Here’s my eclectic (and highly subjective) take on some of the good spots to eat out in Basel, both town and country. Of my 3 Where to Eat pages, Basel gets the least column inches. It’s right on our doorstep but we eat out there less often, partly because it’s expensive (especially given the relentless rise of the Swiss franc against the euro), but also because I find that eating out in Switzerland is generally a stiffer and less convivial experience than in neighbouring Alsace or Germany. Still, there are good places, whether you’re after budget ethnic or a big birthday blowout. A key factor in all the places below is that they’re all (for me) happiness-producing kinds of places, ones that I’d go back to (and frequently do).
Last updated 28 February 2018
Tanja Grandits, Restaurant Stucki, Bruderholzallee 42, Tel. 061 361 82 22
Chef Tanja Grandits took over here at this Basel institution high up on the Bruderholz in 2008. In 2014 she was named chef of the year by the Gault Millau guide and now has two Michelin stars. It’s a pricey option, of course, but the food is extremely original, beautifully presented and served with a playful touch. The restaurant is decorated in a grey/white/aubergine colour scheme and the space is well broken up into several rooms plus a huge terrace out back for summer. Test the water with the business lunch menu (CHF 75 or 92) and if you like the place well enough (cool, elegant yet nicely informal) and the style of cuisine (haute, with Asian accents), save up and go back for the Aroma Tasting Menu at dinner (8 courses for CHF190, 12 courses for CHF240)
Restaurant Oliv, Bachlettenstr. 1, Tel. 061 283 03 03
A light, bright and beautiful place, with huge windows on both sides of the resto and lots of white and dove grey (see photo featured at the top of this page). The food, by Alsatian chef Didier Bitsch, is billed as Mediterranean, there’s a daily business lunch menu (CHF36 for 2 courses last time I looked), there’s always a soup, a brace of pastas and risottos plus you can order a companionable round or two of mezze (spicy hummous, tzatziki, aubergines, guacamole ) for the whole table as an appetizer (and a bottle of Prosecco to help things along). Yummy stuff like sweetbreads, scallops and puddings like a seriously naughty crème brulée duo (plain and dark chocolate) topped with a fragile caramel roof at which you have to tap-tap to gain admittance. Nicely eclectic wine list (Switzerland, Baden, Spain, Italy, Argentina etc.) with quite a few offered by the glass, with complicitous (not pushy or showy-offy) wine advice.
tibits, Stänzlergasse 4, Tel. 061 205 39 99
Can’t beat this veggie paradise in the heart of Basel’s kino-land, for yummy Mideast, Indian, Mexican and Mediterranean salads and warm dishes at very reasonable prices. Takeaway/takeout service in stylish tibits bags.
Vapiano, Sternengasse 19, Tel. 061 272 72 22
No bookings but a great buzz and fab fast food at this Basel branch of a Munich-based chain of Italian self-serve restaurants. Thin-crusted pizza with original toppings, great salads, house-made pastas and risottos all done to order. Interesting selection of wines by the glass (Italy, Spain, Balearics, South Africa among others) with samplings from the bar to aid your choice. Come late (1.30 for lunch, after 9 for dinner) and you’ve a better chance of bagging a table.
La Piratita, Restaurant Luzernerring, Hegenheimerstr. 216, Tel. 061 322 10 24
Come here for real Mexican, none of your crispy cardboard taco shells or chilli con carne, just the kind of stuff you’d find in a neighbourhood taqueria in Mexico City’s Calzada de Tlalpan. For lunch there’s a daily special and a few tacos/burritos. Evenings there’s a longer menu and Friday night is buffet night, complete with mariachi music by a guy in the regulation black and silver kit, equipped with one of those hats you see people wearing as they emerge, sunburnt and giddy, from the plane from Cancun. The tortillas (from El Sol), soft, fine and supple, are worth a detour alone – take one out of the basket, fill it up on the hand with whatever is your chosen meat- or fish-in-sauce (owner/cook Bhere does a mean mole), roll it up and eat it in your fingers, sauce dripping out the bottom. There’s a good range of Mexican beers (Negra Modelo entre otras) and tequilas forever, plus killer margaritas.
Neue Alte Markthalle, Steinentorberg 20
Situated inside the big domed hall close to the station, this was once Basel’s wholesale veg. market, then (briefly) a doomed shopping centre, and now a sort of Singaporean food court à la bâloise. In the centre are stands selling Indian, Thai, Italian, Lebanese and Persian and vegan food – they’re adding new ones all the time, so go and check it out. You stand in line for whatever has caught your eye (or nose), then take your plate and settle down at one of the tables spread out around the outer edges of the market. It’s packed at the lunch break (lots of offices nearby) so best go either early or late — 11.30, or any time after 1, though you do run the risk that your fave Thai curry, tagliatelle with truffles, biryani, korma or pilaff is ausverkauft/sold out.
