Category Archives: Zurich Eating

Burgers At The Helvti Diner, Zurich

I do love a good burger. I even remember the best one I ever had, at the Sheraton Hotel at Malpensa airport, Milan of all places. When I was contacted by the Helvti Diner I immediately arranged a visit to sample the burgers there, as well as being excited by the range of side dishes, drinks and other Americana. We went to the Helvti Diner in Zurich on a Saturday afternoon. It was well patronised but thankfully not full although it did fill up more while we were there. The interior is a pretty faithful representation of an American diner with some Swiss touches like low backs on the booth furniture.

The waitress who took our order was very nice and also asked if we wanted her to speak German or English. We ordered a Swiss Prime burger and a Classic burger which is made from Angus beef. Also available is a wagyu beef patty. I am glad that the words “Kobe beef” we’re not mentioned anywhere because as I recently discovered, real Kobe beef cannot be exported out of Japan. I was pleased that the burger choice was not huge. They have taken the view of offering their burgers in three types of beef and given the customer the choice of size, sauces, accompaniments and how they wish it to be cooked. Some places take a burger, add some cheese and a fried egg and give it a separate place on the menu under a name like the Farm burger or something. I prefer the approach of the Helvti. Take your burger, add what you want and tell us how you want it cooked. We went for BBQ sauce with one and garlic mayo with the other as well as a portion of fries to share. Soft drinks come in a 500ml glass if you so choose. When the food came, I cut mine in half to inspect the cooking. I asked for mine to be medium rare and I would say it was spot on. 

My wife went for well done and again it was good. Well cooked but not dry. We had no complaints at all about the burgers in terms of flavour or quality. Mine left a lot of liquid behind on the plate, I might go for Medium next time but I like a burger to be juicy. The fries were really good, as were the sauces. The BBQ sauce was a different colour to what you would expect (it is in the small glass dish in the photo above this paragraph) and had a nice little spice kick.

We had no complaints at all about the burgers in terms of flavour or quality. Mine left a lot of liquid behind on the plate, I might go for Medium next time but I like a burger to be juicy. The fries were really good, as were the sauces. The BBQ sauce was a different colour to what you would expect (it is in the small glass dish in the photo above this paragraph) and had a nice little spice kick. The garlic mayo was delicious. Both buns were nicely toasted, but I wouldn’t say they added much to the burger. A touch I liked was that the burger is served straight up. In the bun, you get your beef patty atop a slice of lettuce with any cheese you have requested and any extra like the egg. The usual garnish like tomato, gherkin and more lettuce is served nicely presented, on the side, for you to add as you wish. We rounded things off with an excellent dark chocolate milk shake. So, lots to like. The service was very good, the burgers certainly were excellent as were the fries. As I said, I like the way the menu is presented as well as letting you choose how to add the garnishes. In terms of presentation and taste, absolutely no complaints. One negative I have to stress is the price. A bill of 100 CHF for two people is hefty for a burger meal. Here’s our receipt so you can see exactly what we had (click for a larger image): 


12.50 CHF for a 355ml milk shake is extremely expensive, no matter how good, and is something I could not justify choosing again. A prosecco at 9 CHF, however, is decent value for Zurich. There is a reason for the prices. In true Swiss fashion, the prices are justified by the quality of the ingredients. For example, the shake contains three scoops of premium ice cream, no milk powder or artificial flavourings. When it comes to the meat, the burgers contain no filler so no cheaper pork or bread to bulk it up. Their belief is that the Helvti Diner is the only place in Switzerland to feature only 100% beef in its burgers. As we were there on a Saturday afternoon, we did not sample the bar but the selection of drinks and cocktails is impressive. Any bar that offers Hendricks gin knows what they are doing! Worth noting that from October 2012, they are starting a Happy Hour on Fridays from 22:00 to midnight. We will definitely go back to the Helvti Diner, we enjoyed our meal there very much. If prices were more reasonable, I would probably try to get there at least every two weeks. As it stands we will go there perhaps a couple of times a year. I do recommend you try it and decide for yourself. 


