Millefeuille in the Mountains of Zermatt

Zum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, Switzerland

I still remember meeting Markus Mennig back in 2003 in New York City.  He was one in a group of friends who went to the École Hôtelière de Lausanne, and I was simply fascinated when he told me he was from Zermatt.  Little did I know then that not only would I be living in Switzerland myself one day, but I’d be eating at his family’s restaurant too. More importantly, after 8 years of hearing about it, I finally tasted their famous millefeuille…

Zum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, Switzerland

It was a peaceful morning spent on the car-free streets of Zermatt, save a mini electric car or two, making a delivery to a bakery or escorting guests to and from one of the many posh hotels.  The excitement of turning a corner and spotting the Matterhorn, its peak often hiding behind the fog, never waned.  (Nor does the excitement of discovering a new chocolate shop.)   Yet we left the village – and its countless dark wood chalets, flower boxes and alphorn players – behind, and hopped on a cable car up to Furi.

Zermatt has been called “the mountain restaurant capital of the Alps” and even of the world.  With almost 40 restaurants at altitudes normally reserved for ski poles rather than forks and knives, it makes for a whole new culinary experience.  Don’t be confused though when one of the most well-known is named Zum See, “See” meaning lake in German. Some say the area used to be a swamp with a lake; others say it was a rest stop for people on their way to the Schwarzsee (Black Lake).  Whether that’s fact or fiction, it still is a perfect break for those on the many hiking and ski trails in the area.

Zum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, Switzerland

Almost like its own quaint mini Swiss village, Zum See is a cluster of chalets built over 350 years ago that sit in a hamlet above Zermatt.  Markus fills his tractor (above right) with fresh ingredients and rides up to the restaurant every morning during the summer season. Just before the summer is over, he’ll lug up two tons of potatoes to fill the cellar, lasting only until the end of February, when the daily mode of transportation becomes a snowmobile.  Most of those potatoes become his father’s crisp Rösti (which I had for lunch, served with chanterelle mushrooms, below).  At a mountain restaurant, accessible by either skis or hiking boots, I wasn’t surprised to see Rösti, air-dried beef and veal.  But octopus carpaccio ?  Divine.  As was the lamb filet with a Provençale crust.  All served with Valais rye bread from Bäckerei Biner, which as Marion says, “is the best rye bread in town.”

Max Mennig, Markus’ father, works in what could be one of the smallest professional kitchens ever, turning out what he calls “honest cuisine with the freshest ingredients,” his Mediterranean-inspired cuisine with traditional Swiss roots earning him 14 Gault Millau points (prestigious French restaurant guide).  He and his wife Greti have been running the restaurant for 27 years, and in 2005, Markus and his wife Marion (whom you met here) joined the team.  You’ll probably spot Markus in a baseball cap, running from table to table, making sure everyone is seated, served, happy and full.  It’s not rare that the pace of Zum See at lunchtime resembles what Markus and Marion must have experienced during their days in restaurants and catering (Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse) in New York City.

Zum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, Switzerland

Aside from seeing friends, the breathtaking views, the picture perfect chalet atmosphere and the gourmet cuisine… I would still rave about this restaurant for the desserts alone.  Within minutes of exchanging hellos and triple air kisses with the Mennigs, I had my eye on the dessert spread, conveniently located right next to our table on the outdoor terrace.  A perfectly spherical, mysteriously tempting dome turned out to be rhubarb meringue pie.  Rhubarb meringue pie !  I watched slices disappear out of the corner of my eye, nervous there would be none left by the time we finished our appetizers.

“Don’t worry, there’s another two whole ones,” Max reassured me.  Relief set in, but I continued to eye plates and plates of that tall rhubarb meringue pie with homemade cinnamon ice cream go off to tables scattered among the grounds of Zum See, along with apple strudel and Valais apricot tart.  Not to mention countless plates of millefeuille that kept flying out of the kitchen.

Zum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, Switzerland

Last but certainly not least, the millefeuille.  Napoleon, cream slice, Crèmeschnitte… However you call it, it’s Zum See’s most popular dessert all year round, on the menu for 25 years.  When people call ahead to make reservations, some even try to reserve a piece.  We had the summer version, made to order with two large squares of thick yet delicate puff pastry, sandwiched with a light diplomat cream (pastry cream + whipped cream) and fresh berries.

