If You Could Only Have One Meal in Zürich, Switzerland
The best restaurant in Zürich is everything the critics rave about—and more. JS Editor Lindsey Olander digs in.
You probably won’t believe me if I told you that my most magical dining experience to date hides not in Italy, Denmark, or Japan, but in Zürich, Switzerland. But there you go: just one more surprising delight in one of Europe’s most surprising cities.
Of course, I’m not the first to fall under Kronenhalle‘s spell—and I will not be the last. Daniel Humm, chef and co-owner of New York’s Eleven Madison Park (which was crowned the Best Restaurant in the World in 2017) still considers it his favorite restaurant in the world, and the reservations list has seen everyone from Tina Turner to George Clooney take their seats.
In 1924, local bon vivant and woman-about-town Hulda Zumsteg purchased and transformed a former beer hall into a classic Swiss restaurant. She left the wood-paneled dining rooms and the ornate crests of the city’s various guilds lining the upper walls, instead swapping beer-stained tables for white tablecloths and the menu into an elevated feast. Meanwhile, her son Gustav, having spent time in Paris, brought in his art-world friends, who came here to dine and converse—Matisse, Picasso, Miró, and Chagall among them.
As word spread, more names started flowing in, including the likes of Coco Chanel, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, and James Joyce (who is said to have written pages of Ulysses at Table 17). So too, did the art collection: at first, Gustav purchased his works, but soon, many became gifts to the family, You’ll spot the signatures of Kandinsky, Klee, Braque, Rodin, and Rauschenberg on the walls. I sat beneath a Chagall, facing a Miró, and felt like I was dining in a private gallery.
This is the scene at Kronenhalle, a timepiece in the heart of the city that still manages to maintain the same kind of allure it brought to Zürich back in the 20s.
Whether you’re seated in the main dining room, upstairs, or by the bar, the scene is still as much to be seen as it is to eat—floor-length furs, dinner jackets, and heavy jewelry are not out-of-the-ordinary attire here—but the food is nothing short of exemplary, either. Impressive platters of seasonal, traditional recipes dominate the menu: Chateaubriand with Béarnaise sauce, clear oxtail soup, herring and smoked salmon, and sliced veal with rösti—a dish so special it is delivered on a roaming silver cart and plated right off the burners by waistcoated staff. (Heads up: they prepare more than one plate can handle, so be sure to leave room for seconds.)
We’ll allow you to balk—just for a second—at the prices. After that, find what you want and order it. It’s a small price to pay to dine beneath—and inside—a masterpiece.
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