Vegetarian Fine Dining at the Hiltl Akademie in Zürich

For vegetarians or vegans in Switzerland who want a fine dining experience, it can be somewhat challenging to find a restaurant that can accommodate them. With ingredients like foie gras and main courses featuring prime cuts of lamb or beef, there can be limited options for a gastronomic meal that is free from meat and other animal products. To serve this need, Hiltl Akademie recently hosted “La Grande Bouffe,” a 5-course vegetarian dinner party in Zürich, which I had the pleasure of attending.

Fresh artichokes decorate the table and historic photos adorn the walls of the Hiltl Akademie.

While I am not a vegetarian, I have been a fan of Hiltl since I first ate at the restaurant several years ago with my family. With fresh ingredients and delicious flavors, you don’t miss the meat when you’re dining there. I consider this to be a must-visit place for people traveling to Zürich — for the history and for the food. Hiltl opened its doors in 1898, and today has grown to include multiple locations, Switzerland’s first vegetarian butcher and an academy that offers a range of cooking classes and other events.

Hiltl Akademie – Vegetarian and Vegan Cooking Classes and Events

Hiltl Akademie started in 2007 at Hiltl Haus on Sihlstrasse in Zürich. With a growing interest in the academy’s cooking classes and workshops, it expanded in 2015 to its current location on the fifth floor, which includes a demonstration kitchen and dining room. You will find a variety of events offered by the academy, such as team-building activities, guest chefs, classes taught in English and more.

La Grande Bouffe was the first time Hiltl Akademie has offered such an ambitious 5-course vegetarian menu in this setting. Showcasing their talent, the instructors shared some of their favorite and most creative recipes. The academy started this new series to attract people seeking a vegetarian fine dining experience, and the plan is to offer this event seasonally (the next event is scheduled for November 2017). At CHF 150 per person, the cost for the event exceeds the typical price for the casual buffet at the Hiltl restaurant downstairs, for example, but the amount of preparation involved in the multiple courses (which includes drinks) makes the experience well worth the price.

Hiltl Akademie instructors hard at work plating one of the courses for La Grande Bouffe.

The Menu for La Grande Bouffe at Hiltl Akademie

When I arrived at Hiltl Akademie on a hot summer day, I was greeted by two of the academy’s staff members, Dorrit and Katja. They immediately offered me a refreshing cocktail, a Mojito made with lemongrass and fresh mint — a lovely start to the evening.

The intimate gathering of 12 guests in the classroom kitchen and dining room allowed us the opportunity to watch the chefs at work and ask questions about the meal. Around the table, I met people who appreciate good food prepared well. Like me, not everyone was a vegetarian. Also, one of the guests was vegan, so the Hiltl Akademie chefs made sure to provide her with alternative options.

Before the chefs rolled out the five courses, we had two rounds of amuse-bouche. The first was a small sandwich made of crisp crackers and filled with a smoky-tofu spread. Our second amuse-bouche was a lovely surprise — a vegetarian version of foie gras. Made with nuts instead of duck or goose liver, it had a rich taste and smooth texture. I would gladly choose the vegetarian version over the real thing any day.

Noix gras and a vegan brioche with chutney and black pepper at Hiltl Akademie’s La Grande Bouffe.

Here is the line-up of the five courses we had that evening for La Grand Bouffe:

Avocado | grüne Tomate | Walnuss
Avocado with green tomato and walnuts

Sauerampfer | Eierschwämmli | Kefen
Soup with sorrel, nettles, ribwort plantain and sugar peas served with toast topped with chanterelles

Rüebli | Erbse | Kokosnuss
Peas and carrots — whole and puréed, topped with shredded, toasted coconut

Artischocke | Mangold | Zitrone
Risotto with artichokes, Swiss chard and lemon with colorful nasturtium blossoms

Aprikose | Rosmarin | Garam Masala
Apricot, rosemary and garam masala

Köstliche Kostbarkeiten vond der Natrukostbar
Delicious treats from the Natrukostbar

Did you know that there are vegan wines? Along with the exceptional food, Hiltl Akademie poured three different wines for us that evening, and I learned a new fact about how it is produced. I had assumed that all wines were vegetarian, but had never really considered whether or not they were vegan. Katja informed me that when winemakers want to remove any of the remaining particles — to give the wine a clear and filtered appearance — gelatin or eggs can be used for this purposeWhen you dine at Hiltl, you will be able to choose from a selection of vegan wines that use other methods for this process — an option not always available at every restaurant.

For an incredible fine dining experience, hosted by a Swiss institution with over 100 years of experience cooking vegetarian cuisine, I highly recommend attending a future edition of La Grande Bouffe at Hiltl Akademie — the second of which will be held this fall. In the meantime, Hiltl also has a range of vegetarian and vegan cooking classes and other events throughout the year — you can find the list of upcoming events available online via their Webshop.

More information:

Please note: I attended La Grande Bouffe as a guest of Hiltl Akademie in order to provide an honest review, and the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are purely my own.

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4 replies »

  1. Great post Heddi. Looks like a lovely meal. I’m definitely going to check it out when I’m in Zürich.

    Your point about vegan wines is an interesting one. Animal products to clear wines of proteins are routinely used. Many fine winemakers will avoid clarification and all natural winemakers do by definition. Some will label as suitable for vegetarians or vegans.

    This is all part of the push to include ingredient labeling on all wines. This is the best solution in IMO for transparency in wine.

    • Thanks so much, Dennis! I appreciate you sharing this information. I have a lot to learn about winemaking! Ingredient labeling seems like a good idea, but it sounds like there is some pushback? Curious to know more.

    • Thanks, Wei! I often prefer vegetarian meals too. They had the book on display in the academy that you brought to my attention, “Meat the Green.” Always trying to cook more with less or no meat.

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