Saturday, 30 October 2010

Panorama Restaurant, Hartlisberg, Switzerland

Our first full day in Switzerland was a mixture of experiences. Firstly being woken by cowbells in the morning was wonderful then all the delights offered at breakfast by our friends Ed and Barbara were lovely. We will report on the various local and interesting things we did and ate in another post.

We spent the rather cloudy day out in the countryside, up hills, on mountain passes, and wandering round picturesque villages, while building up an appetite for what was promised to be an excellent meal at the Panorama Restaurant.

Ed had booked the table in the bistro part of the restaurant as everything else was fully booked, but still this promised not to disappoint.
We arrived, and what would have normally been a stunning view, was somewhat clouded, but still impressive.

View from the restaurant
We were shown to our table and given menus. Unfortunately, only in German, but we did have our translators with us. The waitress spoke excellent English, and anything that we needed help with Ed and Barbara could obviously translate.
We were offered an aperitif of sparkling wine which the waitress described as similar to Champagne or Prosecco. For me, those being the magic words, we ordered a glass of the cranberry and one of the the apple based wines while we looked over the menu. Both of which were lovely and were served with breads, butter and oil.

Cranberry aperitif
There had been a slight mix up when booking the table as Ed had asked if they could serve the Chateaubriand in the Bistro - a dish which they always order on each trip there, and the restaurant took this to be a pre-order for the four of us rather than just for two. This perhaps actually made the choice of food easier! We'd never tried Chateaubriand before, and only vaguely knew what it was. With the normal checks of whether there is flour in the sauce proving negative, we were more than happy to go along with this. It was a little on the pricey side, being 62CHF per person, but Ed had described that eating out, and in particular, ordering meat in Switzerland was more expensive than in Britain. And after all, it is not every day we're over in his part of the world for a nice evening out.
We tried looking at the starters menu, but Ed warned us that the Chateaubriand was rather filling, and that we should actually leave room for desert. And anyway, not recognising a single word of German meant that every single ingredient needed to be translated for us, and some words didn't really seem to translate that easily. We decided against a starter.
We picked a Swiss wine, a white Merlot, on the recommendation of the waitress, and when it came Ed was offered the opportunity to taste the wine, with a separate tasting glass. Never seen that before, very impressed, and it was duly noted. The wine was excellent.
Shortly after placing our order, "A small gift from the kitchen" arrived. A little amuse bouche of beef carpaccio and mushrooms with Parmesan cream.

Beef Carpaccio with mushrooms and Parmesan cream
Again, this was a first for me. I'd never had Carpaccio, as I've always been a bit scared of it. This was nice, and for me just the right amount of raw meat. The mushrooms and cream sauce were very tasty, although the edible flower didn't really taste of much. At least I hope it was edible! The flowers we'd tried in the garden of Northcote were very distinctive in flavour, but this didn't stand out. But anyway, I'm not really complaining about what was actually just a garnish on an amuse bouche!

The main event. The Chateaubriand arrived, and looked spectacular.


The vegetables were perfect, each seasoned well, and carrying its own flavour, the foaming Bearnaise was creamy and light, and even the three little dots of mango wowed the taste buds. The meat was beautiful. And as Ed had said, you could practically cut it with a spoon. Extremely tender, juicy and flavoursome. The outside charred slightly and the inside rare and succulent. I have since read that Chateaubriand is the ultimate experience in beef, and I have to agree. This perhaps was the best plate of food I have ever eaten.

The plates were cleared away and we were wondering about what delights to expect on the desert menu from this restaurant.

Since returning from Switzerland I have done a bit of research on this place. There were a couple of accolades displayed outside the main entrance, but nothing that I recognised, or actually can remember, but I have since found out that the Panorama's restaurant Cayenne has been awarded a rating of 16 out of (perhaps the impossible score) 20 from Gault Millau and rated with Bib Gourmand and as Moderately Comfortable in the Michelin Guide. I have read that Gault Millau rate restaurants on their food rather than on the food and surroundings as Michelin does, and in my mind this food well deserved the rating. I say this purely as an ignorant customer as I haven't noticed if I've eaten in any Gault Millau rated restaurants before, and our only Michelin awarded experience was that at Northcote a couple of years ago. The food, to me, was on par with Northcote.

Anyway, back to the meal. As i mentioned before, we can't speak or recognise any German and Ed and Barbara had been translating for us. They were now whispering away in German, so we thought something fishy was going on. The waitress had put down another knife and fork each, and Ed said they were wondering why the desert menu was taking so long.
It then became apparent.
Another plate of the beautiful Chateaubriand came out.

Again, this was as before, superb. But I can no longer say it was the best plate of food I'd ever eaten, as technically there were two. Ed and Barbara then explained that the menu said that it was a two-plate dish and that they'd missed that too the first time they came. Our excuse is that we can't read German, don't know what theirs was! I was aware that Chateaubriand is a very expensive and fine cut of meat, and that it is served for more than one person, but I assumed that meant it was for two people or more. Is this the norm is restaurants, or is it usually a two-plate dish?
Needless to say, I now know what the word for "two" is! This is why we were talked out of a starter!

After finishing the main, and "sitting with the wine" for a bit, the waitress brought out the desert menu. Barbara pointed out to me which was the selection of ice creams and explained the selection. I'd already decided on this dish before we came as it had been recommended.
Ice cream selection

The ice cream and sorbet selection was a lovely light way to finish the meal. Each giving a refreshing clean taste.  Other deserts ordered were; Modern style Jelly with prunes and an Armagnac buscuit (above left); Chocolate Monolith with lychee sorbet (above right).

Coffees were then offered, and came accompanied with a choice of hand made chocolates. We each chose one - to Ed's dismay, we were offered more than one each, but we had spent some time earlier in a chocolate factory with as many samples as you could eat, so thought best to stop at one.

The meal, and dining experience at the Panorama was one of the best I've had, even with the view not being as hoped. The view as we left showed the lights of Thun and the surrounding villages and roads, but unfortunately not the mountains.

Clear view from the restaurant.
Via Google Earth, published on Panaromio by

I would recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting the area, but for a special occasion. It is on the pricey side, but I think, for a one-off, well worth the money.

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