We will all agree that food adds colour, flavour, sweetness, and spice to all our travel adventures. Finding a holiday destination that suits your diet needn’t be difficult, especially if you are a vegetarian. Enters Zurich. The city is home to the world’s oldest (continuously running) vegetarian restaurant – Haus Hiltl – serving incredible vegetarian fare since 1898! Currently run by the fourth generation, the restaurant has been providing an atmosphere of friendly hospitality and excellent cuisine for more than a century. During my Switzerland holidays, I decided to savour the vegetarian fare the restaurant has to offer and see what’s all the hype about!
Haus Hiltl’s History
I got a chance to meet the owner Rolf Hiltl, who is the CEO, a trained chef and a flexitarian, over a meal. We spoke about how the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant came to be located in Zurich and made it to the Guinness Book of World Records. He shared, “my great-grandfather, who was a tailor, came to Zurich for work. Soon he was diagnosed with arthritis and had difficulty moving his fingers. That’s when he switched to a vegetarian diet for three months as a part of his treatment. He was a regular at ‘Vegetarierheim and Abstinenzcafé’. He fell in love with the head chef (my great-grandmother) and they both ran the restaurant together. Today, we made it in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest (continuously running) vegetarian restaurant run by the same family.”
Haus Hiltl is known for being the oldest vegetarian restaurant, but also quite popular for having a rich history and a fascinating story to tell. Founded in 1898 by the Hiltl family, it has been passed down through generations ever since. It did not become an overnight success story. The restaurant has evolved over the years, from its humble beginnings as a small inn to becoming one of Switzerland’s leading hospitality businesses. The struggle was quite real (1951) until the third generation started to handle the operations, for the world stopped looking at vegetarian meals as something best suited for just hippies. Now, the restaurant is known for its award-winning restaurants and hotels. The story of Haus Hiltl is one of hard work, passion, and dedication – all of which have helped to make it one of the most successful businesses in Switzerland.
Haus Hiltl’s Contemporary Interiors
The restaurant has a unique decor that combines traditional Swiss elements with modern touches and features luxurious chandeliers, opulent upholstery, wooden panels and a picture wall showcasing the history of the restaurant, including a picture of Morarji Desai (former Prime Minister of India). The vibe is cosy and inviting, making it the perfect place to enjoy a meal with friends or family. The restaurant also has outdoor seating ideal for those who want to soak in stunning views of Zurich. With its unique interior design, Haus Hiltl is sure to provide an unforgettable experience for all its guests.
The restaurant is spread out over two levels. The ground floor – which hosts the famous Hiltl Buffet – is vibrant with wall-sized windows. The staircase has a glass railing where kids can draw with felt pens. The kitchen has a slanting glass wall that gives a peak into the restaurant’s kitchen to all the guests. On the other hand, the second floor has more eclectic furniture, unique light fixtures, a wall stacked with books and a collage of photos showcasing the history of the restaurant.
Food at Haus Hiltl: What Makes a Meal at Haus Hiltl So Special?
The best way to taste the delicious fare of Hiltl is through its extensive buffet which serves all kinds of vegetarian food from across the world. The buffet has over 100 dishes inspired by Indian, Swiss, Thai, Central European, Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. There is also an extensive a carte menu from which you can take your pick.
Rolf shared that the intention is to promote vegetarianism in a country like Switzerland where meat is the first choice for the majority of the people. However, he admits that things are changing slowly. Young people are very open to being vegetarian and how much they are interested in cooking vegetarian and vegan food.
So, the next time you are in Zurich and looking to sample fresh, organic vegetarian fare in an intimate setting, head straight to Haus Hiltl.