12 districts, 12 Pubs: Tsüri.ch tries the bar test in the Oepfelchammer - Tsüri.ch #MirSindTsüri
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Von Seraina Manser


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26. Januar 2022 um 15:41

12 districts, 12 Pubs: Tsüri.ch tries the bar test in the Oepfelchammer

«12 districts, 12 pubs» is the name of Tsüri.ch’s restaurant series. The city magazine visits a neighborhood pub in a different district every month. The series begins with the Oepfelchammer in district 1, where Gottfried Keller is said to have gotten drunk and where we try the legendary bar test.

The names of all those who have passed the bar test. (Foto: Elio Donauer)

We have translated this text from German to English. You can find the original text here.

«Where Gottfried Keller liked to stop in, you too will feel at home», the Oepfelchammer advertised on its own website. Legend has it that writer Gottfried Keller once filled his head so full at the Oepfelchammer that he slept through his inauguration as town clerk the next day. The Restaurant Oepfelchammer is thus a worthy place to start our series «12 districts, 12 pubs». Each month we will sit down in the neighborhood pub of a different district and talk to the landlord or landlady.

«This is a wine bar; there is no beer»

The Oepfelchammer is, by its own account, Zurich's oldest wine bar. My companion has already spent a damp evening in this very room with fellow students. If you want, you can ask for a guitar and sing a song, which the other guests will hopefully join in. The Oepfelchammer has been around since 1801 and is located on the second floor of a typical Niederdörfli house on the Rindermarkt. The wine bar is made entirely of wood, there is a tiled stove in one corner and countless names are carved into the tables and beams. Anyone who wants to order a beer here gets the answer: «This is a wine bar; there is no beer» 

Managing Director Thomas Trautweiler. (Foto: Elio Donauer)

Managing director Thomas Trautweiler wants to hold on to these traditions. Together with two colleagues, he took over the restaurant in February 2019. Bendicht Stuber and Chris Gretener knew the owners of the house, and when they were looking for a successor to lease the restaurant, the three guild members stepped into the breach. «We dusted off the Oepfelchammer while preserving its cultural heritage», Thomas explains. The first year went well, he says. The second and third fiscal years, however, they had imagined differently; because of the forced closure by COVID-19, they were temporarily in existential worries, but remained creative and, for example, put an «Oepfel grill» on the street.

Nothing for Vegans

On this Tuesday evening, it is empty and quiet. An Italian couple is sitting at the long table next to us, and a group of Dutchmen has settled at the regulars’ table. Over the year, host Trautweiler divides the guests into 60 percent locals and 40 percent tourists. He says the Oepfelchammer was a «massive hotspot» for South and North American travelers in the past.

Trautweiler says they promoted it primarily within the guilds via the bush telegraph when they took over the inn. «We are working on getting more Zurich residents to visit us regularly again because it’s more sustainable», he analyzes. He used to go out – like many – in the Niederdörfli, so he was already in the Oepfelchammer at a «young age». Especially in recent years, the Dörfli has received an upswing again, he estimates the situation. 

Beet risotto with herb mushrooms and Belper tuber (a local cheese). (Foto: Elio Donauer)

The menu of the Oepfelchammer consists to a large extent of regional ingredients. Of the four main dishes, only one is vegetarian. «We don’t have anything against vegan restaurants, but at the Oepfelchammer, we want to keep things old-fashioned», says the host. Those who eat meat probably order the Zurich evergreen here: Züri Gschnätzlets (Zurich-style veal ragout) with an extra kidney on top for three Swiss francs.

Only Ten Percent Pass the Bar Test

Now, before the beet risotto with herb mushrooms and Belper tuber is served, we dare to do the task we came to the Oepfelchammer for: the bar test. Whoever manages to swing over a beam at the height of about two meters and then crawl over a second beam gets to drink a glass of wine while dangling upside down. And after that, the person gets to carve his:her name into the table or wooden wall. The women start the test from the small bench. I fail with both techniques: Either lifting up or swinging the leg over first. The ceiling is always too close and makes it impossible to crawl through. After the three allowed attempts, I have to capitulate. The waiter, at least, claims he can do it and continues: «About ten percent of the guests who try actually make it.»

Name me one Zurich restaurant where you’re allowed to bounce around the tables while people dine? On a Friday evening, when the restaurant is full, someone tries the bar test every ten minutes, says Trautweiler. We, on the other hand, only get astonished looks from the tourist groups. 

However, the risotto tastes excellent. Just like the Höngger Öpfelchüechli. Yet, the atmosphere in the neighborhood pub is mediocre. We probably have to come back on a Friday evening with a new bar technique. Since the Oepfelchammer has been under new ownership, fortunately, no one has yet been injured during the beam test: a young woman once swung over the beam a bit too euphorically and fell off. Fortunately, the host did not have to call an ambulance to the village. 

It looks promising, but we did not pass the bar test. (Foto: Elio Donauer)

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Zurich has around 60 000 English-speaking residents and that’s why we want to offer our popular daily «Züri Briefing» in English as well. Once enough people have subscribed to the English version of the newsletter, we will translate the morning newsletter from German to English. 

The Züri Briefing summarises the most important news of the day and is sent daily at 7am. More than 3000 subscribers read the «Züri Briefing» every morning and that number is only going up. Besides the most important news of the day the briefing contains event tips and other useful information. You can check out the German Briefings here. 

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