2017/01/21

Review of Restaurant Zollhaus, Olten/Switzerland

Location

Wow, what a gem!

After being closed for almost five years the long-established restaurant Zollhaus reopened in September 2016. A young couple – both experienced in the field of gastronomy – had bought the building and had renovated it gently. Although having worked at top restaurants, the new hosts do not want to convert Zollhaus in a high-end eatery, but offer traditional Swiss and European food. At the same time, also fancier
dishes shall be available.

Unsure what to expect from this concept, I visited the restaurant a few weeks after the reopening and a second time in early winter. In brief, a treat for foodies! But I would like to be a bit more specific about my experiences …


Amuse bouche: Steak Tatar with Avocado

Service

Normally, I start my reviews with the food concept because I think that is the main thing when eating out. Here, I have to do it differently because I was overwhelmed when it comes to the hospitality of the host, Sandra Mueller. While her husband is in charge of the cuisine, she is responsible for the service, and she is really a great host! Not only is she a very warm person, but also attentive and prompt. She does her job with heart and soul, nothing seems to be too much trouble for her. But you have also the chance to catch a glimpse of the chef, Adrian Mueller. After the meal, he checks on his guests and exchanges a few words with them.


Starter: Field Salad with Chopped Boiled Eggs & Bacon

Having said that, there is one thing in need of improvement and this is the waiting time between ordering the dessert and getting it. Both times Sandra Mueller announced that there might be a wait. While the first time the desserts were served rather quickly, the second time – the restaurant was packed – the “threat” became reality. I am quite aware that providing a fast service in a one-man kitchen is not always easy. Nevertheless, it is a desirable thing …


Starter: Salad with Fried Shrimps

Food concept

As already indicated, the idea is to offer mainly traditional Swiss and European food, mixed with fancier dishes now and then. Only quality and seasonal products are used. Everything is done in house, the use of semi-finished or even finished goods are out of the question for the young couple, even the ketchup is home made.


Starter: Foie Gras on Apple Tart with Licorice


There is a limited range of options, but the choice is well thought through. Whereas the starters often do not follow the well-beaten path (think for example of quail on lentil salad with redcurrant dip), the mains are mostly classics (i.e. Zurich-style veal stew). That applies to desserts as well, although partly made with a twist (such as crema catalana served with yoghurt ice cream).

The first time when I visited Zollhaus there was a written menu. The second time, the menu was presented on blackboards. I liked the latter because it shows that the menu is adjusted to what the market has to offer.


Main: Deer with Cranberry Sauce, Fall Vegetables & Spaetzle

Sampled food

When first visiting the place my husband and I choose a today’s special, Tournedos Rossini, and were delighted by the dish! Not only were the ingredients – filet mignon and duck liver – of high quality, but the red wine jus and the accompanying potato gratin were sublime.

On the occasion of our second visit we settled for following starters: foie gras on apple tart with licorice and salad with fried shrimps. The former was amazing, the liver and the tart together with the jus made a beautiful combination. As main course, we opted for deer with cranberry sauce, fall vegetables and spaetzle as well as a rib eye steak with port wine jus, vegetables and spaetzle. Both dishes were a culinary delight!

You cannot claim that you get extraordinarily imaginative mains at Zollhaus, but I cannot think of how they can be done much better! The same is true for the desserts. They are not exceptionally inventive, but perfectly executed.


Main: Rib Eye Steak with Port Wine Jus, Vegetables & Spaetzle

Ambiance

The building is somewhat unique, at least I have not come across to a similar one yet. It is an ancient customs house and is a listed monument. It is tiny and cute to look at. Its smallness shows of course also in the building's interior. It is parted in a small front room with four tables only and a back room, which is a bit larger. All in all, it is a cozy affair, you also feel that way! The restaurant is decorated in a classic style with well-thought details, e.g. small containers with handkerchiefs.

Exterior


Pricing

Before Zollhaus was opened, its young owners had announced in a local paper that they would plan a moderate price level and they kept their promise. Most of the mains including lamb rack and Zurich-style veal stew are under SFR 40. Also starters and desserts are reasonably priced. In this context you also have to point out that portions are generous.


Interior

Overall, the young couple that took over at Zollhaus does a great job. This restaurant is a great asset to the local culinary scene, which is already thriving by the way. Not only is the chef really talented and the host is an exceptionally warm person, but also both of them are very passionate about their work. I appoint this restaurant as my personal discovery of the year 2016 in the area!


Dessert: Crema Catalana with Yoghurt Ice Cream

Date of visit: November 2016

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