Restaurant and Bistro Matisse is on Basel’s Burgfelderstrasse, the street that leads to the French border and along which the No. 3 tram runs, soon to be extended across the border itself as far as the Saint-Louis train station. It’s not a particularly salubrious address and some people are a bit sniffy about this. It doesn’t bother me: I’m more interested in what’s on the plate than what’s in the postal code and I’ve been wanting to try it out since learning earlier in the year that it had been awarded a Michelin star, and 17 points by Gault Millau Suisse.
Often a good way to test the water in such places is to go for lunch, which is what I did with a fellow Lady-who-Lunches. As it turned out, it wasn’t a fair test of the chef’s Michelin-cuisine, because in practice there are two restos under the same roof: one is the bistro, open at lunch and the other is the gourmet restaurant, which only does dinner. Each is staffed by a different team, the chef included. No matter. I reckon if a place does a decent job at lunch and feels right, you can always go back for dinner, when in any case – even if the chef is the same – the menu is often quite different.
In the bistro, Chef Felix Glaser offers 3 lunch menus every day, one with fish, one with meat and one vegetarian. The vegetarian option (CHF19) featured crisp pan-fried slivers of silken tofu and spaghetti in a rich tomato sauce, which met with approval and disappeared before I could take a picture. On the fishy menu (CHF25) were fillets of lemon sole topped with strips of veg. and a foamy, lightly coriander-flavoured sauce with quinoa – the effect was pretty, but what with the soft (steamed? baked?) fish, slightly overdone veg. and soft quinoa, the dish lacked punch and texture.
The meaty option also costs CHF25, making this a very good lunch deal (for Basel), particularly as it includes soup or salad or juice-of-the-week, and pudding to finish – in our case a gently trembling coconut flan with a mango coulis and a finger of poppyseed cake perched on the side. Like the fish, it was pretty and mild-mannered but a little lacking in oomph.
There’s a reception area where you come in, with huge funky chairs shaped like giant hands [correction: my fellow Lunching Lady points out that they are faces, not hands] and a big coffee table with loads of foodie mags and arty books. I like the dining room, which is a big, airy space with a pale wooden floor and a view out onto the garden at the back. Throughout the day there’s Kaffee and Kuchen and they do a Sunday brunch from 10 till 1.30 at CHF40.
On the basis of the friendly welcome (not absolutely guaranteed in Basel), relaxed and attentive service, the nice spacy dining room and the promise of some exciting food (Michelin stars are reputedly harder to obtain in Switzerland than in their home country), I’m tempted to go back to try one of Chef Erik Schröter’s starry menus. These range from CHF115 to CHF210, depending on the number of courses taken. One thing that’s clear is that the chef takes his cheese seriously: it’s supplied by my near-neighbour, ace cheesemonger Bernard Antony in Vieux-Ferrette.
Restaurant and Bistro Matisse
Tel. +41 (0) 61 560 60 66