Wednesday 15th January 2014
The Brasserie Fèderal is ideally situated if you are arriving into or departing from the city of Zürich as it is in the main station (Hauptbahnhof), normally abbreviated to HB. Even if you use the airport the best way to get to and from the city is to use the frequent S-Bahn (Suburban) trains the run every few minutes. As you walk from the platforms through the main concourse you will see Brasserie Fèderal on the left just before the exit onto Bahnhofsquai. When I visited, the area outside the restaurant was playing host to a market selling a bewildering range of wonderful food. There was even a stall selling English cheeses!
The station itself was built during 1871 and replaced an earlier structure, although it did not receive the appendage Hauptbahnhof until 1893. The first electrically operated railway line in Switzerland was from Zug to Zürich from 1923. Such was the rapid advancement of this form of traction that by 1927 all the main routes to Zürich were electrified.
In 1933 the building was extended. The first underground S-Bahn line was opened in 1990 with a station underneath the main building. Today there are 20 platforms plus another six on the two subterranean lines below. There are 2,915 train arrivals and departures on an average weekday when around 340,000 passengers will use the station.
On entering the Brasserie Fèderal, the first thing I noticed was the magnificent stained glass ceiling light. In fact the restaurant is very elegant for a railway station. On the side of the concourse is the restaurant proper where waiters were serving the dining patrons with Swiss specialities.
The bar and open plan kitchen are located centrally and it is possible to walk all around them. At the rear is a long bar should you just require a drink. I took a stool on the section on the side simply because it was opposite the beer taps.
The restaurant advertises that it offers over a hundred different beers, mostly Swiss. However, most of these are in bottles. There was, nevertheless a reasonable selection of draught beers. These are all from Switzerland and are generally beers that are not normally available on draught in the Zürich area, although many of them are produced by Heineken Switzerland.
As is often the case in US brew pubs it was possible to order a sample selection on a wooden "paddle". There were seven beers to taste and they were as follows:
Haldengut Lager Hell (4.8%). This was a very ordinary European lager beer, very light with a minimal hop taste. The original brewery in Winterthur closed in 2002 and it's now made at the Heineken brewery in Chur.
Haldenkrone Premium (5.2%) is another beer now brewed in the former Calandra brewery in Chur. I found it rather malty and slightly sweet.
Ittinger Original Klosterbrau (5.6%) was first brewed in 1982 and is an attempt to replicate a monastery beer. The hops are grown in a monastery yet the beer comes from the Heineken Chur plant. It was pleasant enough, being fairly bitter on the palate.
Eichof Klosterbräu (4.8%) is an unfiltered beer and I quite liked it. It had medium body and a slightly bitter aftertaste. The Eichof brewery in Luzern was taken over by Heineken in 2008 and they haven't closed it yet.
Falken Weizen (5.5%). I thought this was a typical unfiltered wheat beer. It's a style I don't have very often, but it seemed very ordinary to me. Falken is an independent brewery from Schaffhausen.
Falken Schwartzbier (5.2%). This is apparently made from Emmer, which is Spelt, an ancient variety of wheat and I quite liked it. The taste was medium with a slight bitter finish.
Appenzeller Reisbier (5.0%) is one of the many specialist beers from the Locher brewery in Appenzell and is made with rice from the world's most northerly rice fields, near Locarno, Switzerland. It was very sweet.
So, should you be in central Zürich, the Brasserie Fèderal is well worth a visit for a variety of beers.
Brasserie Fèderal, Bahnhofsplatz 15, Zürich. CH-4001. Tel: 041 (0) 44 217 1515
Open: Monday-Sunday 11.00-24.00
Trains from all over Switzerland and the rest of Europe will take you to Zürich HB.
The following trams stop in Bahnhofsplatz or Bahnhofstrasse, to the south of the station: 6, 7, 10, 11, 13 & 14. It is also served by the 31 Bus.