Old Swiss House
Approximately nine years ago, travelled through Europe (12 countries in just over a month) and I ended up in Lucerne for a few days. During my stay I had a stunning dinner at the Old Swiss House. It was winter at the time and I had a Venison (carved at the table) with all the trimmings. The place enchanted me oh so much, that I felt I had to come back. So here I am. The place has a wonderful cottage like wooden facade with some classic colours to match. I fall in love again as I approach the building.
I will give a little history on the place, it was built in 1858, named in honour of Queen Victoria, used by the Swiss General Henri Guisan for secret meetings during World War II, and has an amazing connection with the Anheuser-Busch brewery (one of the heirs married the owner’s daughter in the 1950s). They have a stunning collection of Chateau Mouton Rothschild (vintages back to 1867) and of course Hollywood stars (Frank Sinatra and Roger Moore), U.S. Presidents (Nixon, Carter and Johnson), Tennis greats, (Federer), Statesmen (Mikhail Gorbachev) and Fashionistas (Yves Saint Laurent) dine here.
Inside the restaurant reflects the feel and charm of a lovely country cabin with the welcoming warmth and hospitality to match.
I find my seat and just spend some time gazing at the decor around the restaurant. The staff really know what to be hospitable and I just love them. My waitress wears a swiss maid style outfit and is super friendly with a lovely guttural accent streaking through an English. She is a charmer. I place my order for my entrée and wine to start the evening.
Entree and Wine
For the wine I opt for the…
Chateau la France, Medoc, Bordeaux (1982)
The wine is a lovely blend from Bordeaux which has aged for 30+ years and it proves an exciting selection. This restaurant has over 30,000 bottles in their cellar and I am thrilled with the choice. There are lovely notes of smoke and earth which dominate on the nose. There are notes of cassis and plums in the aroma too but it is ever so faint. It is a well integrated wine with a beautiful elegant structure. The full fruit intensity has declined and there are limited tannins present. The fruit flavours that do remain (notably the cassis) dances in tandem with much more powerful rich earthy, leathery, tobacco flavours. A beautiful wine indeed.
Goose Liver Mousse with Sauternes Jelly
The dish is a lovely scoop of creamy goose liver pate/mousse with the soft fruity Sauterne jelly underneath. The texture contrast is never more evident; with the chilled jelly, the rich creamy mousse, the crispy toasted brioche (not pictured). The lemony sweetness of the jelly has the right amount of sugar and acid to cut through the richness and the fat of the goose liver mousse. It is a truly a sensuous experience of textures and the interaction of varied flavours. I ponder on it for moment, the goose has probably never met the grape, yet through a series of wonderful culinary thought and skill, they meet to create a sensational tasting experience. A wonder of a dish.
Main Course and Champagne
For the main course it is such a challenge, I have come all the way to Switzerland and really should go for the Veal Schnitzel (a house speciality which is cooked at the table for you). It is part of the experience, but alas I fall in love with the lobster and opt for it as the choice for my main course. Philipp Buholzer (the owner) delivers the dish to my table and we briefly chat. I tell him about the venison dish ~9 years ago, he tells me the lobster is just as good.
South African Rock Lobster with Taglierini and a light Lobster Sauce
The dish is exquisite. The aesthetics of the deep red lobster, the beautiful fluffy foam, the yellow taglierini and the cream coloured sauce dazzle the eyes with an enchanting array of colours which one absorbs only very slowly. I gently lift the shell of the lobster to reveal the succulent lobster meat. With due care, I cut a tiny piece and taste it. The world stands still and the sweet juicy succulent lobster meat bursts onto the tongue and the wonderful sweet natural flavours of the lobster deliver a sensory overload.
I try to balance the desire to close my eyes and just lose myself in the dish, while maintaining the outward composure of being in a public place. The creamy lobster sauce, full of lobster juices combines to reinforce the position of the lobster in the dish. The taglierini which is threatened to play a distant second fiddle role in this dish rises to the occasion like an opera conductor to gather the lobster sauce, the lobster meat and the foam to pair them in a harmonious swirl to deliver a symphony like taste in my mouth. The taglierini is soft and cooked to absolute perfection. The dish fires on all cylinders. However soon ecstasy turns to despair as I stare at the empty dish with just the forlorn lobster shell – the experience is all over. The things that bring you the greatest happiness can the source of your greatest sadness when they are over. It was a truly sensational tasting experience.
Taittinger Brut Réserve
I had paired the lobster with a beautiful glass of Taittinger. Its golden glow and bubbles stare at me through the beautiful glass. The wonderful aromas of fresh fruits and toasty sort of bready flavour flows through the air. On the palate there is the refreshing fruit flavours (citrus) and honey and a little toasty sparkle to it all. It’s so lively, charming and delicate on the palate and the light citrus touch does help with the lobster.
Dessert and Wine
I decide to have another aged wine to round out the night instead of opting for a dessert wine. Their cellar has quite a selection, so I go for one from Burgundy to mix it up.
Domain Drouhin-Laroze, Morey St Denis (1986)
This wine is from Burgundy and has smooth earthy aromas on the nose. There is the amazing retention of cherry fruit flavours in this wine notwithstanding its age, although it has faded to a “second fiddle” with some lovely spice, wood and earthy flavours which have developed in its place. The wine has limited depth or fullness and there is notable strength of the light tannins which remains in the finish and certainly leaves its impression on my mouth.
I struggle to choose a dessert that suits, but my waitress tells me the chocolate mousse is must. I just can’t say no to her, so the chocolate mousse it is!
Chocolate Mousse (Old Swiss House Special)
She scoops out the mousse onto a bed of fresh cream at my table. The glow of the lights reflect on the dark chocolate surface. I use my spoon to grab a taste. The rich velvety creamy decadent taste is a sensory experience while the rush of the chocolate (the combination of sugar and milk) rushes through my veins. Its one of those dishes that leaves a you little out of breath at the end. It’s a beautiful soft finish to the night.
Coffee and Petit Fours
I sing-off the night with a coffee (cause drinking coffee before bedtime is such a good idea) and some lovely chocolate and cake to finish the night.
My dear Old Swiss House, you have not lost a bit of your beauty, charm, hospitality, grandeur or culinary excellence since I last met you. Let us not leave it for oh so long again. It was a wonderful experience and I have tried to describe it, but I feel my pen still hasn’t captured every nuance. Some things are indescribable.