Dining pleasures are boundless in this stunning country… cheese and chocolate may be the items that come to the uninformed mind, but if you dine at a noteworthy restaurant in most Swiss cities or villages, you’ll also experience savory meats, the freshest of lake fish, generous vegetables, and always… clean, fresh cooking.
After two visits, Lucerne remains my favorite Swiss city. Though small as big cities go and hardly cosmopolitan, it is chic, intimate, charming. Staying in Old Town is necessary to experience the full allure of the city, as many outlying streets hold wonderful gems but aren’t as stimulating visually. Old Town is a car free zone of cobblestone streets, extensive shops, cafes, famed bridges, all on a glistening lake.
Pfistern: English menu found by clicking “Kuche”, then “Menuvorschlage”) – Though in a 1300’s building with original painted façade, the mobbed sidewalk tables made me fear: “touristy”. Not so. Inside, it’s peaceful and pub-like, if a bit musty. On the upstairs deck, there are quieter outdoor tables (with that gorgeous lake view). Salads are fresh, loaded with lentils, beans, tomatoes. I love classic regional dishes like Aechtes Lozarner Chugelipastetli, a puff pastry stuffed with mushrooms, pork, veal and raisins in a creamy sauce. Mmm! The crème-de-la-crème is Butterfish Medallions. Fresh from the lake, they’re a buttery revelation served with herbed rice and a hefty portion of pistachios, almonds, pine nuts and orange slices. The salty nuts, light citrus juice and texture of the fish make for a flawless dish.
Brassiere Bodu: Kornmarkt 5 (Plz 6004), Lucerne, 041-410-0177, – An elegant French bistro in the heart of Old Town, literally next door to Pfistern, Bodu’s excellent service sets the tone for an enchanting meal of classic French cuisine. A whole fish, fresh from a nearby lake, was perfectly baked with onions and herbs stuffed in its stomach. Quiche, steak and salads were all flawless. The wine list is award-winning and Bordeaux focused. Paired with the classic French dishes, it makes for one of Lucerne’s best meals.
Paradise Le Chalet: After a fruitless Sunday night search for an open restaurant, I stumbled across this touristy fondue spot, entering with trepidation. What followed was a surprisingly delightful fondue meal of lush melted cheese paired with thinly sliced meats, pickled vegetables, a delightful local Swiss white wine, Fendant, and a shot of Kirsch (cherry liqueur, similar to brandy) mid-meal to aid in digestion of all that cheese.
An idyllic village a cable car ride up the mountain from divine Gimmelwald, Murren provided restaurants when we needed a break from cooking in our Gimmelwald cabin.
Alpenruh: Service is harried at this touristy chalet but never a better view was had with your food and drink. Sitting outside on the deck, breathe in mountain air and sigh with your good fortune to witness such an incomparable view. You can’t go wrong with local beers on tap and traditional Swiss fare such as Rosti and Alpen Pasta, baked with caramelized onions and gruyere cheese, which we saw regularly on regional menus. An ideal lunch spot.
Bellevue Hotel: For more gourmet local food, visit the Bellevue. We sat outside on the deck, again taking in that magnificent scenery (Alpenruh has a better panoramic perch but Alpine views everywhere are nothing short of ethereal). Washed down with a Swiss Apfelwein (hard Apple Cider), one of the best dishes of my Switzerland travels was traditional Rosti, or hash browns, served with sausages, topped with a fried egg, bacon, cheese and a golden onion sauce. Sheer decadence. Other good dishes: hearty beef and mashed potatoes in red wine gravy, and spaghetti with veal medallions (breaded, schnitzel style) in a red pepper olive sauce. We finished up with a tart filled with plump blackberries and raspberries, topped with homemade cream.