Bahnhof St Johann Thai Restaurant, Hüningerstr. 2, Basel (formerly Restaurant Nordbahnhof, Mülhauserstr. 123)
This Thai restaurant in the St Johanns Quartier, staffed by Swiss-Thai family members, recently moved streets and names. Before it was rather mysteriously called Nordbahnhof (a mystery because it was neither in north Basel nor near a station). Now it actually is near a station, the St Johann Bahnhof – and not at all far from its former site. The cooking seemed to me to be pretty authentic Thai – albeit toned down a bit to suit Swiss tastes, as are most ethnic foods when they stray beyond their own borders. I’m due a visit to check it out soon – their new site is not very communicative on what they serve, but I see they’re also doing takeaway/takeout. I’m hoping they’ll continue with their super-value lunch menu and that the service and the food by the two brothers (one in the dining room, the other in the kitchen) will be as deliciously smiley as before. Report to follow…
Johann by Jay, St. Johanns-Ring 34,
Tel. +41 78 698 87 67
Irrepressible owner Jay Kumar hails originally from Bangalore and describes his cooking as “international Indian”, fusing elements from both South India and Europe. His newest hangout, after two addresses on St Johanns Vorstadt and then the Milchhüsli on Missionstrasse, is on St Johanns-Ring, where he’s serving his customary taste-packed food to an international crowd of happy punters. At lunch it’s all about simplicity, speed and economy, with meat, fish and veggie options (menus from CHF24 to 29 with small starter and dessert bookending the main dish). Evenings are more leisurely with a bit more choice. Jay believes that wines from the more aromatic spectrum work well with Indian food and offers interesting options to prove his point (a Roero Arneis from Langhe/Piemonte, a red Garnatxa/Syrah blend from Priorat etc.), including a few by the glass.
last visited 27 February 2018
Pinar, Herbergsgasse 1, 4051 Basel, Tel. 061 261 02 39
This warmly welcoming place (not a given in Basel) is close to the University Hospital and there are always lots of medics and students here enjoying the tasty, reasonably priced food. Owned and run by several generations of the Sazpinar family, it’s always referred to as a Turkish restaurant, though their card and website describe the cooking as Anatolian: hummus, sarma (stuffed vine leaves), various borek pastry parcels, salads with yogurt, doner kebap, pide, lovely lamb and aubergines every which way. The 5 fixed-price menus (all at CHF22.50) feature a selection from the above, often with a salad to start with, plus the main dish, vegetables and bulgur. If there’s any baklava left, go for it (or if you’ve eaten your fill already, buy some to go) – the pastry is “as thin as grasshopper’s wings”, drenched in honey and sprinkled with pistachios. There’s a small selection of wines (including from Anatolia) and they serve Ueli beer, from one of Basel’s microbreweries.
last visited 16th February 2018
Consum Bar, Rheingasse 19, Basel, Tel. 061 690 91 30
One of my favourite watering holes in town, a classy wine bar/deli sited in a quiet street near the Rhine with sleek, dark wooden counters, stools and tables and pavement space for balmy Basel evenings – it’s just opposite (and belongs to) the stylish Hotel Krafft in Kleinbasel. Come here for the properly interesting selection of wines (think Ziereisen/Baden, Kesselring/Weinfelden, Cascina Fontana/Piedmont, Alvaro Palacios/Spain, Quinta do Crasto/Douro) with a decent number offered by the glass, sublime raw milk Swiss cheeses like the legendary Jersey Blue from Willi Schmid (who plays a starring role in my book, Cheese: Slices of Swiss Culture) plus topnotch salumi and pata negra. I also fancy the floor tiles (above), whose motif is reproduced on the cover of their short menu card. You can’t book, but there’s a brisk turnover of tables, both inside and out on the pavement – just hover with intent, and you’ll soon find one freeing up.
Volkshaus Basel, Rebgasse 12-14, Basel, Tel. (Brasserie) 061 690 93 10
Behind the solid bourgeois walls of this Basler institution (built 1925) lurks a slinky black bar and brasserie, stylishly reborn courtesy of local architect heroes Herzog & De Meuron. Cool vibe, great music (including a jazz brunch the last Saturday of the month), decent wines by the glass (Swiss, French, Spanish), loads of different beers including Ueli Bier from the nearby microbrewery, “newbie” cocktails like Hang Hang Tang (gin and passionfruit) and tapas-type nibbles for a bobo crowd. A good place to drop in on after some strenuous retail therapy.
Restaurant Le Rhin Bleu, St. Alban-Rheinweg 195, Basel, Tel. 061 311 25 75
This place (formerly the Veronica, now under new management, reopened May 2017) is not just beside the Rhine, it’s actually set on a platform out over the river and adjoins the Badehysli or bathhouse – bathers stow their togs in the lockers here and take off for a Rhine swim, a big Basel summer tradition. There’s a small menu (https://www.lerhinbleu.ch/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/RB_A-la-Carte.pdf) and I’ve had mixed reports of both food and service (haven’t been yet myself), but if all you need is a cool place to hang out when it’s hot, suspended above the water and the bobbing swimmers, this fits the bill nicely.
Restaurant Lämmli, Rotbergstrasse 6, Metzerlen, Tel. 061 731 14 92
Tucked away in a small village above Mariastein, this appealing Swiss country pub does simple, tasty, original food with loads of flair (the chef used to be just across the border in Leymen at La Couronne d’Or, see Favourite Restaurants in Alsace). The wood-panelled Stube with polished wooden benches is very cosy in winter, and there’s a tiny garden out back for warmer days. A blackboard listing today’s specials is propped up on a chair for your inspection and featured (on a recent visit, to the delight of our Aussie guest who loves the Fifth Quarter) plenty of offal/organ meats (tête de veau vinaigrette, Suuri Laberli – calves’ liver – etc.), plus an epic cordon bleu that’s fairly bursting with melted cheese and ham. The lunch menu hovers at around CHF20, and in the evenings there’s a fuller menu (including an all-veggie one) at CHF50.