A Zurich Fave Revealed: Hiltl… and their Chocolate Mousse

It’s not that I’ve been keeping it a secret from you.  I simply never mentioned one of my all-time favorite restaurants in Zürich.  It’s where I have a monthly lunch date with a friend.  It’s where my mom asks to go for lunch as soon as she arrives at the airport here.  It’s where I take friends who are visiting, as well as my carnivorous husband.  It’s Hiltl, Europe’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, since 1898.

Hiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, Switzerland

I could go on and on just about the history of the Hiltl family and how this all came to be, Rolf’s masterful combination of tradition and innovation (he’s the current owner and fourth generation, above left); or on the restaurant itself, its phenomenally fresh buffet of salads, vegetables, curries, chutneys and more; its cool lounge area and attractive bar (I love the fresh juices); the trendy decor and happening scene on the weekends when it even transforms itself into a club (funny to dance where you otherwise are serving yourself tofu and radishes from the buffet).  Or I could tell you about the stellar Sunday brunch with live music, the Kochatelier (cooking classes with Pascal and Markus, top right), Hiltl’s ingenious advertising campaigns (just look at this 30 second clip, I LOVE it!) and their catering of the hottest events around town. Clearly this is no ordinary vegetarian restaurant.

It’s a Zürich institution.  With a seriously good chocolate mousse. (recipe below)

Hiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, Switzerland

Despite the temptation, I always ignore the lengthy menu and go straight for Hiltl’s buffet; it’s even tougher to resist.  But I did have my first à la carte meal there for a special event that coincided with the 10th anniversary of tibits (partners with Hiltl, with restaurants in Switzerland and one in London too) and the launch of their first cookbook: tibits at home (only in German for now).  The recipes for all of the dishes we tried are actually in Hiltl’s second cookbook: Hiltl. Veggie International. A World of Difference. (October 2009).  To whet our appetites, there was date cheese mousse with caramelized pears; crostini with aubergine caviar; crêpe rolls with cream cheese; and hot crispy tofu with mango and apple chutney.

Then it was chef Pascal Haag’s tomato and orange soup that warmed us all up, made with basil and cinnamon foam, served in a cappuccino cup.  Puff pastry triangles followed, filled with mushrooms, brandy and cream.  And a creamy pumpkin risotto made with honey and Parmesan cheese.

Hiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, Switzerland

And then there’s that chocolate mousse, served with a crisp shortbread cookie, passion fruit sauce, whipped cream and an edible flower to complete the picture.  The mousse itself was incredibly light, and the perfect balance between sweet and dark.  I assumed Hiltl’s chocolate of choice would be Swiss Felchlin (my personal favorite), but it’s French Valrhona at Haus Hiltl.

Given a tour of the restaurant’s impeccable kitchens, I was a big fan of the rows and rows of tupperware containers, each filled with another brightly colored spice and a label on top.  The Hiltl chefs were all busy chopping, prepping or plating, nonstop action, yet in a calm and fun atmosphere.  After plating the panna cotta (below right), one of the pastry chefs moved on to the chestnut vermicelli (below, bottom left), and I went off to have a laugh with the girls playing with dough and fondant (below, bottom right).

Hiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, Switzerland

I happened to be sitting with the owner Rolf Hiltl’s French wife, Marielle Hiltl, who considers herself more Swiss now, having been here for over 20 years.  Conversation bounced around from our travels to our favorite cuisines.  I told her how I love Moroccan cooking – couscous, tagines and b’stillas.  She told me of her love for cheese soufflé.  As you all know me too well, you won’t be surprised to hear that this led to a passionate discussion on soufflé… au chocolat.  Fast forward to my baking date a few days ago with Marielle and chef Pascal.  Marielle (below left) showed us both how to make her chocolate soufflé, doing just as her Alsatian mother taught her.

Hiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, Switzerland

Marielle avoids using only a high percentage dark chocolate, as it would be too bitter for her three children.  The best compromise she found is using half 70% and half 50%, along with local, organic Swiss milk and less sugar than usual.  Oh, and Calvados.  We all took turns whisking and folding, but I must give credit to Pascal for whipping the egg whites by hand, and stiff enough not only to be able to hold the bowl upside down… but above his head even!  That’s some serious whisking – and courage !

