A local’s guide to Zurich’s progressive plant-based food scene

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Zurich Plant-Based Dining

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Unlocking Zurich’s Innovative Plant-Based Food Scene: A Local’s Guide

Zurich, a city that feeds on innovation, is rapidly becoming a hub for plant-based culinary excellence. Meet Ity Tiwari, an Indian-born, Zurich-based vegetarian food blogger and chef, who is on a mission to explore and celebrate the city’s thriving plant-based food culture. “As a vegetarian myself,” Ity begins, “I’m constantly amazed by Zurich’s culinary creativity and the commitment to doing things sustainably. Many restaurants here are leading the way with zero-waste initiatives and community-driven projects.”

Our gastronomic journey starts a bit earlier than expected as we head to the new company canteen at On, located in Zurich-West. On is renowned for its Swiss-engineered footwear with a cult following. Ity explains, “On has joined forces with a local vegan eatery called Roots to introduce Switzerland’s first 100% plant-based office canteen.” Roots Food Lab, situated next to the flagship On store, is open to the public and has even attracted the likes of tennis legend Roger Federer. The space exudes a futuristic ambiance, and the vegan buffet is nothing short of delightful.

Innovative Collaboration: This new canteen, a collaboration between Swiss footwear brand On and Roots Food Lab, offers a diverse array of delectable plant-based dishes. It’s a testament to Zurich’s commitment to sustainable dining.

But Zurich’s forward-thinking culinary scene has deep historical roots. Our next stop is Hiltl, which opened its doors in 1898 and proudly holds a Guinness World Record as the world’s oldest continuously open vegetarian restaurant. Inside, you’ll find Hiltl Vegimetzg, Switzerland’s first in-house plant-based butcher’s shop. Here, you can explore vegan wines, plant-based milk alternatives, cookbooks, and innovative deli meat alternatives.

Milo Stegmann from Hiltl sheds light on Zurich’s unique dining culture. “While only 5% of the Swiss population is strictly vegetarian,” Milo reveals, “many Zurich residents regularly enjoy meat-free meals. In Zurich, people consume a vegan lunch without even realizing it.” Hiltl, an establishment with a rich history, is far from resting on its laurels. When asked about their commitment to the community and sustainability, Milo proudly states, “We removed avocados from our menu due to ethical concerns about water waste. Our chefs then crafted a popular pea-based guacamole alternative.” With ever-evolving menus and a dedication to ethical sourcing, Hiltl is just one example of Zurich eateries championing positive change.

Historic and Forward-Thinking: Hiltl, the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, marries tradition with a commitment to ethical dining practices, exemplifying Zurich’s dedication to sustainable cuisine.

In the heart of the Old Town, we visit Café & Conditorei 1842, housed in a 13th-century listed building. This historic café is now under the management of the Arbeitskette Foundation, which strives to integrate disadvantaged young people, including participants in Switzerland’s migration program, into the hospitality industry. Ity insists that they serve the best hot chocolate in the city, and as I sip on a creamy cup in the lavishly decorated drawing rooms, I wholeheartedly concur. It’s a treat on every level.

As we stroll along Napfgasse, a narrow alley adorned with patisseries and delicatessens, Ity points out Schwarzenbach, a heritage grocery that pioneered bean-to-bar chocolate and fairtrade single-origin coffee long before it became trendy. A little further down the alley is Äss-Bar bakery, on a mission to reduce Zurich’s food waste by offering day-old baked goods from the city’s top bakeries at affordable prices. “This approach makes high-quality items, like sandwiches from Sprüngli, Switzerland’s best-known high-end bakery, accessible to students,” Ity notes. “Zurich’s international diversity makes its food scene endlessly fascinating,” she adds, as we step into Zurich’s answer to Harrods Food Halls — the grand basement at Jelmoli, the city’s most prestigious department store. It’s a treasure trove of Swiss and international delicacies, and you could easily lose track of time exploring the condiments section alone or sampling gouda at the cheese counter.

A World of Culinary Exploration: Zurich’s food scene isn’t just about delicious flavors; it’s a testament to the city’s creativity and commitment to ethical dining practices.

Ity’s top three restaurant recommendations in Zurich:

  1. Hiltl: With multiple locations across the city, Hiltl’s international vegetarian buffet has become a Zurich institution. Don’t miss their palak paneer (spinach with Indian cottage cheese).

