Having lived in cities like Dubai and London, I’m the first to admit that I’ve been spoilt when it comes to gastronomic variety. When I returned to my hometown Basel, I was somewhat disillusioned.
Taking the size of the city into consideration, however, I’ve noticed quite a few new places popping up here and there. So I have decided to explore some of the newcomers and also rediscover some of the more traditional establishments.
Everyone likes a story… This is why I have selected bars and restaurants that not only feature good design, good food and friendly service (which in my opinion are non-negotiables), but they also tell a story.
For those who are familiar with my work, they will know that I like to refer to my style as ‘Contemporary with a touch of nostalgia’. Basically, although I love all things modern, I do have a great appreciation for other styles, such as classic, rustic, eclectic and many more. I love to mix styles. Whilst the modern will usually dominate, I like to add an element or two from another style. This is what gives the design its ‘oomph’ and adds personality to it.
It therefore shouldn’t come as a surprise, that I love modern interiors in old historic buildings or any building that tells a story for that matter.
So let’s hear some of these stories…
Once upon a time there was a hobby brewer. Whilst he was having some beers with friends, he had an idea… He decided to turn his passion into a business and started to look for a suitable venue.
The run down building owned by IWB, the Basel electricity company, at the Voltaplatz seemed to be the perfect match. The structure, a concrete shell, dates back to the Bauhaus era and was erected in 1932. The building’s function gave the square its name back then and today it served as a source of inspiration for the entire restaurant concept.
Repurposing, recycling and upcycling are popular words in today’s vocabulary and sometimes they actually live up to their meaning. This is the case at the recently inaugurated Volta Bräu.
Volta Bräu features an in-house brewery, industrially inspired interiors and down to earth food. Most elements used in the design concept are recycled or repurposed. For example the cladding of the bar and the backrest of the large seating cushions, which also serve as partition walls for the lounge area, have been made from old wooden SBB (Swiss Railway) cargo boxes. The seating cushions themselves are put on palettes and old wooden cable spools serve as coffee tables. The overall colour scheme is mostly neutral, but accentuated by colourful ethnically inspired cushions and some red chairs. Speaking of chairs, you will be pushed to find 5 of the same chairs or bar stools, because there is an eclectic mix of them, yet it all blends together in a harmonious manner.
If you are looking for a relaxed and down-to-earth ambiance with good beer, lovely wines, as well as some delicious snacks and skewers, then you have got to check out the Volta Bräu. Did I mention you have to BBQ your own skewer? 😉
Let’s go back in time some more… back to an era when the houses in Basel were referred to by their names rather than their house number. One of such houses was the ‘Haus zum Schlüssel’ (House of the key), which dates back to 1308. Like many other places in Europe during that time, Basel was dominated by craftsmen and traders. The guilds started to form and the ‘Schlüssel’ was purchased by the guild of merchers during the early 15th century. They named it ‘Zunft zum Schlüssel’ (Key guild) and the key became their emblem. It is the oldest guild house in Basel and the guild still owns it and uses it for its gatherings. The building, which has undergone several renovations throughout the years, was first opened to the public as a restaurant in 1883.
During our recent visit, we were taken both on a culinary and a historic journey. Whilst sipping on my Laurent Perrier, I was admiring my surroundings and couldn’t help but wonder about the many people that must have come here before me… There certainly still is a medieval feel to the place with its dark wooden wall and ceiling paneling, the arches leading to the now glass covered inner courtyard and the antique oven painted with medieval figures and quotes. During the most recent renovation, famous Basel artist Samuel Buri covered an entire façade with a painting with biblical themes, whereas the rest of the interior was kept quite plain as to not to disturb the historic backdrop.
The Schlüsselzunft is most certainly worth a visit! Admittedly, you will need to dig a bit deeper into your pockets, but it is money well spent. Aside from the unique setting, the staff is very knowledgeable and friendly, the food delightful and innovative and the portions very generous.
In the 1950’s the corner building on Rheingasse/ Schafgässlein housed the very first ‘Konsi’ in the Kleinbasel. Konsi is another name for the Swiss supermarket chain Coop. In 2008 the Krafft Group (the Hotel Krafft is right opposite) inaugurated their wine bar consum. They not only kept the name, but also created a shop-like ambiance with cheese, salami and ham on display.
The interior is a mixture of Art Nouveau, bistrot style furniture and lots of wood. The most striking part of the interior is the floor. The tiles, which were recovered from the Hotel National in Montreux when it was being demolished, are original Art Nouveau tiles, featuring a stunning geometric pattern. The beautiful pattern has become the cooperate identity of the bar and you will see it repeated on the menus, the business cards and the website.
Consum offers a very relaxed atmosphere, more than 100 wines as well as delicious cheeses and cold cuts. It’s a great place for lunch, when they also serve some soup and the perfect place for a chilled evening, when you just want to enjoy a glass of wine and nibble on something… By the way, if they have the truffle Brie on the menu… Go for it! I think it is one of the best cheeses I have ever had (that coming from a Swiss, is saying something…)
P.S. If you love historic places and spaces as much as I do, you may also like to read the article about the hotel Les Trois Rois in Basel and the Beau-Rivage in Geneva, both steeped in history and with lots of stories to tell…
P.P.S. For more culinary adventures in Basel, please also read my article Creative Cuisine in a Minimalist Setting.