Hotel Beau Rivage Palace Lake View from room 5864

Léman zest - a gourmet guide to Lausanne - Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Where to stay

Astra Hotel Housed largely in a modern building, this centrally located Vevey hotel offers 100 well-appointed air-conditioned rooms and two restaurants – the historic Brasserie La Coupole 1912 and the Winter Garden Le Pavillon. The fitness centre includes a sauna and hammam. Doubles from £131. Place de la Gare 4, Vevey, 00 41 21 925 04 04,

Beau-Rivage Palace One of Switzerland’s finest hotels, the 168-room Beau-Rivage Palace opened in 1861 and sensitively combines its cultural heritage with today’s expectations. Located just a few steps from the lake amid elegant gardens, the hotel’s restaurants include Miyako Lausanne, a Japanese restaurant, Café Beau-Rivage, L’Accademia Italian, and the flagship Anne-Sophie Pic, which holds two Michelin stars. Doubles from £391. Chemin de Beau-Rivage 21, Lausanne, 00 41 21 613 33 33,

Best Western Plus Hôtel Mirabeau Within walking distance of the station, this 1911-built 75-room hotel retains art nouveau flourishes. It has a great French restaurant, and upper-level rooms have lake views. Doubles from £202. Avenue de la Gare 31, Lausanne, 00 41 21 341 42 43,

Château Rochefort The main draw of this comfortable, modern four-star is its incredible wine cellar, which is packed with the excellent red wines of the Rochefort estate. Sample some of them in the popular wine bar or out on the terrace, accompanied by typically Vaudois finger food. Doubles from £106. Place de l’Eglise 1, Allaman, 00 41 79 628 36 83,

Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic Centrally situated and positioned overlook- ing the lake, with a restaurant and bar terrace and a belle époque dining room, the hotel dates from 1870 and combines 19th-century character with modern facilities and design touches. Doubles from £150. Avenue des Alpes 45, Montreux, 00 41 21 966 33 33,

Hôtel Élite This attractive 33-room three-star hotel, close to the railway station, has a well-maintained private garden and far-reaching views from some rooms over the lake. Doubles from £281. Avenue Sainte-Luce 1, Lausanne, 00 41 21 320 23 61,

Hôtel Régina Centrally located in a bustling pedestrian area, this 36-room, family-run hotel is situated close to many of the city’s museums, main shopping area and restaurants. Doubles from £104. Rue Grand-St-Jean 18, Lausanne, 00 41 21 320 24 41,

La Rouvenaz Close to the station and lake, this smart hotel has a terrace overlooking the lake. Its restaurant specialises in Italian dishes and seafood, and there is a gelateria and crêperie, too. Doubles from £100. Rue du Marché, Montreux, 00 41 21 963 27 36,

Royal Savoy This 1909 art nouveau landmark with period stained glass and mosaic decoration on the facade was comprehensively restored and extended in 2016. The 196 rooms and suites set across two buildings have contemporary decor. Classic Swiss specialities feature on a traditional menu with modern touches in the atmospheric Brasserie du Royal restaurant. Interconnected indoor and outdoor pools are located adjacent to the serene wellness and beauty area. Doubles from £212. Avenue d’Ouchy 40, Lausanne, 00 41 21 614 88 88,

Travel Information

The Lake Geneva Region sits on the northern shores of Lac Léman, east of Geneva. Flight time from London to Geneva is 1.5 hours. The train to Lausanne takes around 45 minutes, and Montreux Riviera is a 20-minute drive or train journey from there. Currency is the Swiss franc (CHF). Time is one hour ahead of the UK. In June the average high temperature is 24C.

flies from London Heathrow and City to Geneva.
Swiss Federal Railways runs up to six trains an hour from the station beneath Geneva airport to Lausanne, from £5.95 one-way.

Overnight visitors will receive the Lausanne Card and/or Montreux Riviera Card, giving free use of all public transport and discounts on boat cruises to Evian in France (operated by CGN) and various museums. M2 is the most useful of Lausanne’s tram lines. Each station is announced by the cathedral watchman and accompanied by an apt sound: water for Flon, and tap dancing for Riponne-Maurice Béjart, for example.

Lake Geneva Region Tourist Office, Switzerland Tourism and Switzerland Travel Centre all offer websites that are packed with information and inspiration for planning your trip to the canton.

The Watchers by Jon Steele (Corgi, £8.99) tells the tale of three strangers in Lausanne who must solve the mysteries haunting their town.