  2. Marktküche: Awarded both a Michelin star and a Michelin green star for sustainability, Marktküche’s surprise tasting menu is the perfect introduction to Swiss produce and Zurich’s culinary creativity.

  3. Markthalle: This bustling covered market hall in hip Zurich-West is a must-visit. Start your culinary journey at the grocery Berg und Tal, then explore the wine bar, cafe, restaurant, and food stalls.

Plan Your Culinary Adventure: Fly with SWISS directly to Zurich from various UK airports. Consider getting a Zürich Card, which covers public transport, cruises, museums, and more, to make the most of your trip. Discover more at zuerich.com.

In Zurich, it’s not just about the quality of locally sourced ingredients; it’s about the principles and passion behind these culinary ventures that make it a paradise for food enthusiasts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Zurich Plant-Based Dining

Q: What makes Zurich’s plant-based food scene unique?

A: Zurich’s plant-based food scene stands out due to its creativity, sustainability, and commitment to ethical dining practices. Many restaurants in Zurich are pioneering zero-waste initiatives and community-driven projects, making it a hub for eco-conscious dining.

Q: Can you recommend some must-visit restaurants in Zurich for plant-based dining?

A: Absolutely! Here are three top recommendations:

  1. Hiltl: With multiple locations across the city, Hiltl offers an international vegetarian buffet and is recognized as a Zurich institution. Try their palak paneer for a flavorful experience.

  • Marktküche: This restaurant has earned both a Michelin star and a Michelin green star for sustainability. Their surprise tasting menu is a fantastic introduction to Swiss produce and Zurich’s culinary creativity.

  • Markthalle: Located in hip Zurich-West, Markthalle is a bustling covered market hall worth exploring. It offers a range of culinary experiences, from groceries to wine bars, cafes, and restaurants.

  • Q: What are some unique initiatives by Zurich restaurants to promote sustainability?

    A: Zurich restaurants are taking sustainability seriously. For instance, Hiltl removed avocados from its menu due to ethical concerns about water waste and replaced them with a popular pea-based guacamole. Other eateries are reducing food waste by offering day-old baked goods at affordable prices and integrating disadvantaged youth into the hospitality industry.

    Q: How does Zurich’s culinary scene reflect the city’s international diversity?

    A: Zurich’s food scene is a reflection of its international diversity. You’ll find heritage groceries specializing in bean-to-bar chocolate and fairtrade coffee, making it clear that Zurich embraced ethical and diverse culinary options long before they became trendy. This international influence makes the food scene endlessly fascinating.

    Q: What’s the significance of Zurich’s historic vegetarian restaurant, Hiltl?

    A: Hiltl, founded in 1898, holds a Guinness World Record as the world’s oldest continuously open vegetarian restaurant. It’s not just a historic institution; it’s a pioneer in ethical dining. Apart from its long history, Hiltl is committed to evolving with the times, offering innovative plant-based alternatives and supporting sustainability initiatives.

    Q: How does Zurich’s plant-based dining scene cater to both locals and visitors?

    A: Zurich’s plant-based dining scene is inclusive and accessible to both locals and visitors. For example, the collaboration between On and Roots Food Lab resulted in Switzerland’s first 100% plant-based office canteen, open to the public. Similarly, initiatives like Äss-Bar bakery make high-quality items affordable, ensuring that everyone can enjoy Zurich’s culinary delights.

    More about Zurich Plant-Based Dining

    • Zurich’s Oldest Vegetarian Restaurant, Hiltl: Learn more about Hiltl, the world’s oldest continuously open vegetarian restaurant, and its commitment to ethical dining.

    • Marktküche: Explore Marktküche’s Michelin-starred dining experience, emphasizing sustainability and Swiss produce.

    • Zurich Tourism: Plan your trip to Zurich with information on attractions, dining, and more.

    • On Running: Discover the innovative Swiss footwear brand On, known for its collaboration with Roots Food Lab on Zurich’s first 100% plant-based office canteen.

    • Arbeitskette Foundation: Learn about the foundation behind Café & Conditorei 1842, which supports disadvantaged young people in Zurich’s hospitality industry.

    • Äss-Bar: Explore Äss-Bar’s initiative to reduce food waste in Zurich by offering day-old baked goods from top bakeries at affordable prices.

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