Self-service dine-in or take-out at Tibits in the former Buffet de la Gare de Lausanne, one of the city’s 44 designated historical café-restaurants.
WHEN it comes to eating vegetarian I’m no aficionada. But I recognise fresh ingredients, balanced and lively flavours, enjoyable textures, inviting aromas, and the pull of pleasing colours on the eye and appetite.
Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that I’ve always loved my veg. That with age a plant-based diet goes easier on my digestion. And most of all, that the quantity and quality of vegetarian products and recipes have gone from blah to brilliant since I first heard the word “tofu” many years ago.
The same could be said for vegetarian restaurants. If I’m now willing to go out of my way to eat at a particular vegetarian restaurant because I prefer their dishes to any other – vegetarian or not, then to me, things have come a long way.
And for a plate of roasted, spiced celeriac; thyme-and-oregano potatoes; beets with smoked salt, fresh rosemary and sesame seeds; and a dollop of black chick-pea hummus, I am very willing to go to Tibits, located in Lausanne’s main railway station.
Fresh, homemade every day
As luck has it, I arrive to speak with Tibits Lausanne manager/adjunct chef Alex Wende on the very day the Autumn menu has replaced the Summer version and those roasted beats, celeriac and potatoes have newly appeared under the buffet table’s hot lamps.
“Four times a year the menu changes according to season with small variations happening over the course of the year,” Wende tells me. “The salads and hot meals are made here (on site) and to the maximum possible we use locally available vegetables.”
At present, there are more than 40 hot and cold dishes prepared daily with about 70 per cent vegan content. Going forward, the goal is to make that 100 per cent, Wende says.
The dishes ring both of the traditional and the new and inventive. In the cold salad bar, you have “classic” salads like potato, dried green bean, and Mediterranean black beluga lentil as well as newbies like Chirashi sushi, Kimchi with spring onion, and Novo Salad (scrambled tofu with Kala Namak salt).
Open-minded approach to recipes
Under the heat lamps I found curried dhal (delicious); a “quiche” made with potatoes and onions (tasty); an inviting sauté of picante al-dente vegetables, noodles and slices of Okara (soy pulp — a little drab and chewy for my taste); sour-cream stuffed jalapeño peppers; power polenta made with gluten-free Bramata corn flour and colza seeds; chestnut and lentil pot-au-feu; and Indian-spiced rissoles (dough pockets – I’d have liked a lighter pastry) filled with fresh, flavourful peas and peppers to be eaten with one of numerous Tibits chutneys.
Of the menu items I tried, the vegetables were consistently fresh, tasty, well- but not overly-spiced nor over-cooked. And when nearing empty, the serving trays were quickly replenished.
Inventiveness with a dash of humour
A Tibits development team creates many of the restaurant chain’s original recipes, but with a handy resource of 500 employees comprised of some 70 nationalities, management also encourage staff to come forward with their suggestions, Wendt says. It also considers the ecological impact of ingredients when menu planning.
“We recently replaced our avocado guacamole with “edamole” made of edamame and petit pois,” Wende says, in consideration of the amount of water used and the transport involved in obtaining avocados.
Inventiveness clearly plays a role in Tibits success. And a sense of humour, too. Consider their so-called “traditional dish revisited” of Papet Vaudois façon Tibits that replaces the fatty sausage in this classic Vaudois leek-and-potato-based stew with vegan “sausage”.
It’s a clever nod to the original Papet Vaudois served by the Buffet de la Gare de Lausanne, which closed in 2016, exactly 100 years after its inception. At the time, loyal patrons were skeptical that of all things a vegetarian restaurant could replace their beloved Buffet in their hearts — and stomachs.
Yet Wende reports that in spite of a predictable drop in patronage during the pandemic, Tibits attracts a devoted and diverse clientele, including many of the former Buffet’s die-hard patrons.
“We have a mix of everything, from the regulars who come in every day, to tourists and locals leaving or returning from holidays,” he says. From what I can tell, he’s calling it correctly.
Not too far from us a small group of senior citizens organise a social event over coffee; a young man enjoys a beer with his lunch; and a woman drinks her afternoon cappuccino while eating some vegan chocolate mousse (full marks for yumminess) and reading a book.
Historic Lausanne café-restaurant
Holding a strategic location directly off Track 1 of Lausanne’s main railway station certainly helps usher in a steady stream of diners throughout the day and evening, when the bar serves wine and cocktails.
An impressive decor befitting its official designation as one of Lausanne’s 44 historic restaurant-bars* also makes Tibits — in addition to its environmentally, animal, and human friendly dishes — a restaurant that’s well worth going out of your way for.
Buffet, Bar, Take-away, Catering
11, Place de la Gare
Mon – Thurs 7h00–22h30
Sun 9h00–23h00 (brunch
Buffet by weight or for CHF55.– by discretion with unlimited access and a drink of your choice (only in the evening and during brunch)
For groups larger than 12 reserve at: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Café et restaurants historiques de Lausanne: 192 color pages/CHF27.-
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