March 05 2010
Just a year after its relaunch as a boutique hotel, the Helvetia in Zurich has become something of a city landmark. This elegant but snug hangout attracts young and fashionable Swiss and the venerable old guard of the city’s high society, plus the odd smattering of bankers. There are many reasons to recommend the Helvetia, from its chic but unfussy rooms to its central location on the River Sihl. The main one for me may sound unusual: the meatloaf.
Chef Françoise Wicki has brought a discreet modern twist to traditional Swiss favourites such as Pizokel (a cross between noodles and dumplings), Hörnli mit Gehacktem (a dish of macaroni and minced beef), and that meatloaf, served with mashed potatoes (SFr36; around £22). For all is elegant refinements, it is food in keeping with the cosy, inn-like quality of the place.
Not that there’s anything remotely creaky or stodgy about Helvetia’s bedrooms. Some are built into the kind of attic spaces more generally associated with a steamy romantic assignation in the St-Germain district of Paris. The stripy wallpaper and lush drapery manage to be up-to-date while reassuringly reminiscent of a rich old aunt’s drawing room.
Downstairs, a lively buzz runs through the place. The bar and restaurant are reasonably priced and always busy. You can find the proprietors Leopold Weinberg and Stefan Roth eating in the restaurant or propping up the bar with the determinedly inconspicuous wealthy locals who frequent this place.
Dinner for two with wine costs around SFr150 (about £90).