But I’m still waiting to taste the original, classic version — an oversize, flat, rectangular pastry whose 15 slices go fast.  It’s not uncommon for them to go through 90 pieces a day during their busy season, and that number has even gone up to 115.  Markus has clearly shared his words of wisdom with his clients, “Everything in moderation including moderation.”  I’m ready for my next visit to Zum See, perhaps that time showing up with ski poles, red cheeks and an appetite.  än güatä !

Zum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, SwitzerlandZum See, Zermatt, Switzerland

Restaurant Zum See
Max & Greti Mennig
3920 Zermatt
summer season: end of June to beginning of October
winter season: mid-December to mid-April
noon to 5:00pm

More Zermatt links:
Have you met Madame Chocolat ?
Zermatt Tourismus
Chalet Altesse (owned by Max & Greti Mennig)

21 Responses to “Millefeuille in the Mountains of Zermatt”

  1. LatteLisa says:

    Every time I view your blog I feel homesick and Switzerland is not even my home country! I guess if one lives there once it’ll never leave one’s heart.

  2. Julia Sicard says:

    I could not be prouder of my parents and my brother with his little family! I look forward to my next trip back home!

  3. Marlen says:

    OMG, Kerrin, your post just made we want to pack my bags and head back to Zermatt. That rhubarb meringue pie makes my mouth water… As always, gorgeous pictures and great stories of land & people :O)

  4. wandering educators says:

    WOW. i’d plan a whole trip around going to that restaurant. delicious!

  5. Kerrin says:

    LatteLisa, how beautifully stated – and I totally understand that. Simply thinking about leaving Switzerland, I am becoming homesick !!

    Julia, thank you so much for your comment ! You have a wonderful family, and it was such a pleasure it was to meet your parents and spend time with Markus, Marion and Felix ! I hope to again soon !!

    Marlen, thank you ! And you ARE heading back to Zermatt soon, aren’t you ?! Well then, a stop at Zum See for dessert is a must 🙂

    wandering educators, that’s exactly what I did ! 😉

  6. Kiki says:

    O.M.G…………. this is just soooooooooooo glorious! Kerrin, you made me nearly weep with your pixie of the Röschti with mushies (I would prefer to have the ‘Gschnätzlete’ AND the Pilzli…..) and fond, very, very fond memories go back to the two years of winter hols in Zermatt where we went nearly DAILY for the famous Grämschnitte…. (we have a terrible word which can most definitely not be applied for those beauties ‘Eiter-Rieme’)….. aaaah tempi passati.
    Everything on every single photo looks a total treat and I also have on my long-long-long wanted wish-list a trip with the Glacier Express, the whole length of Switzerland with an overnight stay in Zermatt…. for when we will be back in Switzerland – one day…
    Oh, I wish I could just jump on the next TGV and come for a quick tour of all those favourite places (and I’ve only been in Zurich (for half a day!!) last weekend)…. but stay here I must!
    Thank you for this gorgeous, wonderful post.
    Liebi Grüessli, Kiki

  7. Kiki says:

    aaah, forgot to say that I also want an extra large ‘tranche’ of the Öpfelstrudel…..
    (me, who doesn’t ‘do’ desserts….. 🙂 )

  8. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    As I started reading this, I thought, “It’s true – all good things come to those who wait!!!” 😉 Then kept reading with much interest about the surrounds, but eager to hear more about this famous millefeuille. Patient, patient. Then wait? Something about a dessert spread? You got me distracted! Then I laughed. I know that nervous feeling that something is about to be all sold out before you get to it. Like a little jumpy tick, every move exaggarated. 😉 Love the look of that rhubarb meringue pie, and the sound of the rest of the fruit desserts. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. Am already in love with the sound of that millefeuille. What an unbelievable quantity that they sell there. P.S. I’ll also give you another name for millefeuille used, quite definitely NOT elegantly here in Australia – snot block. I’m serious…..

  9. kelleyn says:

    I need to put this place on my to visit list for next summer!

  10. Kerrin says:

    Kiki, you write with such passion about all these places — as well as about the desserts, but you “don’t do desserts” ?! Really ?! And oh dear, why not ?! Thank you so much for sharing above, we can all see what a bond you have with Switzerland. There is but one thing to say – you must return soon !! (and *do* dessert when you get here too, haha !)

