Zurich’s Boutique Coffeehouse
When I first learned that my husband and I were moving to Zürich, I quickly ran to the bookstore and bought a handful of travel guides on Switzerland. I began spending hours on the internet, reading articles, checking out expat blogs, as well as searching for Swiss cookbooks. For our first visit here, I figured we would just roam the streets and get a feel for the city, without paying close attention to my lists of sweet addresses… yet.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but notice that Schober, the one pastry shop I had underlined and bolded and put big stars all around it, was [gasp] closed. For good? For renovations? Once settled in in Zürich, I passed by every now and then to see if progress was being made. I peeked through the windows and saw the beautiful moldings, ceiling and chandelier, and just waited for this old-fashioned confectionery to be open again. Finally, in March of this year, after 4 months of renovations, it was back in business. Worth the wait? Absolutely.
Only it was no longer Café Conditorei Schober, what I had read about to be Zürich’s most famous café with a rich history. The original 14th century building was turned into a confectionery and coffee shop by Theodor Schober, Sr. in the late 19th century. His son, Theodor Schober, Jr., took over until the age of 92, when the café was then bought and renovated by Teuscher, a name many of us rightfully equate with chocolate. But now it is Péclard, with Michel Péclard at the helm, alongside his charming manager Martin Egger. They present a fine mix of tradition and innovation, with an attention to detail in the esthetics and gastronomy.
What was the first thing that caught my eye? The macarons, bien sûr. Real Parisian macarons. The boutique is unavoidably similar in feel to another luxurious patisserie we know and love, Paris’ Ladurée. Boxes come in light pinks, purples and even Ladurée’s signature mint green color. I will admit being quite surprised by this. But you’re quickly reminded of your surroundings when you admire the artwork on the boxes, one motif being Zürich’s Grossmünster church (the box I have sitting on my desk here). Macarons come in the classic variety of flavors: chocolate, coffee, caramel, lemon, raspberry, blackcurrant, pistachio and vanilla, as well as coconut, rose and chocolate passionfruit.
But Péclard is not just about macarons. They are continuing the legacy of a traditional pastry shop and tea salon with a large menu of both sweet and savory treats (salads, sandwiches, soups, Flammekueche and quiche, etc.). You also have a large choice of atmospheres to enjoy it in, with several floors and diverse settings. Péclard and Egger spent a lot of time traveling throughout France, especially in Paris, gathering inspiration and ideas, not to mention all of the furniture and tableware for the different rooms. While preserving the original layout and lavish design, they put together what they call their “boutique coffeehouse.” There’s a small courtyard in front of the entrance for when the weather permits. A classic tea salon is right off of the pastry shop and there is a more romantic French-style area upstairs with red, plush armchairs, turning into a piano bar in the evenings. Next up is a spacious bar facing beautiful wallpaper that was hand-crafted in the prestigious factories of Alsace. Lastly, there’s a more classic and formal room on the top floor.
If you ask me, the very best import from France was Patrick Mesiano, master French chef Joël Robuchon’s celebrity patissier. His array of cakes is simply impressive. Elegant presentations and top quality to match. Chocolate lovers, look no further than the Intense (below right), whose name does not lie. Dark chocolate cream with dark chocolate ganache – it’s dense, rich… and intense. No surprise at my pick: the Fleur de Sel (bottom left) – dark chocolate mousse with a creamy caramel filling and my favorite French salt. And of course, no tasting would be complete without a sample of those colorful macarons.
Don’t leave without looking at the array of products at the entrance. There is a wall of jams from Le Comptoir des Confitures, in France’s Saint Jean du Gard, original combinations of fruit in sleek glass jars. There are chocolates from Zürich’s well-known, century-old Honold (of which I am a fan) and plenty more temptations. There is also a large focus on tea, an impressive selection on offer coming from the gourmet institution across the street, Schwarzenbach. Last but not least, be sure to check out the cash register, an absolute beauty.