Where to eat

Prices are per person for a two-course meal, with a glass of wine, unless otherwise stated.

Auberge de la Gare This welcoming restaurant with rooms combines breathtaking vantage points over Lavaux’s Unesco-listed terraced vineyards, local wines and a gourmet cuisine, with top-notch seasonal dishes prepared and artfully presented by chef Philippe Delessert. From £45. Rue de la Gare 1, Grandvaux, 00 41 21 799 26 86,

Le Berceau des Sens EHL students practise their skills at this modern training restaurant with a smart-casual dress code. Expect the likes of a delicate tomato and avocado mille-feuille, foie gras in a dashi brothand basil and an indulgent lemon tart. From £51. Route de Cojonnex 18, Lausanne, 00 41 21 785 12 21,

Brasserie de Montbenon Restaurant settings don’t come much grander than the Casino de Montbenon, built in 1908 on a garden terrace high above the lake but which never actually became a casino. Now home to the Swiss Film Archive and Cinema of Switzerland, its restaurant fills a large domed space and serves generous portions of expertly prepared classic French and Swiss dishes. From £43. Allée Ernest-Ansermet 3, Lausanne, 00 41 21 320 40 30,

Café du Grütli Unpretentious bistro using seasonal and local produce to deliver comforting Swiss specialities like Papet Vaudois (sausage with leeks and potato) and venison and creamed mushrooms on toast. From £40. Rue de la Mercerie 4, Lausanne, 00 41 21 312 94 93,

Denis Martin As much a culinary experience as a restaurant, Denis Martin offers gastronomy courses in molecular cuisine and up to 20-course tasting menus with an emphasis on Swiss products used in unexpected ways. From £125. Rue du Château 2, Vevey, 00 41 21 921 12 10,

Eat Me Seasonal menus at this eclectic restaurant take customers around the world through small dishes of culinary discovery. There’s a second branch operating out of Geneva. Three small plates from £23. Rue Pépinet 3, Lausanne, 00 41 21 311 76 59,

Le Pointu A café, bar and restaurant rolled into one, there’s nothing ordinary about anything on the menu here. The fish wrap, for example, contains delicately poached cod and salmon, smoked trout, mandarin with marjoram, grated fennel, hazelnuts and green salad. Its brunch offering has been rated as the best in French-speaking Switzerland. From £35. Rue Neuve 2, Lausanne, 00 41 21 351 14 14,

Restaurant Le Chamois Built in 1871, this elegant hotel restaurant, situated between the Col des Mosses and Château-d’Oex, has been in the Mollien family since 1888. Specialties include cheese dishes made with local L’Étivaz cheese, fresh trout, beef fillet and the signature steak tartare. From £55. Route des Mosses 77, Château-d’Oex, 00 41 26 924 62 66,

TOM Café Housed on the top floor of the Olympic Museum, the bright, airy TOM Café boasts one of the best views of any lunch spot in the region and is renowned for its good-value weekend buffet brunch (11am-2.30pm, booking advised). Unlimited brunch from £33; à la carte from £51. Quai d’Ouchy 1, Lausanne, 00 41 21 621 67 08,

Tout un Monde Dine on one of the most beautiful terraces of Lavaux, enjoying spectacular views of the manicured vineyards and towering Alps beyond. The cuisine, the work of a talented brigade working in a modern glass-walled kitchen, allowing those seated inside to watch the action, is exceptional, as is the wine card, which naturally features the very best of wines from this reputed winegrowing region. From £80. Place du Village 7, Grandvaux, 00 41 21 799 14 14,

Food Glossary

Bircher muesli
Created by the Swiss-domiciled nutritionist Dr Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner, oats are soaked overnight in water or juice with countless combinations of fruit, nuts and dairy. Found all over Switzerland
L’omble chevalier du lac
Arctic char from Lac Léman
Crunchy fried cheese balls or sticks
Papet Vaudois
Traditional sausage with potatoes and leek
Tarte à la raisinée
Fruit – pears, apples, grapes or quinces – cooked slowly to produce a thick molasses that is baked in a shortcrust case
Tomme Vaudoise
Thinly sliced tomme – unpasteurised cow’s cheese – baked in wine, garlic and eggs and served with rustic bread. Other notable local cheeses include Sapalet, a soft sheep’s milk, and L’Étivaz, a hard cheese from Vaud similar to Gruyère, which has a smoky tang

Food and Travel Review

There are still some under the delusion that Switzerland isn’t exactly jumping. A long weekend in the capital of the canton of Vaud will lay that to rest. The one fact many know about Lausanne is that it’s home to the International Olympic Committee but, more importantly for epicures, it’s also home to the École Hotelière de Lausanne (EHL). Frequently ranked the world’s best hotel management school, it creates imaginative entrepreneurs who are giving the city’s food scene a new dynamism, joining the many established fine diners that make this one of the world’s most lauded culinary destinations.