    Julia, love to hear I’m not the only one constantly eyeing the dessert table ! But oh my, are you for real — snot block ?! Someone please explain that origin to me. …Or not. Ew. 😉

    kelleyn, oh definitely !

  11. Kiki says:

    Kerrin; of course I am passionate about all things going on in MY country…. but Zermatt I really like a lot because, albeit it’s utterly trendy, very, very sporty (especially in winter!!) it’s also very ‘normal’, people are still and unfailingly friendly, the nature is literally to kill for, all that fresh air and high, high mountains…..
    and of course, normally I do NOT go for desserts but for those Crèmeschnitten I would go miles, on skis or without…. 🙂 And ‘Eiter-Rieme’ is the same in Swiss German as Julia’s ‘snot blocks’…. very, very disgusting for something wonderful…. and best NOT translated!!!

  12. Adriana@mouthtomouthfood says:

    Whenever I read your blog, I get a serious case of the travel bug!! This place looks so homely, the photos of cakes look delicious. I too would put my name down for a slice of that cake. And “I DO DESSERTS” so this place would be heaven for me. Thanks for your share 🙂

  13. rebecca says:

    wow what a stunning place and I so want a slice of that

  14. Kerrin says:

    Kiki, you are so right, Zermatt truly does encompass all that and more – pretty much the very best things about Switzerland in general. Oh gosh, now I want to go back right away too ! 😉 And I guess I could have another slice of Crèmeschnitte at Zum See while I’m there. [wink wink] As for that other name for millefeuille – EW !!! Oh gosh, how could that be the name for such a dreamy dessert ?! Worse than the version Julia shared Down Under. So weird.

    Adriana, haha ! Love hearing you DO desserts like me ! Thanks !

    rebecca, one slice, coming right up… 😉

  15. Emma says:

    With each post, I think, “her writing can’t get any better!”, but then your next post comes along and I am enticed and enthused even more than before. How I love to be drawn into these ‘slices’ of life. Har, har.

    Between the scenery, the friendly faces, the mushrooms, and RHABARBER MERINGUE PIE(!!), I am hooked once again. I’m so glad that coming back from a short vacation, I had not one, but TWO delightful stories of yours to read, devour, and cherish. I’ll have to make another meringue pie before summer is over for good around here – this is a good reminder. I won’t be making any snot blocks at home, though:)

  16. Tolle Murphy says:

    Yes! Well said. Before last week, it had been 15 years since I had last visited Restaurant Zum See, and I was lucky enough to spend a week there in Zermatt, hanging out at Zum See as often as possible. I was wishing I had never left and didn’t need to leave again. Everything is so dreamy. The food is divine. The neighbor was playing his alphorn. It was enchanting. Max and Greti and Markus and Marion are incredibly welcoming. They made me feel like one of the family. I recommend staying at their gorgeously modern chalet on a quiet street with lots of sun all day and amazing views… You’ll be set for life! The perfect place to live and the perfect place to eat. Ok, so you may travel to Italy occasionally, but you’ll be homesick for Zum See while you’re there! Thank you!

  17. valentina says:

    What a lovely opportunity to go to such wonderful place. And having met one of the proprietors. I kind of pictured you eyeing the desert slices going away..and a bit of a frown on your forehead. LOL. I do love a well made dessert – it is a gift from God in my eyes. Another address to write down.

  18. Kerrin says:

    Emma, I love each and every one of your comments, and you too manage to make me smiler wider and wider every time. Thank you for that.

    Tolle, how amazing that you went back to Zum See after all those years ! Bet it felt like you really had never left. I only hope you don’t have to wait that long for your next visit. And with that neighbor playing his alphorn, wow, that definitely completed the scene ! So perfect, so Swiss. Thank you for sharing !

    valentina, a definitely frown on my forehead, you know me so well. Coincidence that they sat me right next to the dessert table ?? 😉

  19. a spoonful of yumm says:

    wow…love the travel writeup. awesome pics 🙂

  20. Niko says:

    This is awesome. I am going to dream about those desserts from Zum See. I think it might even be worth going to Zermatt – just to eat here.

  21. Michele says:

    Yup, Kerrin, Restaurant Zum See is now on the list! .. and I can’t try their millefeuille soon enough! Oye!

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