You could say that the entrance to our favorite new restaurant in Switzerland is a blank slate. That's because we are greeted by an elegant marble wall displaying the words SVEN WASSMER MEMORIES.
Maybe the sleek appearance is on purpose, because the inside of this Bad Ragaz restaurant is quite a contrast: Chef Wassmer has created a contemporary and cozy atmosphere in a space rich in history. Organically shaped wooden elements create pockets of privacy for each table. The vaulted ceiling has been adorned with a magnificent chandelier and the historic wooden floor with its striking stars has been given a new life.
Before the first appetizers are served, I can already appreciate the meaning of this fine-dining restaurant's name: Restaurant Memories. Our senses are about to be tickled with a memorable experience...
Sven Wassmer about Restaurant Memories
When asked about his motivation for Memories, Sven Wassmer, who acts as Culinary Director at the Grand Hotel Quellenhof, explains: "I wanted to bring the human element back to fine dining. With our open kitchen design at Memories, guests are seated in a sort of living room. This allows the chefs to connect to the guests, and vice versa."
To cleanse our palates, we toast with Tamina water served in these one-of-a-kind soapstone cups.
The dining experience starts out with a selection of noteworthy appetizers.
The colorful capuchin flowers are stuffed with mountain cheese cream. What a delight! On top of an old sourdough cookie, we find the year's last cucumbers (it’s late October), dill and a topping of Swiss Oona caviar.
Without inhibition, we use our fingers to grab that pigeon leg...
Carefully placed in just the right bowl, the pigeon leg “stands” on a serving of pigeon liver sauce. Thanks to the shaved mushroom garnishings, this appetizer has an honest flavor - as if a pigeon walked across the forest floor.
The signature sourdough bread is moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. It is prepared daily and in order to reduce food waste, leftovers are used for the following day's dishes.
Char from the nearby Val Lumnezia is served with caramelized cream and a hint of fir oil:
With this being a show kitchen, we sometimes get up to watch the chef putting on the finishing touches:
Halibut with fermented Reichenau asparagus, salted lemon and the season's final broccoli blossoms.
In Sven Wassmer’s kitchen, no ingredient is left to chance. He selects each component with quality in mind, meanwhile putting it into a wider context: is it traditional for the alpine region? How was the product commonly served back in the day? And does it fit the seasonality?
While the philosophy at Memories is to put the best product centerstage, this does not mean that garnshings are neglected. One example of the chef’s mindfulness are tonight’s broccoli blossoms. While serving the halibut, Wassmer explains that due to the warm fall weather, the broccoli had blossomed once again, inspiring him to use the flowers as decoration.
Crunchy pigtail, Swiss mole, horseradish:
Pigeon from Bresse, celeriac from Marcel's fields and fall leaves.
Wassmer’s suppliers are no strangers to him. For instance, tonight’s menu mentions “celeriac from Marcel’s fields”, making us believe that the farmer is a friend of the chef.
To be able to taste Pigeon de Bresse, the ultimate poultry sourced in southern France, is amazing. But Wassmer tries to stay even more local whenever possible: why go abroad when Oona caviar or Lumare char are produced in Switzerland?
For dessert, a crispy salad bouquet! Three kinds of lettuce on milk ice cream - what a delight!
Tonight's service is orchestrated really well. In one continuous flow that reminds me of the nearby River Tamina, our table is set, wine pairings are offered and plates are served. When asked about the impeccable coordination, one of the staff members explains: "Coincidentally, many of us have previously worked together in the past - and we enjoy working among one another."
And finally, sweet and salty chocolate potato chips with Oona caviar:
Before Memories, I have never been to a fine dining restaurant where the cooking action was happening in front of my eyes. There have been times when we were allowed to peek into the kitchen while the desserts were being plated. But this was usually towards the end of the night when all the orders had been filled and things had calmed down.
I believe that for lasting memories to form, a combination of sights, sounds and tastes is essential. Only when all these sensory impressions fuse together in our mind, an event truly turns into a memorable experience.
Restaurant Memories in Bad Ragaz ticks all those boxes. It offers an intimate dining area to each party which opens up to the exposed kitchen. Yet despite all the action, the noise level is minimal. Every once in a while, the line cooks would confirm a new order with a loud “"Jawohl!", which is akin to "Oui, chef!" This is authentic and human, showing the energy at work in a fine dining kitchen.
But most importantly, each of the nine courses and multiple in-between "snacks" were a joy for our palates. (My advice: bring enough appetite to work your way through the seasonal menu...)
Another "taste" factor is the unique non-alcoholic beverage pairing. Mamiko enjoyed those fermented, vinegary tastes ranging from wild quince juice to a vintage sour beer with raspberries. For me, the tastes were a bit too experimental. I happily stayed with the traditional wine pairing featuring some real gems from the nearby Bündner Herrschaft.
Sven Wassmer Memories
Grand Resort Bad Ragaz
7310 Bad Ragaz
+41 81 303 30 36