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The Swiss fine-dining scene’s best-kept secret is out

June 11, 2019 Dining No Comments Email Email

The cat is out of the bag: Sven Wassmer’s new signature restaurant at the Grand Hotel Quellenhof will be called Memories. It will be one of Switzerland’s first gourmet restaurants where also diners without a reservation can try and grab a spot from the day it opens on 25 June 2019, as the coveted counter seats around the open show kitchen will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. The name of Wassmer’s new health and lifestyle restaurant – Verve by Sven – was also announced during a press conference at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. The restaurant will open its doors on 1 July 2019.

Over the past few months, top chef Sven Wassmer has been fine-tuning the concept behind his new signature restaurant and taking the time to find the perfect name. “I had a very clear idea in mind about the effect I wanted my cuisine to have on guests,” says the 32-year-old. A visit to his signature restaurant is intended to be an experience that guests will remember for the rest of their lives. “Memories and emotions are closely intertwined – and that’s what my team and I want to evoke in our guests.” The restaurant’s name – Memories – perfectly reflects this goal and is as minimalist as Sven Wassmer’s style of cooking. “My new Swiss Alpine cuisine has been pared down and is in tune with nature. The longer I cook, the more I leave out.” The name is not the only element to have been specially tailored to tie in with the restaurant’s concept. The interior design is also an expression of Sven Wassmer’s personality and the atmosphere he wants to create at Memories: “I’m very approachable. The restaurant is supposed to resemble my living room – so there’s no dress code. I want my guests to feel completely at ease. I’m keen to enter into a dialogue with them and enable them to take part in creating memories of their evening in my restaurant.” The open show kitchen of Memories, in particular the six counter seats, are designed to encourage this one-on-one contact. The interior also pays tribute to the Grand Hotel Quellenhof’s 150-year history, with the wooden parquet sourced from the original Quellenhof, which opened on 10 July 1869. After a long period of meticulous restoration, it has found a new home in Memories.

On five evenings each week, guests will soon be able to enjoy a seasonal 9- or 12-course meal at Memories. The first come, first served concept at the open kitchen’s counter is a novelty on the Swiss fine-dining scene, offering spontaneous diners a chance to grab one of these sought-after seats on the same evening. “Nowadays, people make plans on the spur of the moment,” says Marco R. Zanolari, General Manager of the hotel. So there is a need to provide guests with the kind of flexible dining option that they are looking for. How long diners will have to wait in line for the total of six counter seats remains to be seen. “This concept is entirely new to Swiss haute cuisine. We’re trying something different, and are curious to see how guests will react.”

In addition to his signature restaurant, Sven Wassmer is also opening a new health and lifestyle restaurant – Verve by Sven – at the Grand Hotel Quellenhof. The name itself – derived from the French word verve, meaning both “energy” and “zest” – provides an insight into what this restaurant will offer, seven days a week from July 2019. “Healthy cuisine is no longer a question of abstention, although this notion is still uppermost in many people’s minds,” says Sven Wassmer. Instead, the aim is to show guests how delicious conscious and healthy nutrition can be. “We work with authentic products that are sourced from producers we know, and prepare them in a very gentle and sustainable way. But we don’t want our cuisine to be dogmatic. We’re rather trying to convince guests with its simple and clear style,” explains Sven Wassmer, abiding by his guiding principle “My body is my temple”. Diners are served food that is not only sustainably produced, but also purchased on a fair-trade basis and, wherever possible, grown according to biodynamic principles of agriculture. In addition, Sven Wassmer and Verve head chef Sebastian Titz are keen to combat food waste and work according to leaf-to-root and nose-to-tail principles, i.e. they use the whole plant and less well-known cuts of meat in their cuisine too. While the Memories restaurant offers vegetarian dishes but no vegan alternatives, Verve by Sven is consciously aimed at guests who have a variety of dietary preferences. Breakfast, in particular, will play a key role at the new restaurant: “With a view to health and sustainability, we are consciously moving away from the traditional breakfast buffet and offering breakfast options with fixed items instead,” reveals Sven Wassmer.

In future, the restaurant’s buzzing atmosphere will be enhanced by the integrated bar, at the rear of which will be a walk-in glass wine cellar with space for around 4,000 bottles. The bar will become the Grand Hotel Quellenhof’s latest attraction and is not only aimed at hotel guests, but also at a local clientele. Here, too, Sven Wassmer’s team is taking an unconventional approach: “Although we will be offering classic cocktails, our primary focus will be on creative drinks that contain little or no alcohol at all. We will serve them alongside contemporary bar snacks.” Amanda Wassmer-Bulgin, Wine Director at the Grand Hotel Quellenhof, knows that strong alcoholic drinks are less popular today than they used to be. She will therefore even be offering the option of completely non-alcoholic beverages to accompany each course of the menu served in the signature restaurant Memories – something that only very few restaurants offer.

In general, Amanda Wassmer-Bulgin, a Master of Wine student and one of Switzerland’s most talented young sommeliers, takes a “less is more” approach when selecting beverages for the two restaurants. “At Memories, we are offering an exclusive selection of wine and champagne that the team can identify with.” Regional wines from Switzerland’s Buendner Herrschaft region feature heavily on the menu. The wine expert adopts the same “quality over quantity” approach in the Verve restaurant as well: “We offer a manageable and uncomplicated selection of wines alongside craft beers, home-made iced teas, refreshing vinegar-based shrubs and excellent coffee.” Mass-market, industrially produced fizzy beverages, however, will not appear on the drinks menu. “Instead, we’re focusing on artisan drinks made by small producers.”

Construction work at the Grand Hotel Quellenhof is still in full swing. But in only a few days, Sven Wassmer and his team will be able to move into the new restaurants and prepare them for opening day. “We’ve been working on concepts, design and especially the dishes for a long time and can’t wait to welcome the first guests into our new restaurants,” says the proud Culinary Director.

Sven Wassmer’s signature restaurant Memories will be open from 25 June 2019, Tuesday to Saturday, from 7 p.m. For more information about the restaurant and reservation enquiries visit www.memories.ch. The Verve by Sven health and lifestyle restaurant will be open daily from 1 July 2019, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. (breakfast), 12 noon to 2 p.m. (lunch), and 6.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. (dinner). The bar is open daily from 10 a.m. For further information about the Verve by Sven restaurant visit www.resortragaz.ch/vervebysven. For reservation enquiries, please send an e-mail to restaurants@resortragaz.ch.

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