Fancy a dash of luxury in your life? Looking for some rest and relaxation with your partner? Then, think Switzerland! Look beyond the cheese, chocolate and yodelling - modern Switzerland is all about once-in-a-lifetime journeys, exhilarating Alpine pursuits and avant-garde culture. The country's striking landscapes will capture your attention immediately - grab boots, leap on board, toot bike bell and let your spirit up. The green pastures of Vals, hiking and biking trails at Grindelwald, glacier-encrusted mountain areas of Jungfrau, glittering lake shores at Interlaken and pea-green vineyards at Lavaux - the villages in Switzerland are just beyond one's imagination. But that's not it! Switzerland's urban scene is equally beguiling - Zurich with its bustling riverside bars, Bern with its stunning modern art, Basel with its superb architecture, Geneva with its chic flea markets and Lausanne with its lively party scenes - you'll find the lot in Swiss cities. And then there's the food: a wholesome and flavoursome gastronomic celebration of gooey cheese, along with velvety ruby chocolates and air-dried meats.
The Swiss have always embraced the new and the experimental. The country went all vegetarian for a day on October 1, 2022, to encourage sustainable living. Switzerland is known for its world-class cuisine and hospitality. What many people don't know is that Switzerland is a stronghold of the nature-based, gastronomical experience. A lot of restaurants in the country use seasonal and regional produce to create authentic dishes which bring nature right to the plate in a sustainable way. It is then I decided to savour the vegetarian fare of the country and contribute towards a more sustainable world. I went to three Michelin-Star restaurants in Switzerland and indulged in hearty vegetarian fare.
1. Restaurant Silver, Hotel 7132, Vals
I love to eat. Like a lot. I am the kind of person who will go to a restaurant and order at least three or four main dishes (tasting portions) just to understand the flavours and preparation. And the experience at Restaurant Silver, where Michelin-Star Chef Mitja Birlo hosted an all-plant-based meal, was truly out of the world. Locally foraged ingredients, cutting edge techniques like pickling, fermentation, freeze drying, dehydrating and more - the meal was hearty, flavourful and soulful, and was paired with some interesting drinks like biodynamic wines from the local regions of Switzerland. The chef invited us to his kitchen where I indulged in some bubbly and delicious snacks and showed us around his kitchen - a fridge full of ferments, pickles, dry-aged meat and homemade compotes. I sampled some homemade Sauerkraut from his tub and, believe me, it surely tingled our taste buds. The main course dishes were finished tableside. For us, the highlight of the meal was whole celeriac prepared en papillote, served with a cabbage foam - it just hit the right spot. The dish was paired with a sorbet that was prepared using liquid nitrogen - how cool was that! Each course was paired with homemade vermouth, slow juices, sours and infusions made with local herbs, flowers and fruits from local regions. The intense flavours extracted from vegetables like cabbage, mushrooms, beets et al were enhanced by the use of lovage and pepper oil.
2. Sens, Vitznauerhof Hotel, Vitznau
Nestled on the banks of Lake Lucerne, Sense is an ensemble of glamour, elegance and good food. Michelin-star Chef Jeroen Achtien is known for his fermentation-based cooking method. His ideas and mission of impeccable quality, authenticity and seasonality make his food and restaurant stand out. It is quite evident from his food and its presentation - sharp, glamorous and delicious. He served us quite an interesting vegetarian menu that featured vegetables like pumpkin, broccoli, turnips, kohlrabi, mushrooms, watermelon, lovage and Jerusalem artichoke. Presentations and flavours were top-notch, especially the wine parings, which enhanced the whole experience for us. And once you are done romancing with the food and wine, take a look outside the restaurant - the picturesque view of the lake will just take your breath away! A special thanks to Christian Hotz for the outstanding service (and amazing tunes).
3. Colani Restaurant, Madulain
Sitting stylishly in a small alpine village, Madulain, Colani Restaurant is winning hearts with its delectable vegetarian menu. Michelin-Star Chef Paolo Casanova believes that cooking any dish is a chain of things - "it starts with a dream, an idea to create and then the ingredients and techniques are the vehicles that help make the dream come true," said Chef Paolo Casanova. We hiked to the local mountains where the chef goes to collect wild herbs, fruits, pine cones et al. for the restaurant's daily use. On our way back, we met one of the local cheese producers and tasted some of the finest cheese. The menu at Colani includes extensive use of local produce and vegetables like celeriac; wild spinach, wild broccoli, alpine cheese, liquorice, butternut squash and mushrooms. Not only that, I sampled some of their in-house bread, paired with floral butter. Every course of the meal came with a different wine and homemade veg broths that simply add to the experience. As you soak up the vibe and as the music gets going and the wine rushes to your head - it is easy to believe that all is well with the world and that it is going to be a lovely day. Yes, it's like that when you eat here.
For the uninitiated, in the world of gastronomy, a Michelin star is considered the Holy Grail of fine dining, and it can make a restaurant. Based on the dining experience of an anonymous Michelin inspector, a restaurant may be awarded up to three stars. It's hard enough to get one but three stars - the highest mark - makes the restaurant one of the best in the world and, of course, well worth a journey to get there.
About Shubham BhatnagarYou can often find Shubham at a small authentic Chinese or Italian restaurant sampling exotic foods and sipping a glass of wine, but he will wolf down a plate of piping hot samosas with equal gusto. However, his love for homemade food trumps all.