Hiltl, Zürich, SwitzerlandHiltl, Zürich, Switzerland

While a favorite address of mine in Zürich has now been revealed, the recipe for Marielle’s chocolate soufflé does have to remain a secret.  But a big thank you to Chef Pascal and to Rolf Hiltl for allowing me to share the recipe for their divine chocolate mousse here.  Enjoy !

Hiltl’s Chocolate Mousse
from the cookbook: Hiltl. Veggie International. A World of Difference. *

serves 4
400 ml cream
120 grams bittersweet couverture
120 grams grand-cru couverture 72%
2 tbsp milk
70 grams egg yolk
2 tbsp white sugar
edible flowers for decoration

Whip the cream. Melt all the chocolate with the milk in a bain-marie.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until you have a light, very foamy mass and mix with the liquid chocolate.
Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate and egg mixture and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Hiltl tips: The chocolate mousse will be even firmer if you chill it for an entire day. Use pasteurized egg yolks.

* Other desserts in this cookbook are crème brûlée (one of Hiltl’s most popular desserts), cheesecake (a Hiltl recipe since 1970), and linzertorte.  Hiltl’s first cookbook, Virtuoso Vegetarian, also has Hiltl’s famous brownies, mango ice cream, nut salad and another Hiltl specialty, their Easter Cake.

23 Responses to “A Zurich Fave Revealed: Hiltl… and their Chocolate Mousse”

  1. snacksgiving says:

    Oh I love Hiltl as well. It is meant for those leisurely lunches that we treat ourselves to every couple of weeks. I am loving that array of tupperwares – how neat is that!
    And thanks for sharing the chocolate mousse recipe.

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  3. Caroline says:

    You take such amazing pictures..I would KILL to have your talent!! 🙂
    I love Hiltl too but somehow didn’t even know that they also have brunch there…thanks for the tip! This chocolate mousse recipe looks divine…I will try it one of these days.
    Thanks for another beautiful post!

  4. Hiltl says:

    Thank you for all those flowers 🙂

    The Hiltl-Team

  5. Kerrin says:

    snacksgiving, glad to hear you love Hiltl too, you’ll have to say hello if you ever see me there ! 😉 If you try the chocolate mousse recipe, let me know how it goes for sure. Enjoy !

    Caroline, thank you so so much !! Really appreciate the photo kudos. And aha, yes indeed, Hiltl’s brunch is outrageous. A great value, all you can eat from 9:30am to 3pm (wooh !), the usual buffet with even more – don’t miss the chocolate filled croissants and fresh juices, yum. Prosecoo and coffees too ! Check it out: http://www.hiltl.ch/en/restaurant-brunch.php

    Hiltl Team, bitte, gern gschee ! =)

  6. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    Ohh, so we’ll go here one day? LOL!!!!

    That Pascal is sure brave – but I’m sure he’s done that party trick before? 😉

    I love the idea of mixing 70% & 50% chocolate together. Takes the edge off the bitterness, but not too much? Shame you can’t share the recipe, as the mousse looks divine, but I will have to try the other one here. I’m sure equally as good, no?

  7. Steve says:

    How many egg yolks go into 70 g?

  8. Kerrin says:

    Julia, you bet we’ll go there *when* you come to Zürich ! We’re all ready for you, Hiltl included ! 😉 I don’t think Pascal has ever done that bowl over the head thing – if you had seen his face and heard him saying “quick, quick, take the picture !!” haha ! Go for the mousse recipe here, it is excellent and different from other mousse recipes I have made before…

    Steve, good question. One large egg contains 17 grams of yolk, so it would be about 4 egg yolks.

  9. Sam says:

    I love the pictures… Not only does the food look amazingly delicious, but I love the photos of the people too. It looks like they all are having so much fun!

    Perfecto!

    xo.

  10. kelleyn says:

    Everything looks so wonderful!

  11. Anne Murray says:

    As a loyal customer of Tibits here in Basel I must also recommend the tofu cheesecake. Truly delicious. It was a selling point for my vegetarian daughters when we moved to Basel. Thanks for showing the community that vegetarian food can be delicious (for those uninformed who are still skeptics!)

