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.
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.
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.
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 purpose. When 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.
- Haus Hiltl
- Hiltl Akademie – The next edition of La Grande Bouffe — a 5-course vegetarian meal with drinks included, is scheduled for November 2, 2017. Reservations are now available online.
- Hiltl Lade & Metzg (shop & vegetarian butcher)
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.