‘Bars and restaurants don’t have far to go to source their wines from world-class growers. Idyllically situated on three hills above Lac Léman, Lausanne is surrounded by vineyards and the Lavaux Terraces’

There are plenty of places in Lausanne where you can discover that spirit of creativity, usually among groups of friends who have had a taste of the corporate regime and decided that they want something different out of life, something that enthuses them every day. Having the country’s largest university, Lausanne is fertile ground for new ideas. Take Ta Cave, Switzerland’s first crowd-funded wine bar, which, in just six days, secured the support of 800 ‘co-operators’: in return for £220 they and a guest are each entitled to a glass of wine every time they visit. The atmosphere around the large wooden tables suggests the three friends who founded the business have achieved their goal – to create a place where members of the community connect with one another and with their locality over ham, cheese and wine. You can hear the stories behind the produce, since they know the farmers, but the food is not exclusively Vaudois; the air-dried beef comes from Aargau (‘it’s the best’), and customers often suggest new suppliers.

Bars and restaurants don’t have far to go to source their wines from world-class growers. Idyllically situated on three hills above Lac Léman (referred to as ‘Lake Geneva’ only by non-French speakers), Lausanne is surrounded by vineyards and the famous Lavaux Terraces, built during the 11th century by Benedictine monks. A Unesco World Heritage Site, the 830ha of stone-walled terraces produce three appellations – Lavaux, Calamin and Dézaley AOCs – mostly from the indigenous Chasselas grape but also from about 30 others, including rare varieties ‘Plant Robert’ and Mondeuse Noire. Wine drinking here is, quite literally, unique.

There is no better place to appreciate the terraces, or indeed the beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains, than the tasting area beside Domaine Croix Duplex, below Grandvaux railway station, just east of Lausanne. As I sit looking down the two arms of Lac Léman from the apex of its croissant shape, I wonder if there could be a more dramatic view from any cave. Now run by the third generation of the Vogel family, winemakers since 1929, the domaine cultivates 30ha of vines and produces a wide range of whites and reds. Almost everything is done by hand, reflecting a national passion for doing things in a traditional way.

To the east, the Chablais AOC wine region extends from the end of Lac Léman at Villeneuve to Bex, famous for its extraordinary salt-mine caverns and tunnels. Covering 590ha, the wine region is renowned for its Chasselas whites, reflected in the international competition, the Mondial du Chasselas. This is held annually in the spectacular 15th-century castle at Aigle, which was transformed into a diverse wine museum in the 1970s.

The largest wine area on the lake is La Côte AOC, its 2,000ha strung out over the 45km between Lausanne and Geneva. Dozens of different grape varieties are grown in the gravelly and heavier soils. Besides the ubiquitous Chasselas and the dominant Pinot Noir and Gamay, other grape varieties include the hybrids Gamaret and Garanoir, Doral, Galotta and the fungal-resistant Divico.

Understanding the characteristics of these terroirs and combining this with accumulated knowledge and experience of using different varieties to make great wines is, of course, fundamental to winemaking. In complete contrast is the approach taken by three friends who started commercial production of beers in Lausanne in 2013 and won three top prizes for Swiss beers at the 2017 London Craft Beer Festival. Though they have seven constantly available annuals, the recipes for their aptly named Mayflies are destroyed, however good the outcome. I meet Jeremy Pernet, commercial director and co-founder of La Nébuleuse, at the microbrewery’s premises in an unlikely looking building that was once a printing works and is now home to 20 different start-ups. Listening to him talk with unbridled enthusiasm about their approach sheds light on the way tastes in beer are changing in Switzerland. Craft brewing may still be niche but it is growing rapidly, with drinkers willing to try something unusual; looking for novel styles. And La Nébuleuse provides that in spades. ‘We try new things all the time. Even crazy things – prawns, tomato or lobster bisque, chillies and Armagnac. Some are not that good, but we have to be true to ourselves. People expect creativity and our motto is “why not?” Switzerland is not a boring country – it’s a very cool country.’

