Haus Hiltl, the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant here, is still a sought-after eatery which offers a wide range of Indian dishes from Palak Paneer to Sambhar Vada.
Certified by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2012 for being the oldest continuously operational vegetarian restaurant in the World, it was founded in 1898 by some German immigrants as ‘Vegetarierhem AG’ to popularise vegetarianism as a way of healthy living.
India’s former prime minister Morarji Desai was among those who visited the restaurant which is located in Zurich’s Sihlstrasse. He had visited the eating joint during an official visit to the country.
“We have customers from all over the world, white to green, I prefer to say. They relish on a vast range of dishes and go back with the taste lingering in their mouth,” Brigitte Hediger, who manages the restaurant on busy weekends, said.
It has become a never-miss eating place for foodies visiting the Swiss city, Hediger said.
Once, daughter-in-law of the founder Margarith travelled to New Delhi last century to learn more about vegetarian cuisine for which the country is famed. She learnt a wide variety of mouth-watering dishes in India and introduced them into the menu which are popular even now.
“We have on our menu a wide variety of dishes, delicacies and health drinks. They range from Indian to Greek, Thai to Lebanese and European to African. We never disappoint our customers and there would always be the dish they are looking for,” Brigittee said.
The eating point, established in 1898 at a time when the vegetarians were dubbed as “grazers” by most in Europe, did not prove a success until its management was taken over by a tailor Ambrosius Hiltl a few years later.
Hiltl, who suffered from a disease which left him unable to continue as dress maker, was told by a natural healer that he could get cured if he renounces meat and sticks to a strict vegetarian diet. He practised it and got cured which turned him into a committed convert to vegetarianism.
Hiltl became the restaurant’s manager in 1903 and later bought it with the support of his wife Martha Gneupel. It is now being run by the fourth generation of the Hiltl family.
“I never miss a meal here when I am in Zurich, though I am not a vegetarian myself. I always look for a change and here I get what I am looking for,” said Ivana Quattrina from Geneva while having a plate of assorted Indian fritters.
For Indians looking for home food in Zurich, Hiltl has a wide range of choices. The menu includes a variety of curries, chutney and salads besides Sambhar Vada, Palak Paneer, Banana Madras and Indian Thali among others.