I have this habit of picking out spinach from my nasi goreng, bean sprouts from my pho, and onions from my murtabak.
That's because I never liked eating vegetables and have been a rather picky eater since I was a kid.
As fate has it, I went on a work trip to Zurich last year where halal food was tough to find. Not wanting to settle for kebabs, my group and I went to Haus Hiltl, the world's oldest vegetarian restaurant - according to Guinness World Records.
Was I excited to go there? Yes. Was I keen to try to their food? Not really.
However, I stepped in with zero expectations and to my surprise, it was the best move I made that day.
There are 7 Hiltl outlets in Zurich, and Haus Hiltl at Shilstrasse 28 is the O.G.
If you're coming from Zurich HB Main Station, just walk for 7 minutes and you'll reach Haus Hiltl!
Too lazy to walk? Take the tram and stop at Rennweg. Then, walk for 2 minutes to the restaurant.
How was the experience like?
For a restaurant that was built in 1898, Haus Hiltl sure doesn't look like one. It's very swanky and modern - and it could easily be a good dating spot if I ever swiped right on a vegetarian.
When I arrived, the lunch crowd was already making a beeline to the famous Hiltl buffet. So I joined them to see what's nice for a non-veggie lover to eat.
What's good at the buffet?
Since they have about 100 vegetarian dishes, the variety is amazing. At first glance, all of these dishes look great. And it also look like they taste great.
When I saw the array of Indian curries, spring rolls, pastas, and deep-fried veggies (especially the ones that look like nuggets), I immediately knew what I wanted. So I picked up my plate, avoided the salad section, and grab a spoonful of each.
Haus Hiltl is a fully vegetarian restaurant, but I noticed a few dishes are cooked with alcohol, and it's clearly marked on the display with a wine glass symbol.
The Deklaration (declaration) display is also useful if you're allergic to something else like gluten or nuts. I'm lactose intolerant, so I avoided anything with milohbestandteile (milk ingredients).
How much does my meal cost?
Ta-da! Here's my meal :)
The interesting thing about Haus Hiltl is that the meals are charged by weight, which is about CHF4.50 (RM19) per 100g. Can you guess how much my meal costs?
It costs CHF28.10 (RM120). And guys, that was the most expensive vegetarian meal I've ever eaten!
To be fair, Zurich is one of the world's most expensive cities and Ringgit Malaysia has always been (and still is) weak. So I made sure not to leave any crumbs on my plate.
Where to sit?
Haus Hiltl has many seating areas, and I highly recommend getting a table upstairs at this book-themed corner. With the sunlight streaming through the window, I know many book lovers who would appreciate this spot. I also suggest getting a table reservation because Hiltl is a popular lunch spot.
I actually enjoyed my lunch at Haus Hiltl - for all its mushrooms and aubergines. This place really made my inner 7-year-old happy, especially when I saw onion rings! While my distaste for vegetables remains, I'd definitely come back to Haus Hiltl for the veggie nuggets.
Halal status: While the restaurant serves vegetarian food, they do use alcohol to prepare a few dishes. But don't worry, it's all clearly marked in the food display. If you need to ask the ingredients in detail, the staffs are happy to answer your question! The restaurant also serves alcoholic beverages, so do dine at your own discretion.