Chefs from the first vegetarian hotel in Europe are here to learn South Indian cuisine. They rustle up a five-course Swiss meal for diners

Idlis, dosa, puttu…on the menu at Haus Hiltl, the first vegetarian restaurant in Europe? Well, that is certainly on the cards as four chefs from the restaurant are in Kerala learning about “fascinating South Indian cuisine.” Dorrit Voigt, Manager of Cooking Studio of the restaurant and her colleagues Master Chefs Pascal Haag, Anna Schlatter and Renate Drabek are excited at the prospect of introducing these breakfast staples.

Being a part of Europe’s first vegetarian restaurant, founded in 1898 in Zurich, and feeding nearly 2,500 customers daily gives them the extra punch when it comes to the fine art of wining and dining. And they want some more punch to it. Hence the additions of new vegetarian recipes.

Says Anna, “It is a family run business. In the 1950s the family visited India and fell in love with Indian dishes. They came back with recipes and put them on the menu.”

Since then Haus Hiltl has been serving Indian food along with other global cuisines. But the platter has remained small, limited to raitas, chutneys, pickles and some bread. This time the chefs are here to learn and expand the Indian plate and introduce flavours from the south.

“We have learnt that South Indian cuisine is relatively simple,” says Anna who is absolutely delighted by the variety of breakfast dishes here- the fluffy idlis, the lacy appams, the round dosa, the brown puttu.

Over four generations the Haus Hiltl has evolved from being just a restaurant serving vegetarian food to one for a holistic food experience, for “healthy enjoyment”. It has diversified into holding cookery classes, publishing cook books, conducting workshops, holding talks on food trends and a host of other novel ways to make the vegetarian experience a wholesome one.

About 85 per cent of people in Europe are meat eaters, so it is only the remaining 15 per cent who relish and enjoy veg cuisine but Anna says that the biggest change and trend in food and eating habits is the increase in the number of vegetarians. “It is getting bigger and bigger.” Vegan too is popular and Anna explains the difference. While vegetarians do eat milk products and food produced by animals, like honey, vegans are staunch vegetarians and abstain from animal by-products completely. Vegetarian cuisine is nutritious because of greens, nuts and seeds. It is good for the immune system, says Anna. What the chefs find is that Europeans are turning vegetarian, slowly. “They have a veg day in a week or have reduced the consumption of meat significantly.”

Anna says that many times they make meat dishes using meat substitutes, the most popular substitute being soya. Another meat substitute made from wheat called Feitan is also used by the chefs at Haus Hiltl, “but our main aim is not to make fake meat dishes. We prepare vegetarian dishes with vegetarian ingredients.”

The traditional Swiss dish from Zurich that is popular is a meat mix with mushrooms, called Geschneltzeltes, which they prepare with a substitute and serve with a potato pancake, called Rofti. It is one of the most popular dishes.

In Kochi Anna and her team is looking forward to serving a five-course Swiss vegetarian meal to guests. But back in Zurich one can be sure of some spicy masala in the dishes at Haus Hiltl.

The dinner event is on August 11 at 8 p.m.

in Durbar Hall,

Hotel Casino.

For details: