Switzerland. Famous for its beauty, its food, particularly cheese, and its chocolate. The Swiss Alps cannot be brought to a new continent, but Swiss food and chocolate certainly can. Thankfully, El Gouna has its own Swiss restaurant serving traditional food, in a traditional way, in a traditional setting. The setting of a restaurant is the naturally the most important part. Its the first impression. And first impressions matter. A restaurant has to invite you in without a single word being spoken and Chuchichäschtli achieves that with ease. Anybody who walks past is always looking into the restaurant – mostly probably with the desire to be in a different world for a few hours, enjoying good food.
There is always a very warm, almost homely glow to Chuchichäschtli with its low lights and traditional tablecloths. One of the most endearing decorations are the cheesegrater lampstands which rest on each table and hang from the ceiling. But to add to the ambience are cowbells, a Kitchen Shelf and paintings of Alpine cottages. Why is the Kitchen Shelf important? Well, Chuchichäschtli, translated into English is “Kitchen Shelf”. But as Chuchichäschtli is difficult to pronounce, most English speakers simply use the restaurant’s tagline – Swiss House.
Where did it all begin?
Business partners, Tony and Ivan, are proudly Swiss. They both come from a strong hospitality background and are very experienced in both the restaurant and hotel industries. Ivan is a trained chef and they have run several businesses together. But after a holiday to El Gouna, they immediately started making plans to close up business and relocate to El Gouna. And so they did. Having arrived in 2011 and continuing business in other areas they had the idea to open Chuchichäschtli in 2015 and they have never looked back. In the early days, Ivan took on the duties of a chef while Tony was in the front with the customers. With this sort of partnership, Chuchichäschtli was bound for success. And now, with 42 seats, they full almost every night.
Not only is the client base large, but its expanding with Tony and Ivan are moving quickly to keep up with the demand. They’ve had to buy the flat next door in order to extend the kitchen, the refrigerated room and storage. And it looks like its not going to be enough. Business is booming, and it is well deserved.
There is never any doubt as to the authenticity of food. Somehow, without being able to pinpoint the difference, homegrown food is a cut above the rest. Everything at Chuchichäschtli is brought in directly from Switzerland and you can almost feel the difference, let alone taste the difference.
We started off with a glass of Hugo (140 LE) and a glass of Aperol Spritz (150 LE). These Prosseco based cocktails were a welcome refreshment after the heat of the day and seemed to taste better as the glass got emptier.
For starters, we adhered to the recommendations and chose the garlic bread (70 LE) and The Traditional Plate (175 LE). One might be tempted to think that garlic bread is a simple starter but it was, without doubt, the best garlic bread we’ve ever tasted. The Traditional Plate is a platter with dried beef, ham, Swiss sausage and cheese and served with steaming homemade bread. Rich in texture and pure in flavour these starters left us both satisfied, yet keen to sample the main courses.
By far the most popular dish is the Hot Stone – a seared beef fillet is served on a hot stone which allows you to cook the meat to your exact preference. The fillet comes in 3 sizes: 200g (300 LE), 300g (400LE) and 400g (500LE). The meat was excellent, to say the least. Tender and rich, the flavours were a blend of true bliss. It was a sad moment to eat the last mouthful of beef as we just wanted it not to end. It must be noted that all these dishes are very much made for sharing. This sharing creates a more intimate and homely atmosphere and allows all members to taste the various foods.
Also as a main, we had the famous Swiss Cheese fondue (420 LE). Melted cheese was served in a traditional fondue bowl and kept warm on an electric hot plate. The oven fresh bread was cut into bite-size pieces for easy dipping. Again, the cheese was absolutely outstanding and the bowl was cleaned of every last bit of cheese before it was taken away.
These were all enjoyed with a glass of red wine and white wine (105 LE each) both chilled to combat the heat.
The taste sensation continued with desert. We aimed to go with the more Swiss options. The Swiss Chocolate Fondue (180 LE) is a Toblerone fondue served with marshmallows, cake and fruits. The chocolate is offered in milk, dark or white chocolate. Opting for the white chocolate, we were not disappointed. Somehow, banana in melted white chocolate sent my tastebuds into overdrive and is now a firm favourite. We also sampled the Apple Beignets (100LE) which were also truly delicious. Deep fried apple slices coated in cinnamon served with homemade vanilla sauce were a firm competitor to the chocolate fondue.
More than satisfied with food, we finished off the meal with a Cappuccino while continuing to enjoy the Swiss setting. The atmosphere is so homely and comfortable, we didn’t realise until closing time, midnight, that 4 hours had passed.
Something does need to be said for the staff. We found them very friendly, witty and professional. They offered a perfect balance of making sure we were happy but leaving us to enjoy our meal. And enjoy it we did. Waiter, Magdy, made sure we were doing everything correctly as traditional food often requires traditional ways of eating.
All in all, it was a truly pleasant evening at Chuchichäschtli with no criticisms whatsoever. The number of patrons they serve on a daily basis is true testament to their professionalism and high standard.