Filo parcels with herby feta and ratatouille, sandwiches with strips of steak, chimichurri and BBQ sauce or a sweet banana split. The menu is nothing if not varied at the Chiffon. And it’s a lot more playful than you might expect from somewhere that calls itself a Café Bar. The venue at Hirschengraben 36 opened its doors in October 2020. “Although the project is actually a bit older than that – we first had the idea back in 2016,” explains Morris Philipp Welti, managing director and co-founder of the Chiffon Bar.
‘Then it dragged on forever because the place is a listed building.’
‘The original concept wasn’t ours. Then it dragged on forever because the place is a listed building. The negotiations were tedious, we had to submit dozens of applications for verification,’ says Morris. Somewhere along the line, the original operator jumped ship. Morris and his business partner Christoph Föry, who run the Plüsch Café Bar in Wiedikon together, stepped in. ‘These days, I spend most of my time looking after Chiffon, while Christoph takes care of Plüsch,’ explains Morris.
‘We try to achieve a daring yet enjoyable balancing act.’
It’s not immediately clear from the first glance at the Chiffon's menu exactly what to expect, here in the Florhof area near the historic Neumarkttor. Exotic cocktails are served alongside apple cake with vanilla sauce, chai latte with ribeye steak and herb butter, dozens of different beers to accompany vegan bruschetta. ‘We’re a mixture of bar, café and restaurant. We try to achieve a daring yet enjoyable balancing act,’ explains Morris. ‘And the concept has worked very well so far.’
This balancing act is clear from more than just the menu. Above all, you can feel it as a Chiffon customer if you simply look around you. From the Hirschengraben, you enter a slightly raised terrace, shaded by a few trees with plenty of spaces for colourful tables to enjoy a coffee. You can sit here and watch the world go by out on the street, as you would from a beer garden, taking your time over a coffee, a beer or a slice of cake. However, step inside Chiffon and your eye will immediately be drawn to the ancient ceiling with heavy wooden beams and imposing masonry, while a well-stocked and modern cocktail bar nestles at the back. ‘This is where there used to be stables and space to load and unload silk. The building was once a silk factory, long ago. That’s why we called it Chiffon, which means silk in French,’ says Morris.
Wander a little further and on the other side of the building, you step into a peaceful, verdant courtyard. Round cobblestones, green shrubs, hedges and trees, dotted with mossy urns. ‘This is where you can relax and enjoy your dinner, with a nice glass of wine. Surrounded by greenery, right in the middle of the city,’ says Morris. The managing director explains that the cuisine is intended to be simple and seasonal. Head chef Rico Büttner, who previously cooked at Rosi, has brought in a few German influences from his home country. ‘Above all though, we try to cook regional dishes. You won’t find a great curry here, but we can promise honest Swiss cuisine with a modern twist,’ says Morris.
Hidden behind a white wooden door in the courtyard of the Café Chiffon awaits a further highlight of this venue.
Hidden behind a white wooden door in the courtyard of the Café Chiffon awaits a further highlight of this venue. A former cellar has been transformed into a location for culinary events and parties. ‘We’ve tried to retain the olde worlde charm here too.’
Morris tells us that the road to this point has been very arduous, with hundreds of expert reports reviewed and dozens of applications submitted. Today though, he is hugely pleased with what they have made of the former silk factory. ‘Here in the middle of the city, we have created somewhere that is open to everyone. From students who grab a sandwich for lunch, to a couple who come to enjoy a several-course evening meal, to the night owls who start the night with a few glasses of wine or a cocktail at Chiffon before heading out into Zürich’s nightlife.’