It’s a beautiful sunny day on the “Gold Coast” of Lake Zurich, home to the yacht-owning, investment-banking, mansion-dwelling elite of of Zurich. Two young* couples hop off the futuristic Swiss train, swaying a little from the hyper-speed inertia, and casually make their way to a cozy lakeside restaurant. It’s one of those places that’s so glamorous that it’s plain. It looks like Martha Stewart’s Swiss lakeside lodge, if there were such a thing.
The waiter, well-trained in his post, doesn’t hold the usual disdain that non-chain restaurants hold for young people. “Still or sparkling?” he asks. The table opts for still, and he returns with Acqua Panna.
The four enjoy a leisurely lunch outdoors, taking in the fresh Swiss air. They lose count, at some point, how many times the waiter has refilled their water. That’s the sign of good service: you don’t even notice they’re taking care of you.
They finish their meals, and the waiter provides the bill with the utmost grace—not too insistent, but not too aloof. The men withdraw their credit cards, and four heads hover briefly over the bill. Twenty-five francs for what is essentially mac ‘n’ cheese is only ridiculous when you’re not on the Gold Coast. This is to be expected.
Yet, with the food and wine factored in, the total seems to be mistakenly overpriced. Perhaps gratuity has already been included. No? Perhaps the still water was 15 francs per bottle and the waiter brought out three bottles over the course of lunch…
Yes, yes, it’s true. In Switzerland, where a person could bottle the tap water and outsell Fiji water, we paid 45 francs (Swiss francs to dollars are 1:1) for “Italian” Acqua Panna. Yes, it’s the same water that Costco sells in 12-packs for $10 each.
Froggle’s Fact: “In Europe, restaurants generally charge for still water, but it’s usually a flat table fee of three to five pounds or euros.”
When we confronted the waiter about failing to inform us about the charge for water, he responded, with a placid smile, “It’s the Gold Coast!”
In case you still don’t get it, when asked “still or sparkling?” the answer is always: “tap.”
To counterbalance Mr. “It’s the Gold Coast,” we also had an incredible encounter at a delicious Argentine restaurant.
We were starving after a long day of exploring, and the only appetizing place that was open late happened to be this little Argentine restaurant and juice bar. Bolstered by our credit card hubris, we began ordering pretty extravagantly. I got empanadas (obviously) and freshly squeezed juice and Evan ordered a full breakfast-for-dinner type of meal.
To our dismay, the restaurant only accepted cash, and we didn’t have enough to cover our meal… At this point, Evan thought we were going to be taken hostage to work off our debt. As it turns out, the restaurant owner was an incredibly kind and generous man, who allowed us to return the next day to pay him back.
So, if you ever lose faith in humanity, learn a foreign language, rely on the good will of others, and all will be well.
We had a very brief, very expensive, but still very enjoyable stay in Zurich. See for yourself!
Heffalumpy’s Hat Tips: 5.5/10
Zurich is pretty neutral (ha ha!). The extra .5 is for the friendly Argentine man who fed us and trusted us. The city itself is clean and beautiful, but it’s also pretty boring and expensive. Window-shopping gets pretty old when your only options are Mont Blanc and Cartier, and you can’t even get into the store because you’re too much of a schlub. Evan’s only returned to Zurich for business day trips since.
*One of the four “young” people was Corey. He’s 30. He barely qualified. 🙂