Helvti Diner Kasernenstrasse 2 8004 Zürich Tel: +41-43-322-04-24 Opening Hours: 


Monday – Thursday 11.30-14.30  18.00-23.00
Friday 11.30-14.30  18.00-01.00
Saturday, brunch 10.00-16.00  18.00-01.00
Sunday closed

It’s Good To Be The King (Of The Dreikönigskuche)

I am the King!Today, January 6th, sees people across Switzerland buying their Dreikönigskuchen (three kings cake) and sharing them with friends and family. Similar to the ha’penny in an English Christmas pudding, finding the King is considered good luck. I am pleased to say that I just picked the piece of cake with the King in it and here he is — 20120106-101329.jpgIt was tense, of the six pieces (the centre piece never contains the King), only two were left meaning that if I chose wrongly then only the King piece would remain. Although I have to admit that a low carb start to 2012 means I didn’t eat the cake.Note that if you accept responsibility to get the cake, don’t let your colleagues down, it is something that is genuinely looked forward to and get the traditional fruit instead of chocolate!

Sweet Zurich — Finding Zurich’s Sweet Spots With MyKugelhopf

Kerrin Rousset & Guests on the first Sweet Zurich Tour

There is no better place to start a tour of Zurich than at Paradeplatz on the Bahnhofstrasse. Home to three of Switzerland’s claim to fame — the big banks UBS and Credit Suisse, as well as the Sprüngli Flagship café and shop. Money and chocolate. On a stunning Friday afternoon at the start of February food blogger, translator and connoisseur of all things sweet Kerrin Rousset is ready to lead her first group of curious sweet toothed tourists to some of Zurich’s hidden sweet spots.

As we come together in front of the giant Sprüngli shop with the blue and white trams screeching to a halt and hissing as they turn the corner, Frauenmünster and Grossmünster in the background, Kerrin asks us to introduce ourselves. The New Yorker, who came to Zurich by way of Boston and France, has a very pleasant and warm voice that invites guests to introduce themselves and add a few things to their introduction other than just a name. We’re a small group on this maiden tour — a young Swiss-American art writer and art consultant, a lady from the Valais moved up to Zurich and working in the pharmaceutical industry and myself. What we all have in common is an interest for food and learning more about Zurich’s sugary side. Having gathered in front of the Sprüngli shop, one might believe that this is the perfect start to the tour. Begin with something familiar. Even if you’ve never been to Switzerland, Lindt & Sprüngli’s chocolates are known around the world.

Lindt’s most famous spokesperson is none other than Switzerland’s most famous man — Roger Federer. Just to point out here that Lindt & Sprüngli chocolates and Sprüngli confiseries are separate business entities. Again one might believe this is the best place to start the tour, but we turn our backs on the Swiss giant and make our way up the Bahnhofstrasse. Along the way Kerrin gives us a short history of chocolate in Switzerland. Where Nestlé, Cailler, Sprüngli, and Lindt come into play and what these men did for chocolate in the small alpine country. As we turn a corner and make our way into the heart of the Old City, Kerrin also points out other little treasures for baked goods and sweets.

At every stop we are asked for our own experiences. While there is no doubt that Kerrin is the expert, she’s curious and always looking for further insight and another story for her collection.\n\nOur first stop is a specialty chocolate shop, emphasizing the culture around chocolate. Knowing that these shops are small and can be busy Kerrin quickly gives us a rundown of the shop, who runs it and their approach. If you’re looking for chocolate as far as the eye can see, you’re in the wrong place — this is not Merkur. The owner loves chocolate, but she also loves the culture around chocolate. She carries a wide assortment of chocolates from different countries, books about chocolate, and chocolate paraphernalia of all kinds. She invites us to try her special hot chocolate.

