Kle, infuses an international fine dining pedigree into plant-based cuisine in Zurich. Opened and owned by a fearless female chef with Moroccan roots Zineb Hattab, a former engineer who followed her passion to cook. While her restaurant experience is not vegan (the closest to it was Dan Barber’s cauliflower ‘steak’) her work portfolio has the potential to upgrade the plant cuisine in Europe and will take your breath.
Growing up in Catalonia, her culinary journey took a star-studded path by the best kitchens on the Western dining scene. Zizi, as her nickname goes on Instagram, staged at the legendary El Celler de Can Roca, Nerua in the Bilbao, Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana in Modena, then the farm-to table Blue Hill and hip Cosme in NYC. In between, at the three Michelin Schloss Schauenstein, she became the right hand to the celebrity Swiss chef Andreas Caminada. We dined at all of these wonderful restaurants, hat down, bellies ready. Becoming vegan herself only recently, Kle was a last minute challenge that nevertheless seems natural to the chef who quit an engineering job to pursue her dream to become a great chef.
The vegan state of restaurants
Unlike vegetarian menus popping even at the finest restaurants, vegan is still often associated with fringe cafes. Not until the American Matthew Kenney and Tal Ronen had started revolutionising the animal ingredients-free cuisine, blending their fine dining training, global culinary inspiration and using sustainable local, if possible small farms local produce.
In Europe, time is ripe to go beyond the caffetteria base of sustainable eating out. Kle has a casual, relaxed vibe in the residential, hip Zurich’s district 3. Her team at Kle is very international, more typical of large fine dining establishments, opening up Zurich dining to a multicultural experience on small, cosy premises. The outside terrace snakes around the corner building for warm weather. After four meals and counting, we tried most of the summer menu.
Colorful, plant-based international inspiration sourced locally at Kle
There must always be the house bread. An indulgent take on traditional Moroccan bread buns, the pillowy coins of semolina are served well oiled with a superb, egg-free aioli whisked with “aqua-fava” (chickpea water), Moroccan spiced hummus and an oil and vinegar blend. The generously seasoned Moroccan pickles, once with radishes and cauliflower, other time red beets and mushrooms start you delectably. The pickles change on the whim which is unpredictably fun.
Sauerklee is an edible leafy plant used by diverse cultures reflective of the culinary concept using local produce while being inspired by global cuisines that the chef Zineb Hattab acquired at the greatest kitchens.
Kle: best brunch in Zurich? You judge.
The weekend brunch is generous. House granola, giant pancakes, cashew cream cheese over warm bagel, but also lighter fare like the refreshing Crunchy salad hearts, garlic, capers, roasted slivered and cracked almonds, slightly spicy horseradish dressing that also made it into dinner menu.
The BBQ mushroom sandwich on local bread maestro Paul the Baker’s sourdough was perhaps the best warm sandwich either me and my Philadelphia-born husband have ever had. Most likely healthier than most sandwiches, the juicy sauce leaked into your jaws with each sumptuous bite, heaven! I got a split decadent veggie wrap with falafel which was not stuffed in ball-shapes but mashed in with house coleslaw and an oozing pepper sauce. Both served wrapped in paper so spilling is minimal, and you can take the other half for a hike on nearby Uetliberg.
To sip on, Cafe de Ola, the sweet latin orange-scented coffee brew with Swiss brown sugar (or piloncillo, dried sugar cane juice, in Mexico) or freshly squeezed orange juice are offered for the typical brunch fix. On a hot day I went for a Swiss gin with a Fever Tree tonic pick me up. Sustainability certainly is taken seriously at Kle, so reusable steel straws are offered with drinks. Loose leaf green, strong Chinese black tea, mint infusion and African red rooibos brews are served in a large glass pot.
As the evenings cool off, the small interior with a bar just to mix drinks is cosy. Intriguingly retro Swiss meets contemporary rustic design. We adored the hanging light bulbs on strings snaking along the ceiling.
Kle is an international, contemporary restaurant using local seasonal produce. Expect some small plates and large enough bowls to share, so it is best to ask the server how big the specific portion is. The dinners can be a four course tasting or a la carte.
The generous Smoked carrot tartare, pickled onions with Swiss-grown quinoa has remained a popular staple of the sharable starter menu. Japanese seasoning adding a smoky depth, the long marinated and gently cooked carrots soak in the flavours like potatoes in traditional mayonnaise potato salad.
Local potatoes feature in a superb indulgent main course. The Züri young potatoes, miso mayo, pickled and roasted beets, beet ketchup and radish sprinkled with the sauerklee herb are a must try.
The menu slightly changes every couple of weeks. For example the decadent house dark mole sprinkled with sesame seeds was served with a better fitting green sprouting broccoli in July, while roasted cauliflower accompanied the superb Zizi’z mole in late summer. A refreshing mid-summer gazpacho was as excellent as the best we had in Spain and the Pea, tomato and mushroom ceviche with sunflower seeds was perfect on a balmy summer evening on Zurich’s streets.
Hesitant, but curious, worth taking the risk was the Mushroom and Jus ragu on a wild blueberries acquarello risotto served recently at Kle. Surprisingly not sweet, a relief, since the wild berries are more sour like pickles or a vinegar. Homemade pasta also step into the changing menu.
The chef’s stage at Enrique Olvera’s Cosme in New York reflects on the menu with some Mexican touches. Since we dined at Cosme countless times, we easily recognised the delectable pool of fine Mexican gourmandise. Kle’s outstanding Tostada topped with peanut salsa macha, herbs and grilled summer vegetables, Zizi’s caramelized mole with pan fried seasonal vegetables I mentioned earlier or the Corn tamal and chile guajillo sauce topped with nut cream will all rock your belly. It is virtually impossible to find such high quality Mexican fare in Europe! Making it all vegan was surely challenging, but I did not miss any cheese, pork or seafood on these delectable Kle creations. We dined at Mexico’s best restaurants and at Enrique Olvera’s Cosme, but this was a summit climbed up on the European soil.
Cosme also rings in the dessert of Corn custard, whipped vanilla soy cream topped with airy cardamom chips. Her vegan take on the famous Corn husk meringue at Cosme in New York in this cardamom puffed cloud smartly replaced the egg whites and dairy with luscious flavours. Swiss berries in summer and carrot cake further pop on the sweet menu.
Spirits are not the house specialty, but the wine list is themed around natural winemakers’ provisions. International, not huge, but curated towards more biodynamic and organic wines. By the glass as an aperitif Dido, a Spanish organic wine blend from Montsant, once a mass producing region with some great producers injecting more personality into their wines, was refreshing yet deep. We love the volcanic wines from Tenerife. A bottle of the red blend with the typical Listan Negro, smoky deep, but a Pinot-like light, was perfectly suitable for the diverse cuisine at Kle.
Opened this winter in the most challenging environment for restaurants globally, Kle is yet to withstand the indiscriminate thread of Covid. As an appreciative foodie with an empathy for excellent restaurant employees, I think that it is the duty of us customers to support the best talent there is. Therefore, I encourage any of you dining out these days, please, tip generously (as we do). These teams work hard, wearing masks for your protection which is not comfortable when you sprint around with heavy plates. The same applies to the cooks steaming more into their masks over a hot stove. Ground-breaking restaurants like Kle in Zurich are worth keeping around.
Zweierstrasse 114, Zurich
+41 44 548 14 88
Dinner Wed – Sun: 6 pm – 10 pm
Weekend brunch 11 am – 2 pm