ZURICH, Switzerland – Zurich, Switzerland is a very expensive city. The people of Zurich have the highest GDP in the world. So it’s quite normal to see that most hotel restaurants that cater to business people have a few luxurious tricks up their sleeves.
In this series of articles, Cédric Lizotte visits some of the best restaurants in Europe. From France to Switzerland via the Czech Republic, here are the best places to sample the delights of some of the best chefs on the planet. Follow it with the hashtag #CedricEnEurope.
This is the case for the Park Hyatt hotel in Zurich.
First ace up its sleeve (if a hotel had sleeves): Chef Frank Widmer. He spends his time travelling the four corners of the world in order to find the best ingredients and bring them back to his restaurant.
Second ace: the premises of Parkhuus Restaurant.
The third secret ace is its cellar.
And finally, the fourth ace, and it’s a simple thing: a real outstanding service.
Parkhuus restaurant, Zurich: Meet the chef
I met the chef, Frank Widmer, at the hotel bar. Of course, interviewing a chef is all the better with a cocktail. The hotel bartender, Julio Enzler, offered me a “Searching for Chipango.” This is the name of Mr Enzler’s invention that combines Campari , jasmine syrup, lime juice, and an egg white. Very delicate!
Chef Widmer is a passionate leader, and it shows. “We base our menu on what our suppliers can offer,” he says. “So every year, with friends – they’re also chefs – we leave. Each time, we’re about seven chefs… and we visit our suppliers. Last year, we went to Scotland. This year, it’s Nova Scotia, to eat lobster!”
Evidently, a man of passion for the products must use techniques that let the ingredients shine.
“Here in the restaurant, we have a wood-fired oven and a charcoal grill. The wood-fired oven is used for simple roasting of fish and vegetables. While the charcoal grill is reserved for our finest cuts of meat,” the boss explains.
Moreover, the menu is precise: for each dish, the supplier and source are both indicated. That’s dedication!
Parkhuus restaurant, Zurich: The dining room
In downtown Zurich, on the ground floor of the Park Hyatt, a large terrace is adjacent to the hotel bar. The high ceiling of the bar is gorgeous.
There’s a door, a corridor and a second door.
Parkhuus is a huge restaurant. There will never have a shortage of tables!
To the left of the entrance is the large open kitchen where several busy cooks toil.
To the right, the great room which has comfortable chairs and tables covered with white linens, sports stylish lantern-type chandeliers, rows of large windows overlooking the street and a very high ceiling.
The stained wood, white and yellow fabrics take the spotlight.
Parkhuus restaurant, Zurich: The cellar
One of the high points of the restaurant is its cellar. It’s a huge glass structure standing against the restaurant’s wall which houses dozens of wine bottles. Obviously, Cheif Widmer keeps an eye on everything that enters these doors.
“We have bottles that are unique in the world. I ask châteaus and wine producers to make magnums for me, producers that don’t normally make magnums, which means that we have bottles that are unique in the world,” says the chef.
And that’s not all. Since he is a globetrotter, Mr Widmer loves finding bottles from around the world. For example? “I have Wayne Gretzky’s wine!” It’s a good laugh for the boss to have the wine of the greatest hockey player of all time. The Wayne Gretzky Estates produce wines in Ontario, British Columbia and California. “It’s not exactly the greatest wine in the world, but… it always makes a great impression with my Canadian guests!”
Parkhuus restaurant, Zurich: The Meal
As aperitif, I was offered a glass of Louis Roederer Champagne Rosé 2009 (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) which is simply superb.
The meal is simple, since the ingredients and cooking methods allow the products to take center stage. And the plates are quite large, which is something you don’t see frequently around these parts.
The appetizer: Five white asparagus. They were blanched. Talk about simplicity…
Then, the main meal. It consists of spinach cooked with a little parmesan and pine nuts; sautéed mushrooms in butter; wood-roasted potatoes, tomatoes, onions. And the pièce de résistance: a huge Swiss pork chop!
Tamara Groll, the sommelier at Parkhuus, takes the reins of the wine pairings.
And she took out the big guns. Big, as in “large”. A 12-litre bottle is mounted on a wheeled device that allows her to pour wine and moving the bottle from table to table without effort. Rhoneblut, Valais, Albert Mathier et fils (Pinot Noir). It perhaps wasn’t the greatest wine I have ever tasted, but the device used to pour it offers quite a show!
Also, to compare, it was followed by another red wine: MW 50, Zurich, 2010 (Malbec, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, Merlot). This one has stronger tannins; the first was rather dry.
The pork is perfect. Not too spicy, not too salty, not too caramelized. While eating, I forgot the side dishes because the pork was so good. And the side dishes are all delicious!
The trou normand is also quite the spread. Since I asked to taste Swiss products – Swiss mushrooms, Swiss veal, Swiss asparagus, Swiss wines – I’m presented with a kirsch tasting. I think I might have a hard time walking out of this restaurant. I might need a wheelchair.
The three kirsch were produced by Humbel. The first, Basler Langstieler. The second, Hemmiker. The third, K161.
Since I know absolutely nothing about kirsch, I asked for an explanation. The names of the products are in line with the names of the cherries used to produce the alcohol. In German, “Basler Langstieler” means “long stem from Basel”. “Hemmiker” is another type of cherry. And finally the K161 is a mixture of 161 types of cherries! The latter is much more complex and aromatic than the first two.
Finally, a classic dessert for this type of restaurant; a chocolate fondant. A brittle and two kinds of creams (ice cream and crème fraiche) were served with it.
I was right: I rolled (figuratively) from the restaurant to the train station… and as soon as I found my seat on the train which brought me back to Basel, I fell asleep. Good night!