The secret is hers and she’ll gladly share it with you should you stop by on the Sweet Zurich tour. Something interesting comes into view of one of the guests. A knife with a curious blade. It is a chocolate knife. In the 1930s it was quite common to cut one’s chocolate with a special knife. This beautiful knife is a must have for all chocolate aficionados.\n\nAs we leave the shop we walk through the old city and over the Münsterbrücke. Next stop is another chocolate shop. As we enter it is more than clear that Kerrin is a regular there. Like our first place, this shop specializes in more than just chocolate, but also chocolate accessories. If you’re looking for special Swiss, Austrian, Spanish or Italian chocolate, this is the place. Again, a highly knowledgeable staff make us feel welcome and invite us to sample chocolate truffles as we like, and are ready to answer any and all questions. Again the chocolates here are also hand selected and come from a select few producers. These are chocolates that you won’t find in the chocolate aisle at Migros or Coop.\n\nNext we go somewhere I have never been before. I have walked past this place a few times a week for the past two years, but had never been in. I tell Kerrin and she’s shocked. The building dates back to the 14th Century. Walk inside and you can’t help but be in awe. It’s splendid. From the silk wall coverings to the giant cash register to the amazing selection of cakes, pastries, honeys and other fine treats. We are warmly greeted and treated to their famous hot chocolate. I’m in love. It’s very thick and has a nice bit of whipped cream on top. Again another secret and it’s different from our first stop. Hot chocolate down, welcome Prosecco and a tour of the establishment. Our guide is a perfect match to Kerrin and tells us stories about the café with enthusiasm, humour and charm.\n\nBack out onto the street we make our way to another Zurich treat. For us Swiss people going abroad always leads to some frustration mixed with humour when asked where we’re from. It seems many in North

America believe that Sweden and Switzerland are one and the same. The place we are now visiting brings these two countries perfectly together. A fine selection of handcrafted chocolates and Swedish fashion and design products are what separates this shop from the others. A trip here is well worth it, and shows just how creative people can get. Then Kerrin brings us to a shop specializing in what she sees as the latest sweet trend to hit Switzerland. What is it you may ask? You’ll have to venture out on a Sweet Zurich tour and find out. As Kerrin wraps up our tour she recaps what we’ve seen and asks for our feedback. Everyone is impressed and slightly high on sugar. Though the actual intake is not that much, it is much like a wine degustation, where a steady stream of small amounts leaves you feeling it. We part ways with smiles on our face and a little fear in our heads knowing that we are all about to become regulars at the shops we’ve just visited, which might not be a good thing for our waistlines. Kerrin has no need to worry though — she’s a runner.I sat down with MyKugelhopf founder Kerrin Rousset to find out a little more about her.

What makes her tick and where did the idea come from. Kerrin has always been a lover of sweet things and after she and her husband left their jobs in the US they travelled around the world, which gave Kerrin the perfect opportunity to try lots of new food. The name of her blog MyKugelhopf comes from the traditional Alsatian cake called Kugelhopf and or any variations of spellings. If you follow Kerrin on Twitter @MyKugelhopf there is one thing you will notice. She loves Zurich! It is most likely this wonderful combination of interests and qualities that make Kerrin a great food writer and the best person to lead interested people around Zurich discovering its sweet spots. In her almost three years in Zurich, Kerrin has gotten to know the shop owners of the places she takes her guests. One can expect friendly service and insider information that only come over time. I asked Kerrin where the idea for the tour came from and she said that it was a natural progression. “Whenever I travel, that is how I love to discover a city, where the locals go and especially where to find the best sweets. People ask me often for recommendations of where to do this here, and where I love to go. So this is a way to share it with them, and show them there is more than just the big name addresses in guidebooks.” Of course as a writer for tour guides as well, Kerrin will also say there is nothing wrong with using a book. But, based on what I experienced, you do get much more on a tour than doing it on your own. What Kerrin has done is found the passionate people in the city, the people who are running specialty shops because they love what they are selling and want to get others excited about it. When was the last time a Migros employee got you excited about selecting a Frey chocolate bar?

