One of the great benefits of hiking in Switzerland, along with the exceptional views and well-marked trails, is the chance to eat at farmhouse restaurants along the way. In French-speaking Switzerland—particularly in the cantons of Vaud and Neuchâtel, as well as the Bernese Jura region of Bern—these restaurants are known as métairies. During a recent family hike, on a beautiful late-summer day in the Chasseral Regional Park, we stopped for lunch at the Métairie de Morat.
Historic Métairies in the Bernese Jura
Approximately 50 métairies can be found in the Bernese Jura region. Some of these farms even date back to the 14th century, according to the Jura Bernois tourism office. These small farms in the mountains have continued to serve over the years as the summer pastures for dairy cows. At the same time, they also provide drinks, snacks and meals to passersby. Many of the métairies open only for the summer months, but some stay open for periods of time throughout the year.
In the Chasseral Regional Park, the métairies typically serve local foods, including those that bear the Swiss Parks product label. About a dozen métairies in this park also make an “Assiette Chasseral,” a dish consisting of foods entirely from the region.
Some individual métairies have also become known for particular dishes or food products. For example, the Métairie des Plânes serves “La Chasse,” a wild game menu, from mid-September to the end of October. At the Métairie de La Neuve, they serve homemade cheese and sausages. According to an article in L’Illustré, local Chef Claude Frôté of the Michelin-starred Bocca restaurant recommends the Métairie de Dombresson in Frienisberg: about a 15-minute walk from the summit of Chasseral.
Métairie de Morat
At the Métairie de Morat, about a 45-minute walk from the parking lot at the Hotel Chasseral, we stopped to have lunch about mid-way through our hike. Located at 1,461 meters (4,791 ft) above sea level, this farm in the Jura mountains has a thick blanket of snow in the wintertime.
A few large wooden picnic tables, shaded by a large tarp, stood right in the front of the farmhouse. The family staying at the house welcomed us, as we took a seat. Just like generations before them, these summer tenants of this historic home have dual roles —taking care of the cows in their warm-weather pasture and managing the restaurant. The kitchen can serve a maximum of about 30 people at a time (10 inside and 15-20 outside).
The menu consisted of simple dishes with local ingredients, such as cheese fondue and homemade fruit tarts. We ordered up two large röstis, one with bacon, and an “assiette froid” (cold plate) with meat, cheese and bread. Everything was homemade on the spot in the small farmhouse kitchen. This Swiss comfort food was deeply satisfying after our morning walk.
Rather than having to pack a picnic for your hike, you can take advantage of Switzerland’s network of métairies. I find them a nice way to discover local Swiss foods and support the economy of these rural communities. However, I do recommend that you check in advance to make sure that they will be open during the day of your hike.
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