Thursday, May 12, 2016


May 5-8, 2016

Michael and I have reunited in Basel, sharing a long weekend with some old friends who've been living in Switzerland for a decade. It was especially warm and sunny so we went on walks, visited museums, played games in parks and indoors with cards. We ate barbecued vegetables, breads and cheeses and ice creams.

We also ate out a few times - here are the cafes and restaurants we tried.

While the kids had swimming lessons, Michael and I roamed the town, taking in the markets, the architecture, and a youth choir festival running events in numerous nooks. We stopped strategically for lunch at Tibits, a chain of vegetarian restaurants with outlets all over Switzerland, plus one in London. Most of the food is buffet style and many labels included English translations on the back. It wasn't too daunting to pick up a plate, serve ourselves what appealed, and pay by weight at the counter.

I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of fresh, colourful vegetables available, having eaten some very yellow meals in years gone by. Grain salads, pomegranate seeds and hummus have made it big, and there's still room for more traditional quiches and mock-meatballs. Our highlight was the crumbed and cream cheese-stuffed jalapeno poppers. Meals don't come cheap in this part of Europe, however - we paid AU$47.40 for these two plates.

With a babysitter arranged, the four adults booked in a fancy meal at Cantina Don Camillo in the repurposed Warteck Brewery. The 2nd floor courtyard was summery and contemporary, and the menu prides itself on international and vegan cuisine. With English menu translations available, it was easy to pick through the dedicated plant-based menu sections; even so, Michael just went with the set 3-course vegan meal (CHF55 ~ AU$77).

Entrees were light and fresh (pictured top row, left to right): a frothy broccoli mousse with grapefruit segments and candied peel for Michael, and a savoury celery cannelloni for me (CHF16 ~ AU$22). The mains (our pictured bottom row, left to right) tended to use carbohydrates rather than protein for bulk, with minor exception of Michael's nut roast in spicy sauce. My filo pyramid (CHF27 ~ AU$38) had the stand-out presentation, and flavour to back it up - inside was a filling of curried leeks, a cairn of steamed veges and all around was a creamy potato sauce.

I still had an appetite for the dessert sampler (CHF19 ~ AU$27), picking my way through (clockwise from top left) a chocolate brownie square, vanilla icecream garnished with chocolate, baklava, chocolate icecream, passionfruit coconut cream catalan and ginger icecream. While everything was lovely the seasonal specials, passionfruit catalan and ginger icecream, came through as table favourites.

The kids joined us for our final expedition, a brunch at frühling. It was trendy but relaxed, and a nice spot to bring children. Though the setting would sit as well in Melbourne as it does in Basel, the menu is devoid of our typical poached eggs, avo on toast and pancakes. Instead there's a more low-key list of muesli, pastries and breads served with spreads, cheeses, meats and a boiled egg at a stretch. 

We muddled our way through the drinks menu, finding a good coffee for Michael and a pot of rooibos tea for me. Luckily for us, the menu included a page in English as well as German.

We happily settled on the vegetarian breakfast for two (CHF29.50 ~ AU$41), and with surprise saw it served in tiers like a high tea. It was a pleasure to work slowly through the layers of light and dark bread slices, soft and mature cheese, hummus and chutney, butter and jam, honey, chocolate spread and spiced candied nuts.

Eating out in Switzerland is such a rare treat. Obviously distance is our greatest barrier to the wonderful baked goods, cheeses and chocolates but restaurants are also very costly. We loved splashing out with dear friends but would have to keep a tighter hold on our wallets if we were to stick around longer.

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