When she’s not busy writing, running, or leading curious groups around Zurich, Kerrin is most likely to be found at one of Zurich’s many markets. She loves the fresh produce and finds it great that Swiss people generally don’t mind paying higher prices for local quality. And of course what does she do with all of this fresh and seasonal produce? Well she cooks and bakes of course in her favourite place in Zurich — her kitchen. If you’re interested in taking the Sweet Zurich tour, check out the website: Tours are on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays starting at 2pm and last between 2 and 2.5 hours. Written by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen Else-Züblin-Strasse 998404 Winterthur SwitzerlandTel: +41 (0)79 345 78 72 E-Mail: Homepage: Facebook: Twitter: @marathonsprache

Interview With Melanie Studer – Cupcake Affair

At the end of 2010 we emailed a series of questions to Melanie Studer who had just opened Cupcake Affair. We are please to present her answers here. Tell us a little about yourself, are you originally from Zurich? I am actually from Basel and only moved here two years ago after travelling the world and living in the UK, like Zurich, there is a certain buzz about it plus I like the international influence here, which you don’t get as much in other Swiss towns. While you were away, what did you miss about Zurich? actually only moved to Zürich two years ago after living in the UK for 2 years, but I certainly did miss Switzerland whilst I was away. In particular I missed the distinct four seasons we have here, the high quality of life (countless activities to do around the year), the delicious bread and not to forget – the Swiss-made chocolate. What about Cupcake Affair? How did that come about? Well, I guess like all ideas, it came from a feeling of frustration!After completing a hotel management school in Switzerland, I had a long series of jobs where I constantly felt unsatisfied with my career. I actually became a little bit of a serial job-swapper, with 13 months continuous employment being my record!  So I was in the mindset that I needed to find something more fufilling to do with my life… and that’s where Cupcakes came in! I actually first heard about cupcakes when I lived in the UK. I immediately fell in love with the product and could immediately understand why they are so popular around the globe.

Then the thought came – why is there nothing like this in Switzerland? My long-term dream had always been to open my own cafe or shop, so I thought that this was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss. So for the past year I have been working around the clock trying to get the product right and to find the right venue in Zürich (no easy job!)What does Cupcake Affair offer expats in Zurich?Cupcake Affair is the first cupcake shop in Zürich and even the second one in whole of Switzerland. It offers a different kind of food experience in a less traditional, more trendy and exciting ambiance. For some American expats it might even bring memories of home.We make each cupcake by hand in our kitchen, so we also hope to capture at least a little of that home-baked feel. Our shop is cosy and our team is small, so we would hope too that we could offer a personal kind of service. We also take orders and can deliver to the whole of Zürich city.  All in all, we are aiming to make people happy with our delicious and tempting little cakes! Finally, do you have any Zurich secrets? As we’ve just opened, Cupcake Affair is still an unknown secret to most people in Zürich at this moment but we hope it doesn’t stay that way for long! Many thanks to Melanie. You can find Cupcake Affair at Spitalgasse 12, Zürich and at


The EXPOVINA is in it’s second weekend and many are making their second rounds of Switzerland’s largest wine exhibition. Use the exhibition to try wines and learn something new about them. Here are a few tips to save you money, patience and possibly face.

1. Have an idea of what you’d like to taste. There are many ways to do this: white / red / sparkling – wines from certain countries – specific grape varietals.

2. Know your budget. Use this exhibition as a way of discovering new wines that you may actually buy to have at home. Better than buying surprise bottles in a shop.

3. Take notes and compare before you buy.

4. While you are not obligated to buy at any stand, be respectful and if you are not planning to buy from there do not spend too much time at the stand. a general rule of thumb is to try up to 4 at a stand then move on, unless you are intent on buying.

5. Do not let yourself get talked into buying wines you do not like, really want or cannot really afford. I bought a case of wine one year that I did not really want and I can hardly drink it because.

6. Go with friends who have a similar taste. This is great if you find that gem of a wine and it’s at a price point that is higher than what you usually buy. So instead of buying a 6er pack of Brunello at 50 CHF a bottle for yourself each of you buy two bottles.

7. You’re a potential customer and demand respect. If you feel that a sales person isn’t treating you with do respect, politely tell them that.

8. Go during the afternoon as there are less people, the sales agents are friendlier and you can learn more.

9. Allow sales agents to guide you through their wines but help them recommend wines that you will probably like.

10. Taste and learn.

The EXPOVINA is a great event for wine lovers and those wanting to learn more about wine. Take the opportunity to find a few gems for yourself, while having fun and meeting new people.

Expovina – Wänn Gaasch Ufs Wyschiff?

