Opposite the hotel, passengers boarded large paddleboats taking them to the Swiss and French cities lining Lake Geneva--Lausanne, Nyon, Vevey, Montreux and the wine country on the Swiss side and the French towns of Evian and Le Bouveret.
The qualities of a 5-Star hotel are defined in many ways, not the least of which are the quality of the spa, the hotel’s fine dining restaurants, the property’s attention to details and the location.
The Beau-Rivage Geneve is a short walk to the old town and Rue du Rhône, a street dedicated to upscale shopping. Jahan, Piaget, Harry Winston, Bulgari, Christian Louboutin, Breguet and many of the world’s best brands are represented in an elegant setting. Days can be spent shopping and exploring Geneva’s museums, music venues and historic public buildings.
Switzerland’s second largest city also has a wealth of natural settings, places to enjoy a quiet afternoon or a leisurely walk. The Beau-Rivage Geneve is perfectly located to take advantage of both worlds.
Just north of the hotel, a narrow jetty (Jetée des Pâquis) extends half way across the lake to a whitewashed lighthouse marking the entrance to the small craft harbor. The morning after I arrived, the day was sunny with a cool breeze coming off the lake. I wanted a relaxing place to begin the day. Walking out of the hotel, I saw the jetty.
Along the north side of the jetty, half a dozen swans sunbathed on the rocky beach. A father chased after his toddler who in turn was chasing squirrels that retreated to a large tree shading a couple on a park bench. In the blue water, a swim school instructor watched over schoolgirls as they practiced synchronized drills. An outdoor restaurant with a walk-up counter served snacks, wine, tea and coffee to guests who sat at outdoor tables enjoying the sun, talking with friends and reading books.
I bought a cup of coffee and settled into a chair with a view of the lake, happily reading a novel and watching two men feed bits of bread to dozens of hungry small birds.
Swiss Owned and Family Run
A member of The Leading Hotels of the World and Swiss Deluxe Hotels, Beau-Rivage Geneve, like its sister 5-star properties in Neuchâtel and Lausanne, is independently owned by the Mayer family.
Built in 1865, Beau-Rivage Geneve began life as a private home. Transformed into a hotel, over the years the property has expanded until today there are 91 rooms with complimentary wifi and state of the art electronics.
Each of those rooms is completely unique. Furnishings in the traditional style have been purchased one at a time. The armoire in one room is unlike those in the other rooms. The Mayers wanted to make the hotel feel like a home, albeit a home in the grand style, with marble columns, a large fountain in the lobby entranceway, New Orleans style balconies on each floor and a luxurious spa and wellness center.
The wine cellar for the fine dining restaurant Le Chat Botté benefited from their home away from home point of view. Early in the Twentieth Century, the Mayer family collected fine wines in great quantities. Ultimately, they purchased so many bottles, they needed to use the hotel wine cellar to store their collection. Through two world wars and the wear and tear of time, the wine cellar with three-foot thick walls protected these treasures.
The seventeen thousand-bottle cellar contains more than twelve hundred different varietals. The collection contains many of the best wines produced by Switzerland and France, with a smaller selection of Spanish and Italian wines (none from California or Australia). The Mayers’ avid collecting created a legacy for the cellar, with an important group of wines from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, not to mention superior vintages from more recent decades purchased by the hotel’s sommeliers.
So I could get up close to this extraordinary collection, Assistant Sommelier Gary Bovagne gave me a tour of the wine cellar. Bottles of wine are collected together by varietal, winery and year. The oldest bottle was produced in 1911. The hotel has a good collection of Château Lafite Rothschild 1945 as well as the extremely rare Romanêe – St. Vivant 2005. Occasionally, the hotel curates wine tastings of exceptional varietals and, for a select clientele, Le Chat Botté will prepare a wine paired, tasting menu. All of the wines in the cellar are available for purchase, so if a diner wants to celebrate a special occasion with a bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild 1945, the pleasure is all theirs.
A companion to the wine cellar, the hotel has two fine dining restaurants. Le Chat Botté and Le Patara are as different as East and West. Le Patara serves upscale Thai dishes, exquisitely presented in an intimate setting. Michelin-starred and awarded 18 GaultMillau points, Le Chat Botté offers modern French cuisine with a light touch. Chef Dominique Gauthier says that his cooking is inspired by the color and taste of each season. He searches out the best products available from local providers who are as passionate about their products as he is about his cooking. Throwing a wider net, he also picks and chooses from the best purveyors around the world so that his diners can enjoy blue lobsters and abalone (“ormeaux”) from Brittany, cheese from Corsica and France and truffles and olives from Northern Italy.
Classically trained, Gauthier’s dishes have an attention to detail that delights the eye and palate. For a wine paired tasting one evening in the fall, dinner began with a glass of 2010 Les Balisiers Chardonnay from a Geneva area vineyard in the village of Peney and a whimsical amuse bouche. A salty, sweet and black pepper-spicy, deconstructed mushroom soup presented mushrooms three ways--raw, sautéed and transformed into warm foam.
A dish of ravioli perfectly illustrated Gauthier’s approach. Inside, the flat squares of pasta were small cubes of lightly braised Jerusalem artichoke. Echoing the season, the half dozen ravioli rested on a creamy chestnut emulsion. Anchoring the dish were shavings of earthy Italian white truffles from Alba.
With roast lamb, he preserved a thin layer of fat, just enough to add savory moistness to the lean meat. Olive foam brought saltiness and mushrooms a sweet earthiness to the flavors, while a mix of white and black eggplant layered in a pleasant sharpness.
Cheese is also a pride of the kitchen. Like the wines, the cheeses are predominantly Swiss and French. Served with explanations and recommendations, I had three cheeses from France (Brin d’Amour, Bleu de Gex and Rebochon) and two from Switzerland (Vieux Gruyere and Apenzeler). A Swiss 2009 Diolinoir from Eytron in Valais was paired with the cheese, a satisfying way to end a very complete meal. Although, in truth, the meal was concluded only after I was presented with two deserts and a Swiss digestive, a delicious eau de vie made with pears--Poire William, La Valisanne from the Distillerie Willisau SA in Lucerne. I happily enjoyed every dish and wine selection chef Gauthier sent to the table.
After dinner I took a long walk along the promenade, passing from the quiet of the lake to the narrow streets of the old city filled with outdoor cafes and busy clubs. Because Geneva is home to a great many international organizations, the city’s cultural life is diverse and robust. There is much to see, hear and enjoy. Returning at the end of the evening, I crossed the Mont-Blanc Bridge and walked back to Beau-Rivage Geneva and my lake view room. The windows were open. A water taxi outlined by a string of lights along the hull skated away from shore. A breeze filled the room with the fresh scent of the lake. I stretched out on the king sized bed and was very happy to be in my home away from home.
Beau-Rivage Geneve (13 Quai du Mont Blanc, Geneve 1201 Switzerland, Reservations 800 745 8883, http://www.beau-rivage.ch/uk/index.php)