The Swiss House: Everything you wanted to know about fondue . . . but were afraid to ask

The Swiss have landed at Granville Island . . . and they've brought plenty of cheese.

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk through the doors of the House of Switzerland on Granville Island is the smell.  Wafting by in thick, pungent waves, cheese is in the air.

“We shipped in 1.7 tons of cheese from Switzerland,” Xenia Schlegel, who handles communications, explained to me this afternoon.  “And now we have to order more.  It’s all been eaten up.”

The popular waterfront restaurant Bridges has been converted into the House of Switzerland.

All that cheese has gone into the wildly popular fondue, one of many Swiss-themed menu options at the house.   Today, I waited on line for about a half-hour to get a glimpse inside.  The House of Switzerland has colonized Bridges, a popular Vancouver restaurant famous for its views of False Creek.  Inside, pictures of the Alps adorn the walls and the iconic Swiss cross is everywhere.  On the bottom floor, one room has been turned into a cozy sports pub, with a roaring fire in one corner and plenty of large screen TVs for taking in Swiss Olympic action.  The other room is a casual restaurant, serving up not just cheese fondue ($44 for two people), but raclette cheese ($12), Swiss sausages ($12), chocolate fondue ($20 for two people) and other hearty dishes.

The view from the House of Switzerland is worth the price of admission (free!).

Upstairs is the formal dining room, with breathtaking views of the waterfront and Vancouver skyline and a more sophisticated menu filled with other Swiss classics like venison medallions with spatzle and red cabbage ($38).  Unlike many of the country houses, this portion of the House of Switzerland accepts reservations and would make for a very memorable Olympic evening.  While I didn’t stay to eat, I did catch a glimpse of a news anchor delivering an Olympic update live from the Swiss broadcasting centre, located just off the restaurant on an open-air patio.

The Swiss broadcasting centre is located right outside the restaurant at the House of Switzerland.

But if you don’t want to spring for the pricey spatzle or fondue, there are plenty of freebie giveaways, too.  Tomorrow is Swiss Chocolate Tradition Day, when you can come and sample some freshly made pralines from 2 p.m.-5 p.m.   And every Tuesday is free raclette day.  Samples of the popular cheese are available outside the house from 2 p.m.-4 p.m.

Remy Scalza –

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