There is usually a good reason why local delicacies stay local, but in the case of Swiss cuisine, the lack of exported eateries is baffling. After all, what’s not to love about a pot of molten cheese, or cooking your own beef fillet? Yet only this summer has London welcomed its first ‘modern Swiss-inspired restaurant’ in the form of Heritage.
Situated in a gentrifying Rupert Street in Soho, Heritage joins St Moritz as one of only two Swiss restaurants in this most cosmopolitan of cities. It brings with it the promise of elevated versions of Swiss classics including fondue (cheese and chocolate), Raclette, potato röstis and charcuterie.
Still, while London’s need for a new Swiss restaurant is unquestionable, the decision to open in the midst of England’s hottest July on record certainly is. Fondue is like Christmas music: for a short window every year, nothing beats it. Offer it to someone on a hot summer’s day, however, and you’ll be met with outrage.
It is with some relief, then, that we walk into this ultra-stylish eatery to a warm welcome and an air-conditioned atmosphere. The exposed brickwork and ceiling fixtures give Heritage an industrial feel, which is juxtaposed with the luxurious dark-wood paneling, beautifully crafted chairs and tables, and low-level lighting. I can already sense the feeling of warmth this place will emit on a bitter winter’s night.
A lot of emphases has been placed on the bar. It’s leather stools are inviting and the sight and sound of the mixologist chipping away at a lump of ice are oddly soothing. The cocktail menu has been created exclusively for the restaurant and is separated into ‘light side’ and ‘dark side’. Together they form a substantial list of cocktails.
It is the same story for the wine list. The restaurant’s head sommelier Elena Serban has curated a list dominated by the Alpine regions. There is a wide selection of wines from Italy, Germany, Austria and, of course, Switzerland. We are invited to try a red from Valais, made with a grape that is unique to the Swiss region. It’s a touch darker than a pinot noir and perfectly matched for the heavy meal we’re about to consume.
The menu here is small and consistent in its offerings: everything seems to be meat, cheese or some combination of the two. We start with the Dingley Dell Bacon Rösti, a golden fried potato topped with Tomette de Brebis cheese and glazed bacon lardons. It’s all beautifully cooked but is heavy going for an appetizer. Luckily, the Charred Romanesco with a smidge of almond butter brings it all into balance. In fact, this humble chunk of broccoli was a surprising delight: perfectly steamed with just a touch of charred crisp.
The big decision for Heritage diners will be where to go from here. Do we take on the fondue or head straight for the charcoal grill? There’s nothing like cooking your own meat (even if the brazier takes up most of the table) and here you can choose from either slices of fillet steak or a selection of shellfish. We opt for the fondue, which is served with tender slices of beef fillet (pre-cooked, medium-rare), sausage, charcuterie and pickles. We also get a sample of the vegetable platter, which is a selection of beautifully fresh carrots and baby courgettes.
We find ourselves slightly confused by the fondue. A traditional fondue recipe is a mix of Gruyère and Emmental cheese. This, however, substitutes the latter for Raclette. The result is a devilishly stringy formula that resists any attempt to transfer it to the plate. It also does not coat the vegetables in the way a fondue cheese should.
Further frustrations are felt with the pot itself, which has only two tealights underneath and does not produce enough heat to keep the cheese from solidifying. As it hardens, it does at least become easier to consume, but we ordered the fondue, not the Raclette which is what this appears to have turned into. Admittedly, the addition of Raclette does give this untraditional concoction a lovely, deep flavor and we gladly fill our arteries until everything is gone.
Few diners will have room for dessert but then again few will be able to resist the chance to redress the balance with something sweet. Turning down the recommendation for yet more cheese, we opt for the cinnamon sponge in a salted toffee sauce and a cherry cake beneath a dark chocolate shell with a cherry reduction. We find the former quite dry and only edible with the generous helping of sweet sauce and Chantilly cream. The cherry cake was very nice indeed and the cherry reduction perfectly formed.
It seems clearer now why Heritage opened in the heat of the summer. It is an ambitious project and there are understandably a few creases that must be ironed out, such as the fondue recipe. The restaurant is likely to be quiet during the heat of the summer, but by the time the clocks go back and London’s diners begin to look for warming fare, they should have everything right.
Address: 18-20 Rupert Street, London, W1D 6DF
Tel: +44 20 3995 7500