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Whatever happened to old-fashioned dining ? So many restaurants opening in London seem to cater for diners in a hurry. Empty plates and glasses are cleared at the speed of light, an unused spoon whisked away. Dining is seemingly no longer the evening’s main event, but part of a wider plan, before or after a concert, theatre, art opening, other places to go, people to see, not the evening’s enjoyment in itself.
Travelling in Europe however, presents very pleasant opportunities for leisurely dining, as a recent visit to Zurich demonstrated admirably. In an old fashioned building in the city centre, a few steps from the lake, and streets crowded with tourists, sits the Kronenhalle, the epitome of traditional Swiss dining. In a room adorned with fine paintings donated by artists over the years, perhaps in exchange for meals, artists such as Chagall and Matisse no less, meals are taken at wide comfortable tables with crisp white cloths, napery and silver cutlery. Waiters in white jackets, all with long service records, provide faultless service and the owner, a formidable lady, tells visitors old and new, of the restaurant’s origins and the fare offered, like it or not.
The menu is delightfully short, and yet one is still spoilt for choice. Each dish is prepared by the waiter at the table : a first course of the softest sweetest matjes herrings with a light and delicious covering of cream and chives, this accompanied by an order of cucumber salad, perfectly thin slices in a delicate French, or should I say Swiss, dressing, topped with finely grated radishes.
To follow, a simple dish of Vienna schnitzel passing by looked very tempting, but we opted for the house speciality , small slices of perfectly cooked tender veal in a creamy mushroom sauce with a perfect circle of potato rosti, crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. This was served from hot dishes on a side table and kept warm on a hot plate. The combination of the creamy meat with the dry potato delicious. A deeply satisfying meal further enhanced by a second helping, almost as large as the first, thanks to the hot plate.
Alas, no room for the delicious assortment of cakes and pastries on offer, but we did manage an excellent macchiato to end a memorable, traditional and above all, lazy lunch.