It’s that time of year again where the ground is covered in golden leaves and a blanket of grey is pulled over the city to be occasionally lifted to reveal one of the most regal blue skies anywhere on this earth: autumn in Zurich. Autumn brings with it more than just a change in the weather, but also a wonderful variety of local produce at the local markets from apples to pumpkins. Across from the Tuesday market at Bürkliplatz, one sees twelve ships anchored and masses of people moving between them. Yes, the wine ships of the EXPOVINA are back. This year Switzerland’s preeminent wine festival and exhibition celebrates it’s 57th year. If you have not yet experienced the EXPOVINA, it is an experience not to be missed.

The EXPOVINA was founded in 1953 by the Zürich shop owner J.F. Sauter. The first “Wyschiff” — dialect for wine ship — was the Linth. In that first year 6000 guests visited the single ship to discover new wines. Alongside the typical Swiss varietals of Fendant, Dôle and Dorin one would have found some wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Châteauneuf-du-Pape as well as South Tirol and Valpolicella. The selection and size was definitely limited in comparison to today, but for back then it presented a once a year chance to taste so many different wines all at one location. It quickly became a Zürcher institution.

The EXPOVINA grew steadily from year to year. As the number of wines being presented increased so did the number of ships. By 1964 the event had grown to include 6 ships featuring 66 producers and importers exhibiting approximately 600 wines. By 1981 there were eleven ships anchored at Zurich’s wine harbour.  The twelfth ship was added in 2000. Today on the 12 ships docked at Bürkliplatz some 80000 guests visit to try more than 4000 wines from over 24 countries.

The only question now is: “Wänn gaasch ufs Wyschiff?” (when are you going on the wine ship?).

The EXPOVINA runs from November 4-18, 2010. It is open daily from 12 – 10pm except Sundays 12 – 7pm. Entry costs 20 CHF, but is free between 12 – 1pm.

Here are a few tips that will help make your visit more enjoyable and possibly save your bank account:


    1. Use the guide book to locate stands with wines that you would like to try.


    1. Go on at least two days (one day white wines, one day red wines)


    1. There is no shame in spitting (if there is a bucket) or emptying out a wine you don’t like or from which the pour was simply too large.


    1. Know your budget. Many of the people at the stands want to sell wine. The turnover at the EXPOVINA is estimated at around 30 million Franks.


    1. Allow the server / sales person to guide you. It is frowned upon to just go and taste the most expensive wines that you have no intent on buying. However, if you taste a variety of wines you will generally be offered a taste of the best wines and sometimes even an unlisted wine.


    1. If you have no intent on buying, it is best not to stay too long at any one counter.


    1. Check your coat and bags. It gets very hot in the boats, especially at night.


    1. Be open to trying new grape varietals and regions: you might discover your new favourite.


Though most of the people working on the wine boats are quite capable in both German and English and often French and Italian here are a few words in German with their English Translations:\n


    • der Wein – wine


    • der Weisswein – white wine


    • der Rotwein – red wine


    • der Schaumwein – sparkling wine (often called Champagne or Prosecco, these are actually region and/or varietal specific)


    • die Nase – the nose (bouquet)


    • der Geschmack – the taste


    • Schmeckt er? – Does it taste good?


    • die Rebsorte – grape varietal


    • trocken – dry (max 9 grams of sugar per liter)


    • halbtrocken – half dry. These wines have a little more sugar than dry wines and tend to be fruitier. Their sugar content ranges from 9 – 18 grams per liter)


    • lieblich – lightly sweet (usually these wines are precieved as sweet, but it is the fruity aroma that makes you believe they are very sweet. Their sugar content ranges between 18 and 45 grams per liter. Swiss people often use this term to simply mean a nice and pleasant wine)


    • süss – sweet (this means really sweet like ice wine and other dessert wines like Sauternes. They have a sugar content of more than 45 grams per liter)


    • süffig – easy to drink (often used to describe wines by sales people)


    • leicht – light wine (most Swiss reds are light wines)


    • vollmundig – full-bodied


*Note: Because it is “der Wein” in German, German speaking people will often refer to the wine as he and not it.

Written by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen

Else-Züblin-Strasse 99

8404 Winterthur


Tel: +41 (0)52 242 31 29




Twitter: @marathonsprache