A rebuilt clutch of 1930s-style buildings on the Zürichorn river delta in Switzerland now houses a restaurant complex that can turn heads and tantalise taste buds.
Right at the tip of the Zürichorn river delta, on Zürichsee’s eastern shore, is a new cluster of buildings that dip their architectural toes into the lake’s cool waters. But the vista will also look very familiar to locals, as the Fischerstube restaurant complex has been rebuilt entirely in the style of the 1939 structure that was here before.
Originally erected for an architecture exhibition, this clutch of pavilions were such a hit that they stayed. Over the years, however, the piers they sit on began to rot and the structures fell into gradual disrepair. The restoration fell to Bern-based architect Patrick Thurston, who turned the tides and reinstated the spaces by drawing on the vernacular of mountain villages, local materials and a very Swiss attention to detail. There’s also a Japanese note to proceedings in the slatted panelling and sliding doors.
Nicolas von Graffenried is the affable ceo of Commercio Arthouse Group and is the man in charge of the new venture. He rents the space from the city of Zürich and is on-hand on a sunny afternoon to show us around. “Welcome to our village,” he says, gesturing towards the lake and a huddle of buildings with high-pitched thatched roofs. He shows us first to Fischerstube, the striking main restaurant space and through a leafy garden. We start our tour right at the top of the Zürichorn and make our way down towards the city. The first building we stop to admire is a concrete kiosk topped with and undulating wooden roof that seems to mirror the shimmering lake beyond it. Next to the kiosk is the Fischerhütte, a smaller, 24-cover dining room with a private terrace that’s available for hire. From there, we have the best view to the striking main restaurant, the Fischerstube. The larger of the two huts is directly connected to the Seeterrasse, the last stop of our tour. This platform above the lake is packed with people enjoying a late lunch.
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The Fischerstube restaurant has 88 covers indoors, under the shady fringe of the thick thatched roof, and a further 133 on the Seeterrasse. From inside the main space you can see out across the lake but what strikes you first is the agreeable scent of spruce coming from the timbers. The ceiling is made entirely from wood, with more than 1,000 pieces arranged in tessellating triangles in such a way as to seem to hover above the wide windows. This sense of transparency seems to extend to the style of hosting too. On our tour, Von Graffenried stops frequently to natter to diners, offer trivia about the building, welcome back customers he has seen before and greet new ones with the warmth of a lifelong friend. He also stops to take a picture of a boat moored at the reinstated Fischersteg pier (“the first one,” he says with glee). He then shows us photos of a recent wedding reception at the Fischerhütte, pointing out the original wooden beams of the roof, which were salvaged from the 1930s original. At one point we even spot him clearing a table of its plates to make space for new arrivals; a hands-on ceo if ever we’ve seen one.
Sven Binnemann-Muhr is head chef of Fischerstube and we meet him at the pass as he’s applying the final touches to a house favourite Fischknusperli (fried and breaded fish fillets). He explains that the catch of the day is hauled in from Lake Zürich by a fisherman called Gerni and delivered early every morning. As the frenzy of lunch service lulls, Binnemann-Muhr outlines his kitchen’s priorities. “We want to offer inviting dishes,” he says. “Simple but good.” This translates to comforting classics including steak tartare, Wiener Schnitzel served with an endive canoe filled with cranberry compote and a dash of horseradish, and seared trout served with plenty of refreshing Swiss wine and beer. This said, it takes a lot to look past a dish described as “racy”, as is the case with the stroganoff of Argentinian beef with fregola Sarda and romanesco.
Despite the beauty of the buildings, the weather is too good for us to want to stay cooped up for long. Fortunately, most of the action, glass-clinking and fun happens on the sun-soaked Seeterrasse.