We’ve managed to go out twice (!) in the past month, thanks to having on-tap babysitters (my in-laws) in town.
It was somewhat of a revelation to experience Zurich after dark on a Friday and Saturday night, respectively. You almost forget sometimes that people are still going out, eating dinner in restaurants, drinking in bars and throwing it about on dancefloors. Anyway, I thought I’d give a couple of mini rundowns because we checked out some great spots and I feel like a few important pieces of the puzzle are now in place – eg: Zurich’s rock and goth bars, ha ha ha!
The area around Langstrasse comprises Zurich’s red-light district. I’ve been there during the day and it’s a little grimy but pretty tame. At night, it’s not exactly super-seedy but on a Friday it does have a decent buzz. If I were to compare to Sydney, it’s probably more Newtown or Paddington than Kings Cross. In London – maybe more Islington than Camden. Although I’d have to say it’s on the whole less batshit busy and with fewer falling-about drunkards than Australia or the UK.
We ate dinner at Josef – a restaurant that’s been on our list for a while. This place is pretty trendy. It’s decked out with shiny mosaic tiles and cool, moody b&w posters of 70s punk chicks and Matt Dillon in The Outsiders. And they’re doing the small plates thing that’s so hot right now.
There was a good crowd in the lively bar area near the door and the maitre d’ was refreshingly honest about seating us when we arrived a bit late (after 8pm for a 7.30 sitting because: kids) – “if you sit here, I won’t have to kick you out at 9…” And then when we finished around 10pm, he didn’t hide his glee “oh this is perfect, because someone else has just arrived and wants a table.” heh. There was also an Aussie waitress from Adelaide, so that was cool – there’s not that many Aussies in Zurich so it’s always nice to meet one. I guess half of them work in hospitality (see below.) And she gave us some really good wine recommendations.
The food was good, if not ah-mazing. We went for 3 small plates each (CHF51ea – pricey but normal for Zurich, to be honest, we probably should have gone for 4 plates at CHF62 or the “menu” for CHF67 as we weren’t exactly stuffed afterwards). However, we tried a pretty good selection of the menu. The place was dark(ish) and fairly bustling and we were sat in between two other couples (3 separate tables but not much room between), which was fine, if not the most romantic of settings. However, we enjoyed the ambiance and we really enjoyed our meal.
Would I go back there? Hmm; maybe – I would definitely pop in for a cocktail en route to elsewhere in the area but there’s a few other places I’d rather try before eating at Josef again.
Next up, we trotted along Langstrasse to Mata Hari Bar a tiki-themed rock bar. We sat at the bar, which I love. They had a range of tiki-themed cocktails, which I don’t (rum isn’t really my thing) so I settled for the old standard safe bet Jack Daniels and soda. I’d actually forgotten how much I like JD – in fact, yep, I am practically Slash. Mata Hari was nice, good to know it’s there for next time certain friends visit (Mad Dog I’m looking at you), and I have to say it was possibly the cleanest rock bar I have ever been in. I couldn’t see any frayed upholstery, lifting lino, scuffy decor or anything. Even the toilets were surprisingly neat – with about 3 pieces of graffiti and not even puddles of mystery water to wade through. They didn’t even smell. I had to laugh thinking back to Big Red or The Intrepid Fox.
Feeling as though we were owed a cocktail, we trekked further along Langstrasse, under the rail bridge, to the Kreis 4 end. This side was a bit more happening, actually, with kids outside bars and clubs and cars of dudes cruising by in traditional Friday-night-stylee. We stuck our heads in the gin bar Dante but it was about 4-deep to get a drink and we couldn’t be bothered. So we skipped across the road to Total Bar. And it was great. A Lisbon-themed bar a bit like Bar Kick in London but with Lisbon-looking dykey types shaking up neat cocktails and not too crowded. It was also Lisbon prices so we had a couple of cocks apiece. They weren’t the finest drinks I’ve ever drunk but the price was right, the place had a nice feel and, let’s face it, by this time of the evening, we weren’t so picky. Would definitely pop back in to this little gem.
Saturday Nght in Wiedikon (Kreis 3)
For our Saturday night out (a couple of weeks later), we wanted to check out a different area, as well as having a bit more of a special meal, to mark our 10-year wedding anniversary (actually in October but we have babysitters now!). I’d read about Maison Manesse on a Zurich food blog I’ve been following, Zat for Zurich, and it sounded interesting. Himself and I are both kind of foodies who enjoy something a bit different/ molecular gastronomy type shit, so this place sounded like the goods. For dinner, it’s a set menu/degustation and prices were at the high end. We figured it was a special occasion so let’s go the whole hog and were glad we did.
The food was really awesome. I haven’t eaten at El Bulli or anything so maybe this would be a poor imitation, but for us, it really impressed and delighted. It started with an Uzazi seed from South Africa as a palate cleanser. Similar to Sichuan pepper, as you chew it, it sets your whole mouth buzzing, then watering for several minutes. Wow. Next was an appetiser of frozen rocket and chilli guacamole – I love rocket. Then onto the menu proper (complete with Joy Division refs :)). There was hardly a bum note in all seven dishes. Each course was served on its own unique plate that was matched to the dish, rather than each other. Stand outs were the 63-degree egg that morphed into a delicious nutty goo almost like satay sauce; a porcini mushroom with chuño – a Peruvian potato product; the scallop and the dessert – a fried apple thing that tasted like the best waft of donut-scent at a funfair. The meal ended with an extra dessert thing from the kitchen (what is that called? Dessertpetizer?) of marshmallows and fruit gels. You toasted the mallow at the table – a cute Swiss twist in the country that adores raclette, fondue and all forms of table grilling!
We got chatting to Fabian, the founder/chef, when our meal was over and of course he is half Aussie (and half Swiss). When we asked about the marked presence of Peruvian ingredients on the menu, he said it was due to a trip he’d done there a few years back that really blew him away and that he’s basically the only guy in Zurich using a lot of these flavours. The cellar was also impressive, with a spreadsheet wine list describing around 400 varieties. There were bottles for CHF1,500 on there. Suffice to say, we chose something a little more modest. I discovered only today – after the fact – that Maison Manesse has a Michelin star. So I’m impressed we even got a table, considering I booked it on Thursday for the Saturday night… love Zurich! Would I go back there? Yes definitely. The menu completely changes every couple of months, too.
Afterward we walked around the corner to check out Zurich goth bar Bonesklinic which was like every goth bar, ever. Groups of dark-clad, pierced and interesting-haired friends getting drunk on beer, wine and shots, etc. They talked to each other and completely ignored us. So far, so normal. It was decked out inside a bit like a mobile home: cheapo wood panelling and tartan-upholstered booth seating, albeit with many alpine drinking horns hung everywhere. But they were playing Queen. And they gave us a free welcome shot in a plastic skull. And the smokers out the front were extremely quiet and well behaved. I didn’t check out the toilets but I bet they were clean and had toilet paper. So a bit of a departure from, say, the Dev of old in Camden – with its SECRIFICE MYSELF TO YOU Jesus and Mary Chain graffiti in the horrible loos that I must have spent at least 5 hours of my life looking at if you add up all the time we spent in there. Heh. Would I return? Depends who I was with and where we were off to – it’s a little off the beaten track but if an appropriate gig was nearby, or if/when I manage to befriend some of the local goth kids: sure!
But I digress. 2 fancy, foodie Zurich restaurants: tick. Rock bar: tick, Lisbon lesbian bar: tick. Goth bar: tick. Can’t wait for our next night out!