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Destinations · Europe · switzerland · Zürich · Where to eat ·

Kronenhalle

Author: Anothertravelguide.com0 COMMENTS

Kronenhalle

There are few other places in the world where one can enjoy a meal while sitting next to, or even under, original pieces of artwork by Chagall, Joan Miró, Georges Braque, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Robert Rauschenberg and Pierre Bonnard, all valued in the millions. There are so many paintings at the Kronenhalle that one could easily mistake it for a museum that has been transformed into a temporary restaurant. No wonder some of the guests, having finished their first glass of wine, cannot refrain from pushing the lamp on the table a bit closer to the wall in order to better inspect a genius’ signature.

The site of the Kronenhalle was originally a beer hall. In the early 1920s, a married couple named Gottlieb and Hulda Zumsteg bought the hall and turned it into a restaurant, which quickly became a favourite meeting place for writers, philosophers and artists. As so often happens with such places, a number of legends relating to the restaurant evolved over the years. One may doubt its accuracy, but according to one of those legends, Hulda (who had risen from being a simple shoemaker’s daughter to the grande dame of Zurich’s restaurant scene) often helped financially strapped artists by feeding them for free but then never refusing “gifts of thanks” from them in the form of artwork. The Kronenhalle’s heyday was in the mid-1930s, on the eve of the Second World War. Sigmund Freud, Coco Chanel and Albert Einstein all dropped in, and James Joyce is said to have written a fair chunk of his Ulysses there, at table No. 17 in the corner of the large hall, above which his portrait now hangs. Thanks to Switzerland’s neutrality, many an international spy narrative was also played out during the war at the restaurant’s tables, under the watchful eyes of the artworks.

Although the Kronenhalle’s art collection was quite eclectic at first, it gained a completely new scope after Hulda and Gottlieb’s son, Gustav, took over management of the restaurant. Gustav Zumsteg, who was also the director of the Swiss textile legend Abraham Silk, was known as the “silk magnate” in the social circles of the day. Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and others from the highest rungs of the fashion world were among Abraham’s clients in the 1950s and 1960s, and thus Zumsteg turned the traditional silk business into a cult fashion brand.

Art was his passion and also his instrument; it served as his inspiration, which he later transformed into fabulous printed silks. Zumsteg built his art collection with passion and found a home for many of his pieces at his family’s restaurant. He also lived on the third floor of the same building until his death in 2005 at the age of 85. Zumsteg had no children, so most of his private collection was sold at Christie’s auction a year after his death for approximately ten million dollars. Quite some time before his death, though, he established a foundation to safeguard the restaurant’s artwork from unpredictable fates; today the foundation manages both the restaurant and its art collection.

Today, the Kronenhalle has lost none of its status and remains a popular address on Zurich’s social scene, both among locals and visitors to the city. Don’t be surprised if you see Monocle editor Tyler Brûlé (who has often named the Kronenhalle among his personal favourites) or opera star Placido Domingo at the restaurant. People still dress up to go to the Kronenhalle, and guests are sized up as they enter, just like the artwork on the walls. Age-old rituals are maintained. Even the Jack Russell terrier sitting on a separate chair next to his owner at the neighbouring table watches my plate with a cool, aristocratic air, as if he’s been a regular here since birth.

The Kronenhalle serves classic German-Swiss cuisine. Don’t expect innovative tastes, but everything is wonderfully prepared, substantial and authentic. The restaurant does know its worth, and a meal here is not cheap. But the menu has plenty of variety and, if you don’t order wine (glasses begin at CHF 17), you can stay within a reasonable budget. The only thing the Kronenhalle categorically prohibits is taking photographs. It thereby avoids throngs of tourists just wishing to tick the I-was-here box and maintains a timeless, discrete and trustworthy reputation.

Rämistrasse 4, 8001 Zürich
www.kronenhalle.ch

 

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