Founded in the early 12th century, Switzerland’s capital Bern is known worldwide for its medieval centre and beautiful surroundings. Cultural gastronomy also finds a prominent place in the city’s attractions. These are the top places to try.
Located near to Bern’s BarenPark, or Bear Park, which opened in 2009, Altes Tramdepot is a site of gastronomic and natural interest. With views of the park, Bern’s Old Town, and the beautiful Aare river from its beer garden and front terrace, the restaurant is highly rated by visitors. The menu is eclectic, offering a ‘Bernese plate’ of sausages, bacon, boiled beef, smoked pork sirloin, potatoes and sauerkraut, spätzli (Swiss pasta) dishes, traditional French cuisine, and Asian plates. However, the main attraction of Altes Tramdepot is its integrated brewery – copper vats are situated in the middle of the restaurant behind the bar – in which the house beer is produced.
Kornhauskeller is a restaurant renowned for its views, though in this case the views are interior. Featuring a cafe, bar, lounge and a gallery in addition to its central restaurant, Kornhauskeller can cater to all diners, whether in search of Mediterranean cuisine, a high-end venue for events, or a relaxed meeting place throughout the day. The architecture of the restaurant is striking and luxurious, with a painted ceiling and curved wooden staircases. There is a variety of meat and fish dishes, with options ranging from signature ‘Kornhaus’ hash browns to veal and white-wine risotto.
Naming itself one of the four main attractions of the Old City (alongside the Clock Tower, the Bear Pit, and the Houses of Parliament), Della Casa has been a favorite since it opened in 1892. Though slightly expensive, Della Casa offers an atmosphere of Swiss authenticity, and its location makes it a handy option for those visiting the city centre. Known as ‘Delli’ to the locals, the restaurant prides itself on its friendly atmosphere and adherence to tradition. With seating on the ground and first floors, the menu features Swiss wines and ‘Delli’ favourites, such as veal liver and Bratwurst.
Jack’s Brasserie is the main restaurant at the Hotel Schweizerhof in Bern, and is remarkable for its use of fresh market produce in its changing seasonal menus. Etched glass, wooden panelling and stark white tablecloths evoke the atmosphere of a French bistro, with the service and sizeable wine menu only adding to its elegance. A busy lunch destination, the restaurant serves primarily French cuisine, though the selection of Swiss classics are also very popular. The Gault-Millau Guide for 2013 notes the high standards of Jack’s Brasserie, praising the famous (and generous) ‘Jack’s Wiener Schnitzel’ with warm potato salad, as well as other, perhaps more refined, dishes.
Moléson was established in 1865 and is located in the centre of the Old Town, only five minutes’ walk from the Parliament Building. Throughout the two main dining rooms and additional events room, the decor is simple and stylish, with hints of embellishment in the ornate mirrors, the lighting, and the stained-glass-paned windows. In summer a large terrace provides additional seating. Moléson uses fresh ingredients and humanely reared meat and fish to create a sophisticated gourmet menu peppered with traditional favorites. Gruyère fondue, Alsatian flammekueche and sustainably sourced Scottish salmon all feature on the menu, while a full vegan menu is also available.
Bern’s most well-known wine and coffee bar, Klösterli Weincafe is architecturally significant, as a combination of rural and urban Bernese styles dating from the middle of the 18th century. The restaurant opened after renovations in 2012; what was once a stable on the ground floor is now a stylish bar with a four-metre-high wine rack, while the upper gallery has exposed beams and elegant lighting. The carefully chosen selection of dishes includes cheese and cured-meat plates, and favors regional producers wherever possible. The locally sourced menu is complemented by premium-standard Italian coffee and an impressive range of about 100 wines. Klösterli house beer is also available on tap.
Hidden from view in one of Bern’s famed vaulted cellars, Wein&Sein is worth visiting even before considering the huge selection of wine and seasonal menus on offer. Lunch menus change daily, though retain some seasonal favorites, while the five-course evening menu is available with or without meat and fish. All of these can be enjoyed in the 24-seat restaurant or on the outdoor terrace during summer. Wine cabinets line the walls of the bar, containing around 300 bottles to form the primary decoration. The restaurant’s sommelier is on-hand to recommend the perfect wine to accompany each of the beautifully presented dishes.
With cuisine heavily influenced by the Valais region of Switzerland, Lötschberg is a cultural collision of exaggerated stereotypes and urban contemporaneity. With bread locally baked and almost every kind of cheese imaginable, the menu is certainly aiming to be traditional, featuring a special Bernese brunch, with Swiss wines and beers also available. The restaurant’s penchant for fondue is often noted, with visitors given the chance to experience ‘fondue in a gondola’ during summer and ‘fondue in a cable-car’ in winter. Aside from such novel gimmicks, diners can choose from a generous range of salads and meat courses, a slightly more conservative range of vegetarian dishes, and a large variety of desserts with sweet wine.
With a Michelin star to its name, the Meridiano can be expected to execute a fine-dining experience to perfection, with Chef de Cuisine Jan Leimbach in possession of 17 Gault-Millau points, and the manager Christian Grimm voted Switzerland’s ‘Sommelier of the Year’ in 2013. Specializing in European cuisine using fresh and natural ingredients, the Meridiano is an unsurprisingly expensive restaurant. The seasonal five-and seven-course menus are regularly updated and frequently praised, particularly for their fish-dishes. The restaurant also attracts visitors eager to luxuriate in its panoramic views of the distant Bernese Alps and the Old Town.
With 16 Gault-Millau points, La Terrasse at the Bellevue Palace is a gourmet dining location with breathtaking views of the Aare river and the Alpine peaks of the Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau. The restaurant’s terrace and the Bellevue Bar both take full advantage of these panoramic views during the summer months. Classic dishes are made contemporary on the restaurant’s menu, with the Bellevue take on a Bernese platter placed alongside a mosaic of smoked rabbit and hare fillet, leaf salads from local Bernese markets, and maize-kernel gnocchi.