  12. Katrin says:

    Plus they have the best ads:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzuqfuWyKD4

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4Wk5ZjJQ7E

  13. Kerrin says:

    Sam, thanks ! Everything really is amazingly fresh and so so good. And you’ll know firsthand when you and Darren go there for lunch too this summer ! I so can not wait !!

    kelleyn, thank you on behalf of the Hiltl chefs ! 😉

    Anne, I have never tried the tofu cheesecake, thanks for the recommendation. And amazing that there are still skeptics of vegetarian food – they just need 1 meal at Hiltl or tibits, right ?!

    Katrin, oh most definitely. Those two links are brilliant – thank you so much for sharing them, especially the second one – that is genius !! But I think my all time favorite is still Death Proof, the link I had shared up top in the post. So incredibly smart. Thanks again ! =)

  14. mom says:

    I am ready to go to Zurich for lunch!!! What a tease looking at all the photos of my favorite place in Zurich. Fresh, delicious and healthy! The next trip to Zurich I will have to taste the chocolate mousse. I just love making my own salad and then topping it off with the cracker bread….I want the recipe for the quacamole….

  15. Pascal Haag says:

    Dear Kerrin

    Lovely blog!! Thanxx for the nice words und your great pics 🙂

    Hope to see u soon

    Pascal

  16. Emma says:

    I was just about to comment on your picture of the brave chef with-upside-down-bowl-holding antics, and here is his comment above mine (unless you have a multitude of readers named Pascal Haag). Although his comment isn’t written upside down, I think it really completes the wonderful atmosphere you created in this post. I felt invited and welcomed to a fantastic sounding restaurant that I will likely never visit. And it looks delicious.

    I think I’d go straight for that passion fruit sauce – or perhaps for the cheery ladies and their fondant!

  17. Kerrin says:

    mom, you know I’ll never argue when you want to go to Hiltl for lunch ! =) Hmm, the guacamole… well guess what, I have the recipe ! It’s in their first cookbook, Virtuoso Vegetarian. I suppose I can share it with you…. 😉

    Pascal, thank you so much ! It was my pleasure to share with my readers just how much I love going to Hiltl and what a great team you all are. I had such a great time baking with you and Marielle. See you soon for sure !

    Emma, only one Pascal Haag ! 😉 What a wonderful comment, thank you. Only, what do you mean a restaurant you will likely never go to ?? You’re never coming to visit me ??? 🙁

  18. Emma says:

    Haha! The pleasure of visiting Zurich (and you) would be all mine. I’m in the pre-planning stage for my next European adventure, but it won’t likely be for another few years… I’ll keep you posted 🙂

  19. Gretchen says:

    Kerrin,

    What stunning photos! Your photography is amazing. Hiltl is at the top of my list for eating the next time we’re in Zurich. Thanks for whetting my appetite. 🙂

  20. Kerrin says:

    Emma, it’s mutual then ! =) And aha, the next European adventure is soon to be on the agenda. Of course you’ll keep me posted. So fun to even start the pre-pre-planning !!

    Gretchen, thank you ! And… you’re very welcome ! 😉

  21. Sharon says:

    What a surprise it was to discover Hitl on my first night in Zurich (a Sunday night to boot). Traveling with my mom we went walking in search of sustenance and thought we might have to settle on a rather questionable looking kebab joint — when “look” my mom pointed — to a large and elegant looking place with outdoor seating. It looked rather extravagant and traditional but it was open and serving. OMG — a vegetarian buffet …. and quite reasonable by Zurich standards. It took a while (and several return visits over the years) to figure out how it all worked … and the kindness of strangers recognizing my bafflement … now the trips are not complete without a few meals and desserts here.

  22. MICHELE says:

    I WAS ON A TRIP TO SWITERZERLAND THIS SUMMER WITH MY MOM TO VISIT THE FAMILY. SHE KNEW OF THE HILTL FROM A PAST TRIP WITH MY DAD. SHE SAID WE HAD TO HAVE DINNER THERE WHILE ON OUR TRIP. IT WAS SO GOOD THAT WE HAD DINNER THERE TWO MORE TIMES BEFORE WE LEFT FOR HOME. ( U.S.A. )

    THANK YOU FOR SUCH A GREAT MEAL. I WILL BE BACK SOMETIME.

  23. James says:

    Hiltl is possibly the best vegetarian restaurant I have ever dined at. Every visit to Zurich, I make at least 1 stop there, and more when it’s possible. I have never been disappointed with the service, staff and food. I even have one of the cookbooks, and several recipes are now staples that I prepare at home. It might be a little pricey, but it’s worth it!

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