20 Jan Swiss not to miss
I’d never really considered Geneva for a leisure break before – especially one that didn’t include skis – but after spending two nights at the gorgeous La Reserve Geneve I’d recommend it to anyone for a super-stylish city break in a heartbeat.
Tucked away in beautifully landscaped grounds just minutes from the city, the hotel boasts one of the fastest and easiest transfers I have ever experienced. And, of course, being Switzerland, it naturally ran like clockwork ensuring we arrived in perfect time for lunch.
Like its sister hotels in Paris and Ramatuelle, near St Tropez, the Geneva property has its own distinctive scent which greets you the moment you step into the reception, thanks to the lovely lit candles dotted decoratively around. The dark wood and cosy crimson interiors are brilliantly balanced by huge glass windows throughout the hotel, inviting the crisp, autumn sunshine and bright blue skies in. The juxtaposition creates at once a very open, yet intimate, atmosphere and I immediately felt at home.
With its giant display case of exotic butterflies in the lobby area, and magnificent wildlife portraits adorning walls throughout the property, the hotel is reminiscent of a grand African game lodge. I don’t think I would have batted an eyelid if a herd of elephants had lumbered their way slowly past the window! Touches of African influence can also be seen in the large, super-comfortable bedrooms that boast just about every modern convenience you can imagine and French doors out on to your own terrace.
The bed was a dream and the super-size flat screen TV made the thought of a night in with a Michelin-starred takeaway and a glass of the house ‘Reybier’ Champagne more than tempting. But who wants a takeaway when you can dine at Switzerland’s first-ever Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant without even having to venture outside the hotel? Yes, the already lauded Tse Fung on the lower ground floor of La Reserve, led by celebrated chef Frank Xu, has recently been awarded a very well deserved Michelin star. Moving continents from Africa to Asia, the restaurant’s decadent surroundings, inspired by a 1930’s Shanghai grand palace hotel, provided the perfect setting for an unforgettable gourmet feast that delivered melt-in-the mouth Cantonese classics like dim sum, with a new and exciting twist. It does come with a warning, however…it will ruin your appetite for the usual Friday night take away forever!
Tse Fung is one of five dining options at the hotel and they are all worth a visit. The Loti, in particular, is another really exciting restaurant with a very distinctive menu and a relaxed atmosphere. Award-winning French chef Virginie Basselot is doing it for the girls with stunning combinations of the best locally sourced produce delivering powerful and subtle flavours in equal measure, but always in perfect harmony.
Before dinner, we enjoyed impressive early evening cocktails in the sexy bar that undergoes a complete transformation from its lakeside lounge daytime persona. As well as the hotel guests, the bar attracts a young, sophisticated, local crowd who make the most of the plush, laid back surroundings – and the lengthy cocktail menu! After all that great food and wine – including an afternoon’s chocolate tasting with Swiss chocolatier extraordinaire Philippe Pascoet at his nearby village shop – a visit to the hotel’s award-winning spa was definitely on the cards for the following day.
The Nescens Spa at La Reserve Geneve is a destination in its own right. Elegant, contemporary interiors and soft, gold-hued lighting immediately plunge you into a world of essential oil aromas and pure tranquillity. Just thinking about it now slows my breath and helps my shoulders relax back to where they should be. No mean feat as I crouch over my mac on a wet winter afternoon in Hertfordshire!
A formidable menu of treatments that cover all areas of wellbeing and anti-ageing are offered using a combination of Nescens, La Prairie, specialised cosmecutical brands and a crack team of seriously qualified medical practitioners to administer them all. There’s a whole brochure of treatments dedicated purely to creating lovely legs – smooth, shapely and cellulite free – and don’t even get me started on the fabulous, age-defying facials. Really, just fabulous. There is also a gym, pool, steam room, sauna and a choice of studio classes throughout the day. I did a really good body balance class before breakfast with a very patient American teacher who managed to make it as fun as it was challenging.
The spa is also home to another of the hotel’s dining venues, the Café Lauren. Serene, clean and deliciously guilt-free (well almost, we did enjoy a glass of crisp white wine with our healthy lunch), the café boasts a lighter menu that certainly doesn’t skimp on taste or variety. Again, the spa and its restaurant attracts a laid back Genevan crowd who use the facilities as a local country health club and only add to the chic, yet welcoming vibe that greets every hotel guest.
There is so much more to tell you about La Reserve Geneve – the magical winter lodge and skating rink in winter; the lakeside outdoor dining and great family activities in the summer; the extremely stylish water taxi that provides a free shuttle across the lake to the city centre; the BEST service you will probably ever experience. I could go on, but I really think it’s time you went and checked it out for yourself.