Their beers are served in another establishment set up by EHL graduates. Le Pointu occupies the pointy bit of Lausanne’s answer to the Flatiron Building and serves breakfast, soups and salads at lunch, and tartinades and cheese dishes in the evening, with wine and beers on tap. But it’s the weekend brunch menu that really brings the crowds, with Sofia Clara’s beautiful dishes of homemade granola, açaí bowls and lemon-kissed scones all in high demand.

'Tastes in beer are changing in Switzerland. Craft brewing may still be niche but it is growing rapidly and drinkers are looking for novel styles and tastes, and are willing to try something unusual'

Not all eateries are created by Lausannois. Eat Me was set up by Serena Shamash from Mombasa and her partner Mark Brownell, who developed their ‘World on Small Plates’ concept from finding they often preferred starters to mains during their travels. Using authentic ingredients from around the world, they cook dishes made for sharing. ‘Cannelloni in Constantinople’ is candied aubergine and homemade labneh mixed with a medley of spices served with a walnut and sweet red pepper cream and crisp bread chips. ‘On Chesapeake Bay’ is a dish of crab cakes with spices, avocado, mint and coriander topped with a honey-yoghurt sauce.

Equally remarkable is to find a former Mancunian making sublime chocolate in Lausanne. Dan Durig had owned a pie shop in his native city, but his son wanted to be a chocolatier. Their pink-walled shop lit by a Murano glass candelabra that fronts their small factory is a long way from a northern England pie house. The passion that goes into turning the best unadulterated ingredients into exquisite flavours matches Jeremy Pernet’s – as does the enthusiasm for trying unorthodox flavours. Besides bars made principally with the South American Criollo bean, Durig flavours chocolate with mango, peppers and Mexican spices: chilli, coriander, anise and cinnamon.

It’s hard to find a restaurant that doesn’t stress its use of local and seasonal produce, and there are plenty of enticing venues in which to enjoy it. La Ferme Vaudoise, beneath the room where the painter Félix Vallotton was born in 1865, specialises in the canton’s fruit, herbs, boutefas sausage, lake-caught perch, Sapalet cheese, cream, oils and flours, but makes a few exceptions, such as for the notable Nusstorte, a sticky walnut tart from Graubünden.

Embracing and celebrating the whole country is Helvetimart, the brainchild of EHL graduates Guillaume Schleipen and Alexandra Gandoulf, who visited 200 suppliers to choose the 400-odd items sold at their welcoming, deli-style shop. Arranged geographically, each section has its cantonal flag over it, and there are plenty of surprises. From Thurgau comes an alcohol-free sparkling wine made from apples and grapes, and there’s an effervescent cherry wine from Zug and a maize whisky from Glarus.

Lausanne’s principal produce market is held in Place de la Riponne every Wednesday and Saturday. Besides the usual colourful stands of fresh market garden produce are butchers selling the coriander-spiced sausages traditionally used in Papet Vaudois, with a base of leeks and potatoes cooked in wine and beef stock. You can also find antique dealers and stalls of books, records, vintage clothes and bric-a-brac. The open space is dominated by the Palais de Rumine, created by an extraordinary act of generosity to the city. Inheriting great wealth from his Russian parents, who had settled in Lausanne in 1840, Gabriel Rumine bequeathed large sums of money to various Vaudois institutions and for the construction of the palace, which today houses the cantonal museums of archeology and history, geology and zoology as well as the cantonal and university library.

Below Place de la Riponne is the area with the greatest claim to be Lausanne’s historic centre, Place de la Palud, with its colourful Fountain of Justice – one of 300 in the city, all with potable water. Overlooking it is the mid-17th-century town hall where Mozart played two concerts as a ten-year-old boy. From Place de la Riponne, a covered staircase named Escaliers du Marché ascends to the cathedral – Switzerland’s outstanding gothic building – dating back to the 13th century. When Lausanne became a Protestant city, cartloads of Catholic treasures were trundled off to Bern, leaving an austere interior apart from the early 13th-century Rose Window, but its sheer size and soaring arches leave an indelible impression.

Before the cathedral’s free Friday organ concert, I dine at one of those unpretentious Swiss restaurants that has a regular clientele thanks to its tasty, sensibly priced fare. Café du Grütli is a family-run place with an outside area on a quiet street. I order a fillet of Lac Léman féra and smoked trout with mesclun salad, followed by venison sausages in Madeira sauce, and morello cherries in kirsch.

