Zurich Weekend 2013: Allergy-Friendly Restaurants

The weekend before Christmas, our family spent two nights in Zurich. We took in the typical holiday sights, like the crystal-covered Christmas tree at the Zurich main station. We strolled along decorated downtown streets filled with music and holiday shoppers, while keeping warm with our steaming cups of glühwein (or vin chaud in French). It really felt like the holidays. And it was extra special because for the first time in over a year, we ate out as a family at two restaurants.

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Swarovski Christmas Tree, Zurich main station

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Zurich along the Limmat River

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Sweet treats at an outdoor Christmas market

At these Zurich restaurants—when my 2-year old wasn’t running away from the table to find some toys or another new adventure—we had a hot meal together with my in-laws, who were visiting from the United States. The food was safe, and it tasted good. My son didn’t get hives or have any other signs of an allergic reaction. The servers were very helpful, allowed me to read labels and responded fully to my questions.

Restaurant Hiltl

Haus Hiltl
Sihlstrasse 28, 8001 Zurich
+41 44 227 70 00
info@hiltl.ch

As the oldest continuously operating vegetarian restaurant in the world, Hiltl goes out of its way to make sure you know what you’re getting. Check out the “Declaration” section of their website, which has a glossary of acronyms used to identify ingredients on their menus (e.g., “Mi” = milk ingredients and “Ei” = egg ingredients). Recommend to us via Switzerland’s English Forum, Hiltl did not disappoint. We ate there for lunch on Saturday.

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The Hiltl complex: restaurant, cafe, and bar, etc.

Once our food arrived, my son happily tucked into his plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce sans dairy, eggs and almonds. This was a special treat because we didn’t have to cook it ourselves or clean up afterwards. I will never forget this meal. It was so incredibly nice.

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Saturday lunch: Globi spaghetti

Hotel Novotel – Zurich City West

Novotelcafé Restaurant
Schiffbaustrasse 13, Am Turbinenplatz, 8005 Zurich
(+41)44/2762200
H2731@accor.com

We stayed for two nights at the Hotel Novotel. Our family ate breakfast at the restaurant twice, but we packed along food for my son. There’s a Migros close to the hotel, so we could pick up some things like fruit, salami and soy yogurt for him. I also packed along some of my crescent rolls, this time filled with Enjoy Life chocolate.

On Saturday night, we made a reservation at the Novotelcafé Restaurant for 6:00 PM—right when it opened for dinner. As the only ones there, we had the full attention of our server, who was very helpful. She knew all about our son’s allergies in advance of ordering. Our little guy loves fish, and we were happy to find steamed a steamed version on the kids’ menu. He ended up with a very healthy meal of steamed salmon and vegetables. We were very happy with the restaurant and hotel, so we’ll likely stay here again. While not right in the center of Zurich, public transit makes it easily accessible.

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Saturday night dinner: steamed fish and veggies


Dining Out with Food Allergies: Our Approach

Based on these most recent restaurant experiences, here’s my latest 3-pronged approach to dining out with food allergies in Switzerland:

  1. Contact the restaurant in advance:  For me, since I’m still working on my French (and I don’t speak any German or Italian), this means sending an email in advance to the restaurant about my son’s allergies and finding out what meal options they may have.
  2. Make a reservation for when the restaurant isn’t very busy: A busy kitchen could be less likely to accommodate my son. We want to make it as easy as possible for the restaurant to prepare a safe meal.
  3. When you arrive, give a paper copy with notes about your allergies to your server: In Switzerland, I recommend that information about your food allergies be written in the language of the region you’re in (French, German or Italian) and/or English, depending on the restaurant.

How do you manage food allergies at restaurants? I’m always looking for new and better advice, so if you have some to share, please leave a comment below. Also, there are some great tools and resources from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).

Finally, if you have any allergy-friendly restaurant recommendations for Switzerland, we want to know! Thanks, and Happy New Year to you all.

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4 thoughts on “Zurich Weekend 2013: Allergy-Friendly Restaurants

  1. Marla says:

    Zurich is my absolute favorite place in the world during the holidays. My husband and I have gone to Switzerland at least once a year for 17 years. The last time we went, my son was 10 months old, and had an anaphylactic reaction to yoghurt. That was before we knew he had food allergies and the experience still haunts me to this day. Normally, we stay with my aunt in law in Blonay (near Vevey), but I have never had a meal at her house that wasn’t covered in dairy in some form or another, so we have been a little shy in going back. Seeing these pictures and knowing that there are friendly places to eat is making a future trip very appealing…….

    • dairyfreeswitzerland says:

      Hi Marla! Happy New Year to you and your family. I’m so sorry about your son’s reaction here. I hope he hasn’t had one like that since. Traveling can be so stressful, and everyone’s situation is different. This Zurich weekend was really encouraging for us, so I’m hoping we can find more and more restaurants that can work for us. I’ll keep sharing information as I get it, which will hopefully help you build an itinerary for your next trip! 🙂 By the way, I remembered your recommendation for meringues, and I finally tried them in Murten over the holidays. So good! Thanks for checking in. Always nice hearing from you. Best wishes, Heddi

      • Marla says:

        You know, I wonder. Those Novotels are all over Swtzerland. I wonder if they are all so accommodating? From what I’ve seen here, the allergy situation had been more publicized over in Europe. Is that true?

      • dairyfreeswitzerland says:

        Hi Marla. I agree, Novotels may be a good bet. When we travel, I tend to look for hotel restaurants or places used to catering to tourists, and therefore they may be a little more familiar with accommodating patrons w/ food allergies and/or other special dietary needs. Also, these restaurants typically have some English-speaking staff. I can really only speak for my small corner of Switzerland, but food allergies don’t seem as common here. For example, gluten/lactose-free products are more typical, but those are related to intolerances, and there seems to be less awareness of and/or products for people with allergies. I still have a lot to learn though! 🙂 Thanks again, and have a good weekend. -Heddi

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