Like many foodies, a significant part of travelling is about the food. And having tried many various ‘starred’ menus across Asia and most of the recently awarded restaurants in London, I was beginning to think that the phrase was just a ploy to get their tables booked. But in a glasshouse on the edge of the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, is a one star Michelin-restaurant that really stands up to its accreditation. Pavillon is exactly what you’d expect a French fine dining restaurant to be – with a little sass and glitter thrown in. Yes, you have the usual trimmings like grand fresh flower displays, velvet upholstery and a menu for the gourmandise amongst us. Yet you also have simple, beautiful food often with a twist, in an ambience that’s far from pretentious. Not to mention, the loveliest wait staff with smiles on their faces. Pretty rare to come by these days.
As you walk in, you’ll notice the contemporary pieces splashed in Barbie colours and sparkles, like an abstract version of my makeup drawer at home. Earlier in the summer, the semi-private park outside Pavillon plays host to sculpture installations, which would be visible for diners. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the wife of the current owner of hotel is on the board of the Guggenheim in New York. Here, aesthetics is upheld as highly as the food.
This extends to meeting the Chef Laurent Eperon, who was at front of house to greet the first seatings of the evening. He runs the behind the scenes, which is a startlingly small setup compared to the main kitchen of the hotel. It proves that you don’t need a superfluous changing room to put on a show. And what a performance it is. The à la carte menu changes seasonally but I am told it always features two signature dishes, bouillabaise and Zurich style fillet mignon, which is served sliced in case you were wondering. The recommended Harmonie menu comes in two forms, as a the full nine course wonder (205CHF, approx £164) that I sampled and would recommend – or the reduced seven courses (185CHF), which omits foie gras and the Champagne palette cleanser. Don’t let the prices put you off, you are in Switzerland after all and I assure you that in a country where breathing is expensive, this is certainly worth it. Even on a weekday, Pavillon is a full house.
Now we all love a good wine pairing but have you ever had Swiss wine? The sommelier at Pavillon handpicks various bottles to complement Harmonie (+100CHF), which is of particular note because it features ancient grapes mostly found in Switzerland, due to its cold weather and high altitudes. It’s a unique chance to sample Amigne and one of my favourite grapes, Chasselasse. Due to it’s small production, it’s rare to find such bottles outside of the country.
We need to talk about duck liver, which is served as a terrine and a light ice cream, complimented by elderflower foam that had a thick mousse-like density, a berry gel and various seasonings. It’s always a let down if the staple foie gras dish of any French menu is what you’d expect, I mean, we all know what it tastes like and at least I know that I want something inventive. But this playful rendition embraced the creamy meatiness of the delicacy, with its experimental textures, where each bite was a different sensation. Certainly one for all its fans to enjoy. And then there was the summer venison. I may be biased because anything with cherries is a winner to me but the smear of the smoothest velvet mash and the nibs of hazelnut made this a memorable course. Sometimes a little comfort food in an extravagant menu can really settle the stomach and the heart. Accompanied by the only red wine of the night, a juicy Malanser Pinot Noir, I was set for the dessert courses.
The Harmonie menu alternates between heavier dishes and fresher ones. With such an extensive meal, it was a welcome that the desserts are light and fruity, a lovely ending befitting of a summer menu. The Blanc Brut Eric Meier that finishes off the luxurious meal is a very special sparkling wine that puts British produce to shame. And the final plate, a bergamot cream and passion fruit ‘caviar’, topped with gold leaf no less, was visually stunning. What could be more decadent?
Baur au Lac