Food always creates a buzz in Zurich, for example during the Street Food Festival that pops up its tents at various times and locations throughout the year. Pulled pork sandwiches get a Swiss twist with cheese and meat from happy cows at local farms. The Guerrilla Kitchen team are friendly hijackers of old buildings, in which they cook with their hearts in Switzerland, but bringing inspiration from around the world. The Artisan Kitchen & Urban Garden celebrates the culinary joys of all things domestic: they might use grandfather’s recipe for Luma beef sausage, but add an array of exotic spices. This approach reflects the typical Zurich inhabitant: cosmopolitan in spirit but provincial at heart. But don’t think of them as dull – the denizens of Switzerland’s largest city just like things to be in order, committed to quality and done with attention to detail.
A former banker turned baker, half Japanese, half Swiss Seri is a man on a quest for the perfect baguette. With only about 50 baguettes baked a day, they sell out quickly. But you might get lucky as an early guest at Milchbar, where his microbakery has set up shop. Or visit his website for the list of shopkeepers who sell his bread. The chief baker in town is Jens Jung, aka John Baker. Having grown tired of bread that tasted like cardboard, he decided to open his own artisan bakery, where he makes the finest sourdough west of San Francisco – the city where he refined his recipe with famous breadmaster Chad Robertson at Tartine Bakery. Committed to the traditions of Switzerland’s baking heritage, Jung only uses organic, locally sourced ingredients and his homemade flour and yeast. His lofty bakery is busy all day and everything is always fresh out of the oven. John Baker unites people: grannies, students and families, you'll see them all nibbling on fresh loaves and leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind them.
The Swiss version of bratwurst is made with veal meat only, is white in colour, richer in taste and bigger in size than a bratwurst from Germany. It’s served with the typical Swiss "Pürli", a crusty bread roll, and hot mustard, and easily counts as a meal in itself. And you just can’t go wrong with a bratwurst from the Sternen Grill, the best in town and only a hop away from the Kunsthaus art gallery. It’s open late and is a popular stop for those who’ve been to a ballet across the square at the Opera House.
A dark brown exterior is the sign of a properly cooked Swiss bratwurst, so tame your hunger until its grilled perfectly. Sternen is a fun place for meatlovers, celebrating a national culinary tradition in the cosiest and most joyful way: an outside foodstand where people from all walks of life gather, students on their first date, politicians in suits, husbands who wolf down a sausage before the healthy family dinner. Always fun, always packed; you'll order seconds. And write home about it.
Schwarzenbach is the ultimate pantry: food lovers, chefs and residents of the old town alike come here to buy tea, spices, coffee, vinegar, rice, olive oil, chocolate, jam, nuts and beans. The shop has been open since the late 1800s, and maintains the Swiss tradition of presenting everything precisely and perfectly. Today it’s run by the fifth generation of the family founders, and Heini Schwarzenbach carefully selects each product with his team. Some he finds just around the corner at speciality producer Schwerzmann, who make a wonderful boozy kirsch-chocolate. All other ingredients are produced in the various states of Switzerland, and there are spices from all around the world. Knowledgeable staff offer warm smiles and a welcome to match; from dried fruits to caramel patties, the quality is as reliable as the country’s watches.
Part of the business is the cosy next-door coffee shop TeeCafé, where if you’re lucky you can grab a chair outside on a sunny day. The shopkeeper will open the window to the in-house coffee-roasting machine and the air will be filled with a glorious aroma. There are many things and places to stimulate the senses in Zurich, and the Schwarzenbach general store is certainly one of them.
Walking around the former industrial neighbourhood Kreis 5 in the west of the city, the fresh Swiss air is the only reminder that you’re not in Brooklyn. Here is where creatives have brought an international feel to Zurich with a series of 30 retail shops and boutiques. Underneath this old railway bridge you'll find well-curated stores that sell everything from furniture to food, and unique in Switzerland is a market hall, also situated underneath the arches. Käsers Schloss is your farmshop in the city. Contrary to its name (Käse is German for cheese) it actually sells seasonal vegetables fresh from the field. Cheese is sold right next door however at Tritt Käse, where the enthusiastic crew will introduce you to the rich world of Swiss dairy products. Make sure to try some of the Jersey Blue, made with milk from Jersey cows: it’s an international award winner. There’s also a wine shop, a butcher and fishmonger, a flower shop and a pie bakery: leave plenty of room in your schedule! Not least because Berg und Tal is a culinary lucky dip: rose petal jam, dried meats, cold pressed oils and honeys. The owners know every product, its producers and their story.