Another way to discover restaurants and artisans that are more off-the-beaten-track is with Taste My Swiss City – a range of self-guided tours designed to help visitors explore Switzerland gastronomically. Curated by those in the know, their bespoke itineraries promise to reveal the most authentic food and drinks the city has to offer. That might mean taking tapas tips from Raphaël, strolling across a fragrant park to find a tucked-away brasserie with lake views and tempting plates made with local produce; ‘BM’ as locals know Brasserie de Montbenon is also known for its imaginative salads and daily changing menu.

Or perhaps finding the funky, much-storied café-restaurant Bleu Lézard, with its chequerboard floor and old-school wooden chairs, to graze on the likes of tartares, duck confit and flaky mushroom pastries. Raphaël suggests the old town to round things off on a sweet note, and an unassuming-looking little cupcake shop, Royaume de Melazic, known locally for its artful, creative bakes.

To walk off lunch, I took the train along the lake to Vevey for one of the country’s finest lakeside paths, with the French Alps rising from the opposite shore, through Clarens and Montreux to Chillon Castle. This was built in the mid-13th century by the man who gave his name to London’s Savoy Hotel, Peter II of Savoy. But its most famous connection with England is the inspiration it provided for Byron’s The Prisoner of Chillon about the captivity of prior François Bonivard in the 1530s. The 28 rooms open to visitors include a banqueting hall and some contain 14th-century murals.

Taking the bus back to Vevey, I had time to visit Alimentarium, a museum that has found numerous interactive and challenging ways to encourage people to think about every aspect of food, cooking and eating – even the way tables are laid and the ritual aspects of eating in different parts of the world. True to the museum’s name, a journey can be taken through the organs of the alimentary canal, with the knowledge gained tested by games.

For a higher view across the lake, a cog railway from Montreux winds through villages and woods before clambering above the tree line to the summit at Rochers-de-Naye. Most people ascend the mountain for the 360-degree panorama, but there is also an alpine garden to stroll around with over a thousand species of plants.

There are more reasons than the food to visit the region’s highest restaurant on canton Vaud’s highest mountain, at Glacier 3000, reached by a cable car from Col du Pillon on the scenic bus route from Les Diablerets station to Gstaad. The summit building’s architect, Mario Botta, gives his name to the restaurant serving classic Swiss dishes, but it’s probably advisable to experience some of the mountain’s other attractions before lunch. Hurtling down the 1km Alpine Coaster might raise more than adrenaline levels, as the toboggan on rails negotiates 520-degree circles at speeds up to 40kph. Equally thrilling is the Peak Walk, a 107m suspension bridge with views of the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. More sedate post-raclette options are a caterpillar snow bus ride or dogsled rides with huskies.

Returning to the lake, no visit would be complete without a voyage on Lac Léman, preferably aboard one of its elegant paddle steamers. The oldest in the fleet of graceful clipper-bowed vessels dates from 1904, and five of the eight are still steam-powered. I take an evening cruise and sit in the upper restaurant area of 1908-built PS Italie and dine as the sun slowly descends, creating sudden bursts of intensely bright fire as it catches the windows of hillside buildings. The scale of the terraced vineyards can be fully appreciated only from the lake, hugging the contours with no patch of soil wasted. The food on board is of a quality to match the immaculate ship: fennel salad marinated in citrus juice with smoked duck breast, followed by sea trout roasted in olive oil with sweet pepper and olive confit, and a triple-chocolate croustillant.

Seeing The Olympic Museum from the water emphasises its lovely setting overlooking the lake, and it’s no wonder that so many flock to its terraced café for the sumptuous Sunday brunch. I am astonished at the array of dishes, from muesli to cold appetisers to meat and fish dishes to irresistible desserts, such as îles flottantes.

Even for those who have little interest in sport, The Olympic Museum is packed with intriguing information, covering every conceivable aspect of the Games, from their birth around 776 BC through their revival by Baron de Coubertin to today’s quest for sustainable legacies. It was Coubertin who in 1915 chose Lausanne as the permanent administrative and archival centre of Olympism, as it was known, during the turmoil of the First World War. The Youth Olympic Games – held at Lausanne University and at nearby mountain locations this January – have only added to the sense of the city’s development and vibrancy, and the locals are certainly buying in to this irrepressible spirit of youthful enthusiasm.

Words by Anthony Lambert. Photography by Gary Latham. They travelled to Switzerland courtesy of Lake Geneva Region Tourist Office and SWISS.,

This feature was taken from the June/July 2020 issue of Food and Travel.

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