The SWISS temporary lounge alternatives in Zurich
The SWISS lounges for the A/B Gates are currently under renovation until July 2018, so they offer a few alternatives:
One of them is the use of SWISS lounges in D or E Gate areas. Both options requires passing through passport control, though.
Another is the use of the Aspire Lounge, which is also a Priority Pass lounge.
I tried this one, and while it was a bit small and plain-looking, it wasn't too bad.
The food for breakfast, including some pre-made rolls, bread, cheese, and spreads, wasn't actually too far off from the previous offering in the SWISS Senator Lounge. Hopefully with the renovation, the food approaches the level of the E Gate lounge (review here)!
Another alternative is a "Coffee-to-fly voucher," which you can redeem at a few airport bars and take-out stands. You can get this voucher from the attendant manning a mobile cart at the entrance to where the lounge used to be.
They say you can get one drink and one snack, but they don't really specify what is available at which outlet. Since I passed through Zurich twice, I was able to do some investigation!
At the NZZ Bar, the staff told me, "SWISS have already chosen the sandwiches for you, you have a choice of salami, gruyere, or meat loaf." That is, the appetizing-looking sandwich with the braided pretzel bread that I was eyeing was off limits.
I chose the salami sandwich, which came with some sliced egg, and bottle of water. I really liked the sandwich, especially the bread which was crusty, chewy, and fluffy all at the same time.
On my way back, the SWISS attendant (who I think was American) very kindly asked me if I knew how the voucher worked, and asked me where I redeemed it last time when I told her I had already used it once. She encouraged me to check out the other bars, like the Walter Bar in the central area right under the lounge entrance.
I first went back to NZZ to see if they had anything different in the afternoon, besides the sandwiches and a muesli which I saw a guy take for breakfast. They just had the exact same sandwiches salami and gruyere and meatloaf sandwiches, so I checked out the candy bars. While looking at them, a staff proactively came up to me and told me that they were off limits, seeing that I had the voucher in hand! That was a bit surprising, since at 3 CHF they cost less than the 4.50-6.50 CHF sandwiches. I had assumed that "1 snack" would encompass a candy bar.
I also went to the Beer Bar at the B gates, and they had the exact same salami and gruyere sandwiches! They also had a pretzel on offer.
Something else that is not allowed is to choose 2 waters instead of 1 water and 1 sandwich, even though again, the cost of the water at 5 CHF was less than the 6.50 salami or gruyere sandwiches. The guy at the Beer Bar told me (laughingly, in a nice way), "If you don't want the sandwich, we don't care!" So I guess SWISS really wants you to have one of those sandwiches or a pretzel.
I then headed back to the central area to check out the bars there. The Walter Bar staff told me that I could have a pretzel or fruit. She also explained that Sports Bar and Center Bar would also just have pretzels, while one of them might also have fruit. I went to Center Bar and they just had the pretzel, and the guy there told me that he would recommend going to NZZ because they had sandwiches!
I started to get the sense that all of the employees were quite familiar with the offerings at the other outlets, and also familiar with what was included in the SWISS lounge voucher! And given that the sandwiches and pretzels all kind of looked the same, maybe they were all provisioned from the same place, too.
Given that I really was not in the mood for sandwich or pretzel, I went back to Walter Bar to ask for fruit.
Now, I thought that I would just be handed an orange, since that's what I saw on the bar, but the staff excitedly told me, "We have fruit salad! Yeah!" That would indeed be better than an orange that was probably imported from the country I was flying back to in a few minutes, Spain. He didn't have any to-go containers for the fruit salad (which seemed odd to me, for an airport restaurant), but he was creative and gave the cook a to-go insulated coffee cup, which was then filled up with a fruit salad.
I could kind of tell by the translucency that the fruit salad was perhaps sitting around for a while (it was evening then, after all), but the mix of pineapple, kiwi, and grapefruit was extremely filling and super refreshing. I really do get a hankering for fresh fruit after a lot of travel!
I actually really liked the option of Coffee-to-fly, because with a short connection, you can actually take the food and drink with you, something you usually can't with lounge food. Still, I look forward to the new SWISS A/B Gate Lounges opening this summer!