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Impressive, But Pur

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND -- PUR: German for “Pure”: being thus and no other: sheer, unmitigated. (Merriam-Webster)

Seated around the chef’s table in Switzerland’s Restaurant PUR (as seen in Photo 1), chef Ivo Berger and executive chef Heinz Brassel search for adjectives to describe the emotion of their restaurant and inspirations for their dishes (as seen in Photos 2 - 4). Cozy, natural, detailed, and surprising, gush from their mouths as they smile and ponder. Located in the Hotel Seedamm Plaza, on the edge of a nature reserve on the banks of Lake Zurich, the award-winning PUR is inspired by the intersection of nature and modernity. The central open fireplace, surrounded by deep cushioned woven chairs (as seen in Photo 5), warms the environment as guests are eased into a state of relaxed anticipation by both the soothing water feature and doting service staff.

PUR’s open, animated kitchen (as seen in Photo 6) creates uniquely structured dishes on both classic and eccentric dishware. The menu, which can change daily depending on available local ingredients and early morning taste tests, describes dishes in deliberately vague terms: “Second Course| Scampi | South African | Lobster tortellini | Fregola Sarda beans”. Rather than explain how food is to be prepared, the open kitchen invites guests to watch if they wish, or they may simply taste and find out. At PUR, it is not simply the customers’ hunger that motivates the service and cooking staff, but it is the guests’ state of anticipation as well. It is this element of pleasant surprise that is really the soul of PUR.

There is an art to the act of surprising and at PUR it’s found in the details: ever evolving tabletop floral styling, an award winning collection of rare wines (as seen in Photo 7), complimentary after-dinner Swiss sweets served from a humidor- all of which make for a unique experience even for PUR’s regular customers (as seen in Pboto 8).

Even a seemingly humble green salad receives “a little show effect” at PUR, as marketing manager Corinne Wyer proudly explains. To demonstrate, chef de service Angela Hug gently shakes above her head an apothecary style jar containing tender red and green leaves with a truffle infused dressing. “Like a cocktail”, Wyer notes.

A small starter of cool tuna tartar and tapioca, set beside a morsel of pork in a sweet, smoky sauce, sit juxtaposed within sterile, clear petri dishes, creating a look that is, as Berger describes, “impressive . . . but pure” (as seen in Photo 9). The chefs at PUR are perpetually inspired by this challenge to gently push guests “one more step” in their dining experience. With a calm confidence, Brassel and Berger attempt to guide guests into trying something new, perhaps “strange”, like reindeer or goose liver, by surrounding it with more familiar fare like a house-made ravioli or a spring salad. “Four out of five things on the plate must be proven” Berger explains, “with one thing new”.  A portion of creamy sour cabbage, a well-loved food in German-speaking Europe, helps to entice guests toward the more exotic thin slices of bison that sit atop it.  

The mission to make “nice things out of normal things” may sound simple enough, but for Berger and Brassel, it is this undertaking that provides them with their creative impetus. Joining them at the chef’s table, peering into their pots and pans, and tasting their clever combinations is truly an experience of pure culinary passion. The fact that PUR receives mention in the prestigious Michelin Guide is perhaps the only thing at this restaurant that comes as no surprise at all.

Photos courtesy of Jessica Reid