A Plant-Based, Zero-Waste Tour of Zurich With Ity Tiwari

A Plant-Based, Zero-Waste Tour of Zurich With Ity Tiwari

Food writer and chef Ity Tiwari takes us on a gastronomic tour of Switzerland’s most progressive city, with stops at the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, a groundbreaking bakery and a cutting-edge Zuri-West canteen

In partnership withSwiss TB Logo

lovers are big lovers of life, and Ity Tiwari, an
Indian-born, Zurich-based food blogger, vegetarian cooking teacher
and pop-up chef, possesses a passion for her adopted Swiss hometown
that is palpable. “People feed on good ideas in Zurich,” she says, steering us down Napfgasse, a
narrow pedestrianised alley lined with patisseries and
delicatessens in the heart of Zurich’s Niederdorf quarter. “As a
vegetarian, I’m continually delighted by the creativity and quality
of dishes here, and we have amazing international restaurants. But
I’m just as obsessed with Zurich’s humanity and determination to do
things the right way, as seen in its zero-waste and
community-driven initiatives.” She’s right: Zurich’s humanity is
evident even in a history-steeped gourmet grocery store like
Schwarzenbach, which was specialising in bean-to-bar
chocolate and fair-trade single-origin coffee decades before it was

Tiwari points out the dinky Äss-Bar bakery, which sells day-old quality
baked goods from the city’s top bakeries at knockdown prices, a
zero-waste initiative that has proven a hit. “I love that this
makes quality items, such as Sprüngli sandwiches, affordable to
students,” she says.

Ity Tiwari, Zurich

Ity Tiwari, left, and Zurich

Established in 2013, it’s one of those Swiss ideas that seems so
startlingly smart that we wonder why it hasn’t been adopted in
every European city. But Zurich has always been politically and
socially innovative: Tiwari pauses outside the Cabaret
, also in the heart of the old town, where a cluster of
writers, poets and artists founded the influential and disruptive
dadaist movement in 1916. The Irish writer James Joyce and Swiss
scientist Albert Einstein are other notable minds that found
inspiration in Switzerland’s largest city.

Zurich has also always been an international city. “The food
scene is endlessly interesting,” says Tiwari. “I highly recommend a
Lebanese restaurant called Le Cèdre, which, when it opened 26 years ago,
was the first Lebanese restaurant in the city. Bebek does the best Middle
Eastern meze, and I love young Moroccan chef Zineb ‘Zizi’ Hattab’s
plant-based restaurants DAR and KLE.”

Today, says Tiwari, Zurich’s determinedly progressive spirit is
best understood through its food. “It’s not just the amazing
quality of locally sourced ingredients that makes Zurich such a
great city for foodies,” she says. “It’s the creativity and the
passion behind new ventures.”

Hiltl, Zurich, Switzerland

Hiltl’s vegan butchery, left, and Zurich

It might come as a surprise to travelling foodies that the
world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, Hiltl, is located right
here in Zurich. Hiltl was founded in 1898 by a German tailor who
had suffered ill health. Over the years, Hiltl chefs travelled to
India, returning with spices and recipes and introducing Indian
cuisine to Switzerland. Hiltl’s vast, international vegetarian
buffet (food is priced per weight) is a Zurich institution, and we
see diners of every age in the beautiful dining room at the
Sihlstrasse flagship restaurant. After dining on curried banana
soup and palak paneer, Tiwari takes us next door, to Switzerland’s
first vegetarian butchery, the Hiltl Vegimetzg, which sells all sorts of innovative
plant-based meat alternatives from behind a deli counter, alongside
cookbooks, vegan wines and plant milks. Tiwari introduces us to
Milo Stegmann, a member of the Hiltl team, who explains that
although only 5 per cent of the Swiss population are vegetarian,
Zurich’s diners were quick to embrace plant-based produce and
dishes: in Zurich, people eat a vegan lunch without even noticing
it’s vegan. We ask about community impact and sustainability, and
Stegmann nods. “We took avocados off the menu because we had
ethical concerns about water waste, so our chefs developed a
pea-based guacamole that is really popular.” Hiltl might be a
historic Zurich landmark, literally mentioned in the Guinness Book
of Records, but, with its workshops, evolving menu and commitment
to ethical sourcing, it’s not content to rely on heritage

Dish, Roots at On Labs, Zurich, Switzerland
Diners, Roots at On Labs, Zurich, Switzerland

Roots at On Labs

Perhaps the most inspiring food story that Tiwari tells us,
though, concerns a new company canteen in Zuri-West. On is one of
Switzerland’s best-loved running shoe brands, selling
Swiss-engineered footwear with a cult following. “They’ve just
collaborated with a local vegan eatery, Roots, to
develop Switzerland’s first 100 per cent plant-based workplace
canteen,” Tiwari explains. Best of all, the Roots at On Labs, next
to the On flagship store, is open to the public, which includes
Roger Federer, a backer of the brand. This futuristic, light-filled
space filled with Vitra furniture and sustainably sourced furniture
truly feels like the workplace of the future – and everything we
pile on our plates from the plant-based buffet is a delight.

We always knew that Zurich is a youthful powerhouse of a city,
quick to embrace new ideas, but it’s genuinely uplifting to find a
corporate environment with such a fresh, youthful and experimental
flavour. “I believe that work should be fun and uplifting, and so
should every meal,” says Tiwari. She’s right, and our culinary
exploration of Zurich’s most progressive eateries proves that
seeking out good food is the best way for a traveller to find good
ideas, and good people.

Swiss TB Logo

The Lowdown

How to get there

Fly direct from London Heathrow to Zurich Airport with SWISS.
From the airport, the city centre is just 15 minutes by train with
Swiss Federal Railways. Use a Zurich
(£24) to get an unlimited 24 hours of travel on all public

Ready to plan your Zurich trip? Visit myswitzerland.com to get a taste of all the Swiss city

Montreux, Switzerland

Discover More
How to Spend a Wintry Weekend on the Montreux Riviera