Usually, when one hears “Michelin rated restaurant”, images which eventually come to mind, are: chi-chi, overly formal, unaffordable, and maybe even uptight. None of these apply when describing MAISON MANESSE. Chef and owner, Fabian Spiquel, makes sure of that.
When my friend Christoph, a.k.a The Wine Whisperer, told me where we’d be having lunch, the first thing I asked was “Uuuhhhh… aren’t I somewhat underdressed?”. But that didn’t matter one bit and I couldn’t have been more pre-judgmental.
Restaurants like MAISON MANESSE are what I like to call “sleepers”. A term used in the car scene when describing a car which looks nondescript on the outside, but is packing a monster under the hood. Though Fabian’s Michelin star was earned within the first year of opening Maison Manesse (and he’s retained it ever since), his attitude is still very laid back and he doesn’t let the accolade define him. Nor is obsessed with getting another star… or two.
The staff greeted us warmly and we were offered various table choices. The deco is simple but stylish, bright and inviting. Very unpretentious.
As a very nice surprise, Chef Fabian Spiquel dropped by the table to shoot the breeze… and hand Christian a sourdough yeast culture. They were obviously well acquainted and bread is what bound them: brethren of the sourdough loaf. I knew Christoph was a big fan of bread-baking but hearing him talk to Fabian on the subject, the term “fan” seems to be an understatement.
When the friendly and competent server asked us if we wanted to see the wine list – which is very deep and includes many great under the radar wines – and added that he could offer us a Valentini (THE cult wine producer from Abruzzo, Italy) 2010 Cerasuolo by the glass, my jaw almost dropped. Not only because I’m a huge Valentini fan but this calibre of juice isn’t usually offered by the glass – anywhere!
When it comes to Australians’ reputations for being laid back, Fabian, from Queensland, lives up to the reputation. He’s been living in Switzerland for 10 years and 4 years ago he decided to open his own restaurant. As mentioned, the Michelin star followed 6 months later. Quite a rarity.
For starters we chose a salad with red beets, rocket and chèvre which was very fresh and delicate. The dressing was very well rounded and the bitter-sweet play paired very well with the Cerasuolo. Maison Manesse offers a lunch menu but we kept things simple as Christoph and I planned on visiting quite a few other establishments that day so we only ordered one more dish: the steak tartare à la carte “just the way the chef likes it”. The tartare arrived with condiments, four tiny bottles and a recipe which tells you exactly how many drops and pumps you’ll need to refine the dish.
After having enjoyed this extremely fun and tasty lunch and having talked to Fabian, though quality is paramount to him, awards and accolades aren’t his main motivation; it’s expressing himself, constantly learning and pushing the culinary envelope.
To round things off we chose an exquisite – and quite affordable – 2014 Jean Foillard Morgon “Côte du Py”. Morgon is in the center of the Beaujolais region, which is at the southern end of Burgundy. Morgon is known for producing elegant and mineral, mid-bodied red wines. The Gamay grape is the main player in the area. The “Cote du Py” was very spicy, mineral and offered an abundance of fruit: red berries, cherry with light floral notes. Great complexity, balance and bang for the buck. Definitely a wine to seek out. It’s showing very well now but will be even better in a few years time.
The proof was on the plate and we weren’t disappointed one bit. Freshness, finesse and know-how were present in service, presentation as well as preparation.
Michelin rated restaurants aren’t usually known for their affordability but quite a few of them offer amazingly valued lunch menus. Maison Manesse is no exception and definitely worth a visit on your next trip to Zurich – at lunch or dinner.
Tel. +41 (0)44 462 01 01