I'm sure that I speak for most vegetarians and vegans that entering a restaurant will always cause a shadow of a doubt. Will there be anything vegetarian/vegan for me? If you are in a group that eats meat, it's definitely going to have to be you dictating where you eat or getting stuck with a salad!
There have been instances when I am abroad, I have struggled to find vegetarian food. There are discrepancies in understanding vegetarianism as well, some eats eggs, some do not. Some eat fish, some do not.
Nowadays, more and more vegetarian/vegan only eateries have popped up as vegetarianism has become more trendy. But, it is hard to find fully vegetarian/vegan restaurants that have been around for a long time. One such restaurant resides in Zurich, a city that we only recently visited.
Haus Hiltl is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the World and has a place in the Guinness Book of Records to prove it. It was founded in 1898 in Zurich and managed by the Hiltl family and continues to be managed by the fourth generation of the same family.
Hiltl may be traditional but also provides a modern healthy-living establishment. Healthy eating in the essence of the Hiltl, then whether the customer would like an A la carte service, the famous Hiltl buffet or a takeaway the choice of dishes is not reduced. There are plenty of dishes from cuisines all around the world that are all made fresh each day in the Hiltl kitchens. Hiltl is open early til late and Fri-Sun nights, the restaurant transforms into a club. And now, the Haus Hiltl is not a stand alone venture, but the brand consists of a cooking academy, two summer restaurants on Lake Zurich and Switzerland's first vegetarian butcher. The opening of other premises are also imminent.
Hiltl very kindly invited us to their main restaurant Haus Hiltl, a stone throw away from the main train station in Zurich (Zurich HB) and the famous Bahnhofstrasse.
It may have been a weekday evening but that didn't stop the Hiltl being packed with people. The downstairs featured a bar and also had the renowned Hiltl buffet. Upstairs was more relaxed and primarily A la carte, although you could still get the buffet if you wanted to. We had been walking around Zurich all day long and pretty tired by this point so we decided to choose from the A la carte menu.
These were all first impressions before getting to the piece de resistance.. the FOOD! I've never had to spend so long reading a menu before, there was just so much choice! If I could have spent a whole week there just to try out the whole menu then I would have. Sadly, I had to make a decision as to what I was going to order!
For drinks to start with, we ordered two carafes of freshly pressed juices, the Tropical and Coconut-Pineapple. They took a whole new meaning to freshly pressed! They tasted so crisp as if we were literally just eating the fruit straight. They complemented the other dishes that we ate later too.
For the starter, we ordered the Crispy Tofu & Salad and the Saffron Noodles. Both dishes were exquisite and definitely the height of the whole meal. The flavours and ingredients that were used were second to none and blended together beautifully. I was especially keen on the mango-apple chutney that came with the Tofu salad, it tasted phenomenal! The medley of all of the fresh ingredients, such as the green leaf salad is what made the dish taste so good. For both starters, it was evident that each ingredient brought something special to the final product.
As we were visiting Switzerland, there was no way I was going home without trying potato rosti. My daughter had the vegetarian version of the Cordon Bleu (a speciality of Hiltl). The portions were very generous in size but tasted superb. A rare time where you could find quantity and quality.
|Indian Prime Minister with Margarith Hiltl|
One of the highlights of the visit came after the main meal, where we were very lucky to get a tour around the Hiltl. It was there that we learnt about the history of Hiltl and its connections to India - one of the reasons the buffet and A la carte is so extensive in the Indian cuisine. Getting a chance to walk around the kitchens was a noteworthy experience, I doubt I'll be getting the chance to do that often! I especially liked seeing the glass pyramids within the restaurant that gave you a view of the kitchens where our food was being prepared.
The dessert menu really intrigued me. So many of the desserts were vegan, which normally would need to be made with egg and/or dairy products. There were even many Indian sweets in the buffet such as Gulab jamun and Shrikhand. It is possible to have the A la carte menu for the starter and main and then choose the dessert buffet but we stuck to the A la carte! We tried the mango mousse and it was almost unbelievable that it was vegan. So light but still creamy, we literally couldn't have ended the meal in a better way.
We could find no fault at all in the food or the service - both were impeccable. I was delighted to receive two cookbooks as a gift, which I have since gone through cover to cover! Thank you Hiltl!
Going to eat at a restaurant isn't necessarily for the sake of needing to eat. Often, we choose to "eat out" as a way of catching up with friends. We choose a restaurant that will offer good food but sometimes, more importantly, a good atmosphere. Hiltl created that ambience perfectly. It was the perfect mix of laid back but not compromising on luxury.
Disclaimer :- Thank you Hiltl for welcoming us to enjoy your hospitality. The full meal for two was on the house and all views expressed are entirely my own. I was not told or paid to write a positive review.
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