Guest contributor, international businessman and world traveler Pascal Najadi, kindly shares with The Yum List one of his favourite restaurants in Switzerland.
Dining and Wining with Chagall & Co. in Zurich, Switzerland
By Pascal Najadi
How could I best describe the “Kronenhalle“ without being lost in superlatives? Without using the words “exclusive,” “unique,” and “fantastic,” in an inflationary way? This is a truly difficult task. The long history of this house is out of the norm and packed with memories and notes about the owners and its guests from all over the world. But most importantly it is the pristine cuisine and the ambience that make you return. Glamorous is the only right word for this. For me it is simply one of the best restaurants in this world. And since I set foot there first, probably 25 years ago, it is still the same. The Kronenhalle is always at its best, 364 days a year, be it for a business lunch or a more relaxing dinner amongst friends.
It all started in the now far back 19th century as the new, “Hotel de la Couronne“ on the Bellevue Square in Zurich got erected. The place where the City of Zurich has made an enormous landfill. For its time this was the place to be, a noble spot, where the Zurich upper class met, where the traders made a halt for a rest before they continued their voyage on their horse carriages. Later and exactly on this spot, where the stables for the horses were, a high wooden ceiling hall was created in the style of a Beer Restaurant from the Alsace, a Brasserie. When the Hotel went bankrupt and the company transgressed into a Restaurant operation, the Brasserie gave the restaurant its name: Kronenhalle, or in English, “Crown Hall”. A large restaurant is all but an empty space. In the contrary: Every large restaurant gets its character through its icon chef and the guests this personality attracts.
The Kronenhalle is a tribute to the success of one lady: Hulda Zumsteg. She bought the restaurant in 1921, together with her husband Gottlieb. It was a dilapidated operation, run down to its bare bones. With an unprecedented devotion and perseverance she has transformed this place into a new culinary glamour. First there was a legendary cook from Bavaria, Leopold, who gave the restaurant its first hallmarks of excellence. Her late son, Gustav Zumsteg, became one of the largest silk traders in the world, delivering to Paris and Milan haute couture but mainly exclusively to his friend, the late haute couture doyen, Yves Saint Laurent. And so the Kronenhalle advanced subtly into the spotlight, of fashion, film and the famous. One could say it became famous over the years, hence avoiding the short life of a “shooting star restaurant” that closes within a few years due to dire lack of identity and class. The Kronenhalle is one of those rare places like the Café des Artistes in New York, the Gundel Restaurant in Budapest, the Savoy Bar & Grill in London or the Fouquet's in Paris.
I dined there with family, my friends and ministers of State during my earlier days. No matter when in time you enter this unique brasserie, rest assured you meet a face or two you have met or seen before on our common little planet earth. At the “Chagall Table” at the right hand window corner in the main hall you will see the real VIP´s sit as it is an unspoken rule to get this table booked if you are a known customer. The Kronenhalle is not just a gourmet restaurant of premier class with a variety of haute cuisine from Switzerland as well as the old Europe, but it is a stage where the rich, beautiful and famous mingle with artists, lawyers and fashion models. Further to that it is an art museum with originals from Marc Chagall, Joan Miro, Georges Braque, Alberto Giacometti etc. And no, not one original has been stolen yet. During your “Zurich Geschnetzeltes” you can appreciate this world class art, unique that is. Make sure to accompany this speciality dish with the house Bordeaux.
The menu stretches over the finest selections of fine cuisine. Naturally you can have fresh oysters from France in the “R”- months as well as other rare savouries such as Iranian Beluga Caviar on Blinis or a Filet a la Robespierre. And when you finish over the world famous “Mousse au Chocolat” the paintings start to talk to you. Then you know the time has come to ask for the bill, the emotions of your stay have reached the climax. It is always good to leave on a high feeling. This then gives you the excuse to return, year after year. And even if you do not revisit the Kronenhalle for some years, its charming staff will remember you. When I went there with my mother we often took “Bentley” along, no not the English gentleman’s car but rather our late Labrador retriever. And guess what, at the table there it was, his private silver water bowl. The Kronenhalle is an institution in its own right. And they know how.
During the winter season we would drive down from St. Moritz on a lazy Sunday afternoon, “down” to Zurich back in to the thick grey lowland winter “soup” and we would do the absolutely essential Sunday dinner stop. Where? Well, at the K-Hall as we dubbed it amongst our circle. It always was the perfect winding down pad after an exciting ski weekend, the border to back to work, to get energy for Monday morning. During my next stop in Zurich I will revisit this outstanding place where the time is always the same. Time to enjoy a good meal within a unique ambiance. A place in history, with Chagall and Miro as my guests at the table.
After the passing away of Gustav Zumsteg, the son of Hulda, in 2005, the Kronenhalle was turned into a foundation in order to preserve its heritage and the legacy for generations to come. I had the pleasure to meet Hulda and Gustav Zumsteg over the years. They were exceptional hosts taking extraordinary care of their customers. Hulda used to make her turns through the restaurant welcoming each guest and asking if everything was to their expectations, day in day out. Their spirits are still alive. The Kronenhalle today is in its glamour as ever. The staff is charming and professional and can read your orders from your eyes. Just ask any Concierge in any Zurich Hotel during your stay to book you a table at the Kronenhalle, try the “Chagall table”, it has the best oversight over “the hall” provided you sit against the wall just below the painting. Just try, you might be lucky and get that very table.
Ramistrasse 4, CH-8001 Zurich
+41 44 262 99 00
Ramistrasse 4, CH-8001 Zurich
+41 44 262 99 00