In a leafy, residential suburb high above the city of Basel, Tanja Grandits’ restaurant is something of a surprise. This is a part of town where little ladies take pugs for walks, there’s a discreet twittering of birds in the treetops and the number 16 tram rumbles gently past. An elegant salon de thé I would expect, but a world-class restaurant serving cutting-edge, Asian-influenced food? Maybe not.
Rich threads of aroma, colour, flavour and texture run through Grandits’ cooking (lunch from SFr75, about £60.50, for three courses; dinner from about £153 for eight courses): most of what she does smells, looks and tastes so arresting I have to restrain myself from rushing into the kitchen, where she’s putting the finishing touches to every dish, to ask her how she does it. Take the smooth, star anise-infused tartare of tuna, offset by frizzled strands of purple shiso, minute croutons and crimson splodges of cranberry “mayonnaise” I recently relished; set on a black plate, it was a work of edible art – and completely delicious.
Grandits began running this Basel stalwart in 2008, which is named after Hans Stucki who ran the restaurant together with his wife Susi up to 1998. Restaurant Stucki remains an institution, cherished by Baselers and visitors alike, but the Stuckis’ slightly frumpish furnishings and beige tones have long ago given way to sleek, modern interiors. The restaurant is broken up into several spaces, with a huge terrace for summer dining, and the informal tone set by Grandits in her kitchen continues in the dining room, where the young waiting staff blend exemplary Swiss efficiency with a delightful measure of unstuffiness. Sommelier Christian Juppe is also full of good ideas for pairings.
On my latest visit I was all set to be blown away by my first spring morels with wild spinach and pearl barley, but instead I was surprised by a plate of pinkly roasted pepper-glazed beef served with flash-fried basil and pale green gnocchi. And no less surprising was the dessert, a startling lipstick-pink composition of sharp blood orange segments, preserved turmeric, smooth almond mousse and crisp caramel toast crumbs.