenic shots even more than the food! Have a wonderful holiday.

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    1. Yes, I think it was a pretty incredible walk!

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  5. Oh my goodness. Your pictures are absolutely amazing. By coincidence, I am actually going to Norway in a few weeks...I was excited before, now even more. Thanks so much for the post. And most importantly: HAVE AN AWESOME TRIP!!

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    1. Hi Elisa! Long time no read - I hope you're travelling well too.

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