Running late for a dinner reservation in one of Zurich’s hottest restaurants is not a good look in a city that lives and dies by timekeeping. Only months ago, before the pandemic, I sat there cramming on some schoolgirl German in the back of an Uber, running “sorry I’m late” through Google Translate as we drove typically hell for leather through the drizzle.
I needn’t have worried. The restaurant part of Razzia was only half filled and my welcome was smooth and sleek. Guided to a prime spot in the centre of the room, beneath the gigantic circular artwork dominating the ornate ceiling, I was rather impressed. Solo diners are not always treated so well, nor seated so prominently.
Of course, so much has happened since then, and yet, that table still sits there at the centre of the room, hosting diners once again. The restaurants of Switzerland, especially those in cultural capital Zurich, were some of the first to open in Europe after the worst of 2020’s pandemic swept through. Switzerland is now a ‘Tier 1’ country (the same as Australia), even named the safest country in the world for COVID-19 by a recent report, and Zurich is rapidly regrouping.
Certainly, a place as dedicated to the good life will never last long without its Michelin-starred stars and chic eateries that form the arteries of the city’s social heart, and the Swiss have by all reports returned quickly – appropriately socially distanced of course. Considering the speed at which its borders have opened, coronavirus willing, it may not be too long before Australian travellers can start to plan to join them.
Occupying such a historical building in what was once Zurich’s first purpose-built cinema (est. 1922), Razzia is one of those eateries that provides more than simple sustenance to the city and is accordingly such a joy to visit. I spied the big screen over the bar, and a walk-in wine ‘treasure’ room beneath the projector room, making the most of its cinematic past amongst interior designer Claudia Silberschmidt’s playful and typically colour-loving touches.
Although the room is formal, from its Belle Epoque duck-egg blue walls and Doric columns to its pseudo Greco-Roman frescoes and eight fussily tasselled, multihued chandeliers dangling vibrantly from a lofty six-metre ceiling, there is no stuffiness here – except in the form of a gigantic stuffed toy giraffe holding court at the bar. The Swiss excel at creating a wonderfully stylish mélange of casual luxury; Zurich is the kind of place where you can relax in a well-worn polo shirt, cradling a rare single-malt.
I sat to dine a little after 7.30pm on a Saturday – still early for locals. The place was just starting to buzz, with most of the tables filled with folk who wouldn’t blink at paying 64 euros for a single plate of veal. At one table, three men rivalled each other to most resemble Stanley Tucci in A Devil Wears Prada. I counted four effortlessly handsome young couples wearing their Good Date clothes.
The wine list at Razzia is long and exciting enough to have its own comprehensive, novella-like table of contents. In true Germanic style, it features magnums and more – try six litres of 1995 Chateau Ausone Saint-Emilion Grand Cru for just shy of 7,000 euros, if you’re in the mood. (I was not, ordering an ever-popular Aperol spritz instead.)
A well-heeled canine quietly circled his master’s chair in the main dining room; it’s the Swiss way. Its pedigree probably outstripped even most of the diners. The open kitchen was bustling, gleaming, steaming, and ran typically like, well, clockwork. Solo dining makes for particularly successfully sticky-beaking, and I couldn’t help but notice even the kitchen staff were disturbingly attractive.
The food was similarly eye catching and, yes, a little seductive – especially the dreamy aroma rising from my creamy bowl of lobster bisque with king crab (19,50 euros). I followed it with the tuna tartare in a main size and find that, in a country that really enjoys a good steak tartare, this tuna was treated the same way. The flavours were Asian influenced but the marinade was very rich, with umami to spare, and I was happy to match it with the clean flavours of the pastel-hued pickled vegetables atop the whole creation.
A single scoop of housemade calamansi sorbet didn’t pull any punches, to end: strong, sweet and bitter in equal amounts, capping off a well-styled and pleasurable meal with a sting in the tail. In contrast to my hurried arrival, I found myself lingering in the bar and then in the equally stylish surrounding district. The window shopping on the Seefeldstrasse was absolutely delicious, too, and claimed the next day of my visit accordingly.