Delicious Swiss-style dishes well worth a try

Helen Crooks

IT is always nice to find a new kid on the restaurant block, even if it is one that has been around for many years in various guises.

It is even better when the new kid offers fare which, while following the tried-and- tested steaks and pizza formula, also offers more out-of-the-ordinary dishes: international food with a very definite (and delicious) Swiss, German and French flavour.

The aptly named Swiss Chalet, housed in the Pickering Street building which was previously home to Mama Leonie's, Pecorino and, more recently, Rocky's, re-opened a few weeks ago under the management of Elizabeth and Gerard Baltus, the latter having 15 years of experience as head chef of a hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland.

And that experience certainly shone through in the meals that we ordered when we popped in this week to try out the new, extensive menu.

As stated, there are the usual suspects like steak, egg and chips at a very reasonable R50 and a wide array of pizzas.

But then there are speciality dishes like pork shank with spaetzli (R65) and snails either baked in the pizza oven with garlic or served with blue cheese cream for R45.

Perusing the extensive menu (and there's a separate menu with daily specials) we opted to share a starter before deciding on our mains, settling on brinjals baked with mozzarella, tomato and parmesan (R40), which was served promptly by our waitress for the night, Elizabeth.

The dish was accompanied by a home-made bread roll served, disappointingly, with margarine instead of butter, so we used the bread dry to mop up the delicious sauce. A very satisfying starter choice and perfect for sharing.

And so on to the mains. Pasta options were attractive, but hardly Swiss in origin.

So was the pan-fried sole served with almonds, and the chicken cordon bleu, but tempted though we were, we stuck with our decision to sample meals with rich, creamy, Swiss-style sauces, with my dinner partner settling on the zueri geschnetzeles (R70), while I settled for one of the specials of the day, pork fillet in a brandy and mushroom sauce.

A good way of putting a restaurant to the test is to play with the menu, so I asked Elizabeth if I could have rosti instead of chips. Yes I could – more boxes ticked.

The food was served promptly and the portions were more than ample, the rosti large and perfectly cooked.

The veal in my dinner partner's meal and the pork in mine was succulent and very tasty.

My pork dish was also served with an impressive array of home-cooked, very fresh vegetables.

Before the meal was served, and having a Swiss hotel school background, my dinner partner had extremely high expectations, especially of the sauce, and I'm pleased to say that those expectations were well and truly met.

Replete, we settled back for a while to enjoy our drinks while pondering dessert and this is where the second negative came in, the first being margarine served with the bread instead of butter.

This time the negative was that, despite trying to catch Elizabeth's attention several times, the wait between finishing our mains and ordering desserts was more than a tad too long.

That said, once ordered, the food appeared rapidly, a crème brule for my dinner partner (R30) and a cheesecake for me (R35).

As mentioned my dinner partner has a Swiss hotel school background and has also worked at five-star restaurants in London, so it was a high honour when she pronounced that the crème brule was the best she had ever had.

The cheesecake had just the right texture and again the portion was so ample that a lot of it went into a doggy bag for later consumption.

A few niggles aside, if you are looking for a tasty meal with a complete difference, then the Swiss Chalet comes highly recommended.

And the price is right too: our bill, including a bottle of wine, a bottle of sparkling water, a cappuccino and tip came to R348.

Restaurant visits are unannounced and meals are paid for in full.