The Restaurant at The Dolder Grand Hotel is perched on a hillside with a fine view over Zurich. Head chef Heiko Neider, in place since the restaurant opened in 2008, gained a second Michelin star in 2011 that it has retained ever since. The dining room has large picture windows and well-spaced tables. Tasting menus of assorted length are available, priced from CHF 158 (£115) to CHF 298 (£217), in addition to a la carte choice. At lunch there is also a more limited “amuse bouche” menu at CHF 98 (£71).
The wine list has around 1,200 separate labels, but with few options under CHF 100, and climbing rapidly in price from there. Relative mark-ups were not particularly egregious but there were few modest wines for anyone on a budget. The list had bottles such as Schafer-Frolich Bockenauer Schiefergestein 2011 at CHF 78 for a wine that could be found in the high street for CHF 20, Lynch Bages 1995 at CHF 324 compared to a shop price of about CHF 160, and grand white Burgundies such as Etienne Sauzet Le Montrachet 1999 at CHF 924 for a wine that retails at a little over CHF 600.
This meal began with an extensive array of nibbles. There was baked potato foam with cream cheese and fresh herbs, a lychee sphere filled with wasabi cream and pickled cornichon, crisp roll with banana and miso cream, rice roll with pickled mushroom, egg and sesame seeds, a pickled radish roll with ginger and seaweed, cheese and paprika powder with creme fraiche, and finally a little avocado and cream cheese sandwich with barley, garden cress and lingonberry. These were technically impressive, my favourite being the sphere of wasabi cream (18/20). This was followed by Greek yoghurt foam with feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes with olives, anchovies and finger lime. This was a very pretty dish, the lime providing a fresh feel to the dish and balancing the cheese (17/20). Even better was an amuse-bouche of marinated oysters from Brittany with cucumber, wasabi, Granny Smith apple and crème fraiche pearls, the bite of the wasabi nicely lifting the flavour of the oyster, the apple giving useful acidity (18/20). The final nibble was an hollowed egg shell containing scrambled egg and truffle foam topped with truffle jelly, a rich and luxurious set of flavours (18/20). Bread is made each morning in the kitchen from scratch and was lovely, having a very good crust and texture (easily 18/20).
The first formal course was lobster, its claw baked with tarragon and mustard, served with strawberries, pickled beetroot, tarragon jelly and creme fraiche. The shellfish was excellent, tender and having pleasing flavour, and the accompaniments all made sense to me except the strawberries, which seemed a puzzling and slightly jarring design decision. For me the dish would simply have been improved by their omission (16/20).
Char and its roe came with cucumber and herbs, rape seeds and a gently flavoured chamomile blossom sauce. The char was very lightly cooked and had excellent flavour, the garnishes complementing the fish nicely (17/20). White asparagus, just in season, came with caviar from Italy, grated ham, a cress garnish, and an egg yolk and cream sauce. The asparagus was lovely and the rich sauce worked well with the main vegetable element and the saltiness of the caviar (18/20).
Rabbit tartare was an unusual dish, garnished with herbs, pickled mushrooms, green pepper, miso and green tomato essence. The meat was carefully seasoned and the sourness from the pickling was a good flavour contrast to the sweet miso (17/20). Sole was precisely cooked, pan-fried and served with mango cubes rolled in dry vegetables, capers and olive oil sauce. The capers were a successful pairing with the fish, though I was less sure about introducing the sweetness of the mango. However the fruit was not too jarring as it was present in a sufficiently small quantity (17/20).
The final savoury course was beef from an area near Lucerne, served with celery cubes dusted in coconut, celery foam, cranberries and a green curry sauce. The beef had excellent flavour and worked well with the gentle spicing of the sauce and the earthiness of the celery (18/20).
An initial dessert was milk ice cream coated in cherry blossom powder, alongside lychee sorbet and Granny Smith apple. The lychee had lovely flavour and the overall effect was pleasingly refreshing after the beef (17/20). White chocolate came with woodruff jelly, basil foam celery ice cream, Campari pearl and cherry blossom pearls. This combination seemed a little over adventurous to me. The fragrant woodruff on its own may have worked all right with the chocolate, but having celery and basil as well as bitter Campari seemed to me to have too many elements that did not obviously complement one another. This was a pretty dish but it debatable as to whether it is a dessert, and there just seemed too many things going on (perhaps 15/20). Nespresso coffee came with an impressive array of elegant mignardise and chocolates, such as a caramel bon-bon with Maldon sea salt.
I was being taken here by a friend so did not see the bill, but a typical cost per head assuming three courses and modest wine would be perhaps £190 a head given the cheapest main course costs £52 and the starters are barely less. The final bill this could quickly escalate with a lengthier menu or better wine. This is never going to be a cheap experience, but the technical skill on display in the kitchen is impressive and the presentation of dishes is a strong point. Quite a few dishes have an Asian influence; this may not be to everyone’s taste but it is certainly fashionable enough and personally I quite like the use of such flavours. However I wonder if at times the chef is trying too hard to impress, sometimes having more elements in the dishes than are really needed. I actually slightly preferred my meal here five years ago, when the cooking style was somewhat simpler. However this is undeniably accomplished and sophisticated modern cooking.
Further reviews: 31st Mar 2011