Pavillon restaurant is pushing the boundaries of fine dining in Switzerland
Poor old Zurich. Critics, gastronomes, journalists nay everyone, it seems, bypasses the food scene in Switzerland’s most beautiful city in favour of more hip London, Berlin and Barcelona. It’s hardly surprising, I suppose, to the casual observer Switzerland has little foodie pretensions beyond cheese, chocolate and fondue. Swiss cuisine, the naysayers cry, is hearty and satisfying, bur never remotely sophisticated or refined.
However, those who criticise Zurich should hold their tongues, at least until they’ve had the opportunity to experience one or two of the city’s finer restaurants. In recent years Zurich’s food scene has evolved and expanded considerably, with a younger firmament of chefs – often returning from a stint abroad – dedicated to experimentation and innovation rather than bland tradition. Meanwhile, Switzerland’s top end dining scene grows stronger every year, with restaurants like Schloss Schauenstein, high up in the pretty little alpine village of Furstenau, now considered one of Europe’s best.
This brings me nicely onto Pavillon. Situated in Zurich’s leading hotel, The Baur Au Lac, Pavillon is run by Laurent Eperon, one of Switzerland’s most talented chefs and a major advocate of ‘contemporary French cuisine’. However, words like contemporary in Michelin venues often sends a shiver down my spine as ‘potions and lotions’ cooking can take beautiful ingredients and transform them into a scientific experiment on a plate.
But not so at Pavillon. Eperon isn’t a lab scientist, he prefers to use seasonal fresh products and let them speak for themselves, rather than an overcomplicated, molecular approach to gastronomy.
“Pavillon is run by Laurent Eperon, one of Switzerland’s most talented chefs”
The definitive proof of this sensible mantra came within 20 minutes of entering the beautiful restaurant. Indeed, even before the first courses arrive, it’s hard not be dazzled – you dine in a unique rotunda room, designed by the famous architect, Pierre Yves Rochon. It glows with natural light thanks to the 360 degree glazing, and above your head Art Deco Lalique chandeliers sparkle. A magnificent start to the proceedings.
Things got even better with a welcome glass of Dom Perignon 2006, accompanied by plates of intricate miniatures with “greetings from the chef”. Scallops in tempura with mango chilli chutney was a light and sweet start, followed soon after with a tiny pot of vibrant green pea soup with a large soft ricotta and lemon filled ravioli. In addition, bread is made each morning in the kitchen from scratch and was lovely, having a very good crust and texture.
Appetisers were a simple, yet divine, dish of white asparagus paired with Sbrinz cheese and a vinaigrette, while my friend enjoyed the signature crab starter, garnished with Prunier Paris and mayonnaise. The asparagus, just in season, was lovely and the salty cheese offered a nice contrast to the main vegetable element. The crab was similarly impressive, cooked to perfection with excellent flavour, the mayonnaise complementing the crab nicely.
“By-the-glass options were magnificent, a range of excellent Swiss wines that complemented the dishes perfectly”
The meal continued on a high note with pigeon from the vendee region of France, paired with duck liver and a coriander, celery and radish vegetable medley. The texture of the pigeon was exquisite, in fact, this was one of the best pigeon dishes I can ever recall eating. Meanwhile my friend remained silent for over 10 minutes, relishing his fantastic turbot accompanied by caviar and a rich, nutty buerre blanc.
We omitted dessert, instead preferring to sample the extensive cheese trolley. The cheeses, a healthy mixture of French and Swiss, were all simply excellent and I am ashamed to say that we asked for a second helping.
The wine offering must also not be omitted from this discussion. Pavillon, like most Michelin venues, boasts an extensive list full of expensive Bordeaux, Burgundy, etc. However, I’d advise allowing the sommelier to pair wines by the glass, as finding one bottle to match all those flavours would be a challenge even for the best wine expert. Our by-the-glass options were magnificent, a range of excellent Swiss wines that complemented the dishes perfectly.
Over coffee, I reflected that Pavillon hadn’t met my expectations, it had actually exceeded them. It is, simply put, a one Michelin star restaurant that unfailingly delivers two star cooking – everything was spot on, from the precise, imaginative and technically flawless cooking to the super-slick and personable service. And for that alone, it deserves the title of Zurich’s best restaurant.
Baur au Lac hotel
00 (41) 44 220 50 22