The Fischerstube restaurant in Weesen is famous for its exquisite fish dishes. Hanni and Dieter Frese have been running the establishment for 46 years and have an outstanding reputation among fine diners. Their fish soup with rouille and fish gratin are legendary. After a devastating mudslide 12 years ago, the Freses rebuilt the restaurant and continued its success.
In Weesen, the sun is shining and the snow-capped mountain peaks are reflected in the Walensee lake. Just a few steps away from the picturesque bank lies the Fischerstube restaurant. Hanni and Dieter Frese have been welcoming guests to the pretty house with its listed facade for 46 years. The venue is renowned far and wide for its sophisticated and consistently high-quality fish cuisine. The latest GaultMillau Guide praises the Fischerstube as “one of the best fish restaurants between Zollikon and Chur”, awarding it 14 points. In the restaurant, the separate parlour and the bistro, there is space for roughly 80 guests. What’s more, a cosy smoking lounge in the cellar vault provides a great opportunity to while away the evening in style with a fine cigar.
The secret to fish cuisine
Dieter Frese procures sea fish such as cod or sea bass and seafood from his supplier Bianchi. He has known the family for four generations, a relationship that has stood the test of time. The chef de cuisine maintains a similarly close and convivial relationship with Marina Züger, a fisherwoman who supplies him with fish from the Obersee lake. “I attach a great deal of importance to local fish. It’s wonderful produce, as well as being organic and fresh,” says Dieter Frese. But then nature does have its mood swings. There are days where the fisherwoman catches countless fish in the nets, but then there are those poor days where the return is less than minimal and where it is hardly worth for her to sail out. In spite of these fluctuations, there is no imported freshwater fish on the menu at the Fischerstube. “If there’s no perch or whitefish from the Obersee, then there’s none at all.” One particularly special delicacy is fried pike, incidentally the chef’s favourite fish. The fish is thinly sliced to form bite-sized cubes, which are then coated in delicate beer batter and fried to perfection in hot oil. The delicacies are boneless with the exception of a small bone the size of a pinhead in the middle. The other bones dissolve in the hot oil.
“If there’s no perch or whitefish from the Obersee, then there’s none at all.”
Another secret of this delicate dish lies in its freshness. “Pike must be fried within 12 hours of being caught, otherwise the beer batter does not attach to the fish,” explains Dieter Frese. A lot of experience, patience and skill are important prerequisites too.
Every beginning is difficult
If you were to look at the successful restaurateur, chef de cuisine, husband, father of two daughters and grandfather to three grandchildren today, you would not think that the start of his story had been anything but easy. Dieter Frese was born in Lübeck in 1944. He lost his father at 13, and then his mother at 16. Since the restaurant trade offered the young man room and board, he opted for culinary training, which he completed at the Schabbelhaus restaurant, the birthplace of author Thomas Mann. At that time, the venue was one of the best restaurants between Hamburg and Kiel. After his apprenticeship, Frese moved to Zurich, where he worked as a commis chef at the Dolder Grand. Later, he was hired as a young chef on a freight ship. Back in Switzerland, his positions included a job at the Mövenpick restaurant. In 1967, he met his wife, Hanni, while working on the Au Peninsula. After Dieter Frese had graduated from the Lucerne Business and Hotel Management School, the young couple decided to start out on their own. “Ideally, we would have liked to return to Zurich, but our budget did not stretch to that,” recounts Frese. Instead, they came to Weesen and bought the Fischerstube restaurant. The start of their new business in the country proved to be difficult. As new arrivals, Hanni and Dieter Frese were not exactly welcomed with open arms. It did not help that the couple appeared in Weesen with a concept too exotic for rural St. Gallen, offering gastronomy that nobody here understood. The first year was a financial disaster. “There were days where we didn’t have one single guest,” remembers Dieter Frese. But then the tide turned. The upper class and politicians from Glarus discovered the sophisticated restaurant. Soon, word got around that a young chef was doing something special here and gradually Hanni and Dieter Frese were able to gain a foothold and establish a good reputation. The Fischerstube restaurant is still visited by politicians, entrepreneurs and famous professional athletes. The excellent cuisine is popular, and the returning clientele value the warm hospitality offered by the couple. “Gastronomy is a rigorous, but wonderful and rewarding profession,” says Hanni Frese.
“Gastronomy is a rigorous, but wonderful and rewarding profession.”
A new beginning after the mudslide
In 2005, the Fischerstube suffered major misfortune. In August, there was a mudslide that destroyed the restaurant and the well-stocked wine cellar. An extensive Bordeaux collection fell victim to the disaster and could not be salvaged. Prior to the mudslide, there had been constant rain for three days beforehand. The village stream, which flows directly below the Fischerstube restaurant, was carrying a lot of water. Nevertheless, nobody could have guessed what would happen overnight. Hanni and Dieter Frese pricked up their ears when the first stones rolled through the river bed and shook the house, but they never imagined a disaster of this magnitude. That evening, they were still attending to their guests. But when the fire brigade took up position at the restaurant, the hosts sent their customers home as a matter of precaution. It was not long before they were given an order to evacuate. Hanni and Dieter Frese fled to their holiday home in Amden and escaped the mudslide.
“Simply accepting a blow of fate is not my style. I was convinced that we’d manage it again – and I was proven right.”
The next morning, they were met with a sad sight: the restaurant was filled with mud and debris almost two metres high, and the furniture was destroyed. The initial clearing up took roughly five days; the subsequent renovations two years. “When something like that happens, you reach your limits without noticing it,” says Dieter Frese. Back then, his wife thought about taking early retirement, but he wanted to continue at all costs. “Simply accepting a blow of fate is not my style. I was convinced that we’d manage it again – and I was proven right.”