It’s pretty wonderful when a San Francisco classic can transition into new hands, and get the right kind of careful update. This is how things are playing out for the MATTERHORN, a Swiss fondue restaurant that was holding it down on Van Ness for over 25 years. Original owners Brigitte and Andrew Thorpe have passed the fondue fork to another couple, Natalie and Jason Horwath, who are big lovers of Switzerland—they lived there for a while, and Natalie staged at a couple bakeries there, which is why the new name is now MATTERHORN RESTAURANT AND BAKERY.
They definitely fell in love with fondue while they lived there, and are lovingly going to showcase it in three kinds at the restaurant: Fondue Moitié-Moitié (traditional fondue made with two cheeses from Switzerland: 12-month aged Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois); Fondue Emmental (a non-traditional fondue made with three cheeses from Switzerland: 18-month aged Emmental, L’Etivaz, and Vacherin Fribourgeois); and Meat Fondue (spice-rubbed beef tenderloin cooked at the table in a beef and red wine stock, served with dipping sauces, pickled vegetables, and rösti potatoes). I got a whiff of that bubbling stock and let me tell you, it’s the stuff. The first two fondues will be served with housemade (and naturally leavened) bread, pickled vegetables, and potatoes. I got a peek at their walk-in, and was blown away with the huge 200-pound wheels of Emmental and Gruyère they had imported. Natalie is so committed to their sourcing, it’s admirable and exciting.
There will also be serving three kinds of melted-to-order raclette (Swiss, French, or American), served with pickled vegetables and potatoes. (You’ve seen raclette melty magic before, yes?) Like the fondue, you can even order a single portion! (I can easily see swinging by the bar on a rainy night for a glass of wine and a raclette, oh yes.) There will be American and European beers (on tap and in bottle), and the wine list leans Old World, with careful consideration being paid to what will pair best with all the cheesy dishes.
The menu also features a charcuterie or Swiss cheese board (served with housemade pretzels), Swiss potato rösti (a heavenly dish of grated and skillet-fried potatoes, with your choice of three toppings, like bacon, ham, egg, Chällerhocker cheese, roasted mushrooms, or tomato); veal Zürich-style with housemade spätzle and vegetables; and since they have a child, there’s also a thoughtful kid’s menu. Desserts will include some pastries and treats from the bakery. They are making everything by hand and with such attention here.
The space looks great—there’s all that original knotty pine, and plenty of booths and cozy tables with custom pillows made from Swiss Army blankets. They painted the space, installed a new chandelier of antlers, and lugged back drapes from Switzerland, and there’s even a real Swiss gondola you can reserve to dine in (it will have a set menu). They worked with a Swiss artist on Swiss decoupage in the entryway, and wait until you see the cow that is going to greet you at the entrance. And then there’s the entire Rhaetian Railway train scene installed outside the back of the restaurant, which you can see through the windows. Everyone’s inner child will be awakened, it’s marvelous. Other fun touches include themed bathrooms (one pays homage to Freddie Mercury at Montreux, complete with a purple glitter floor), mugs that they brought back from the Montreux Christmas market, cuckoo clocks, and much more. It all looks so great.
They’re going to be hosting a few friends and family/test dinners September 11th-13th and the 17th-21st. Go ahead and direct message them on Instagram (@matterhornsf), tell them you saw this post in tablehopper, and they’ll send you a link to tickets (it will be an affordable price). They plan to open Tuesday September 24th. Start planning your holiday gathering here! Hours will be Tue-Sat 5:30pm-10pm. 2323 Van Ness Ave. at Vallejo.
The cozy interior of Matterhorn is full of booths and knotty pine. Photo: © tablehopper.com.