Hotel Insider Revel in luxury, elegance and efficiency at the grand dame of Swiss hotels.
Beau Rivage Palace Lausanne lives up to the Swiss reputation
For the past 150 years, the Beau-Rivage has had a reputation for being Switzerland's grandest hotel, and there is no mistaking the air of confidence that comes with age, status and a guest list that includes a string of heads of state and Hollywood stars. The welcome from the uniformed doorman is warm, check-in is efficiently sorted and, while we sit on a sofa in the lobby lounge, and an immaculately dressed, very old lady - who is apparently a confidante to hundreds of regular guests - comes over to say hello.
With a four-hectare estate on the shores of Lake Geneva, this is one of the most exclusive locations in the region. A few steps away from the famous Olympic Museum, 10 minutes from Lausanne's city centre and 30 minutes from Geneva Airport, the hotel is accessible from lots of European cities. More attractively for me, it is a 40-minute drive to the ski resort of Villars with its 220km of trails, making it perfect for a quick day trip. A one-day ski pass costs 30 Swiss francs (Dh117) and children under nine ski for free.
All the rooms are different. I was in a junior suite in the Palace wing. It was very large, with a hallway, cloakroom, bathroom and a comfy, elegant seating area. Best of all was the tiny balcony overlooking Lake Geneva and the Alps. As views go, they don't get much better. Personal touches included a vase of red roses, chocolates and a huge bowl of fruit.
Impeccably attentive, efficient and just on the right side of friendly, as you would expect from a five-star Swiss hotel. Breakfast in the room came exactly when requested. The hotel being privately owned, many of the staff have been there for years and the chief concierge is, unusually for Europe, a woman.
In the last 20 years, US$100 million (Dh367m) has been spent renovating the hotel. Some features, such as the Cinq Mondes Spa, are new while others, such as the outdoor terrace, have had a modern facelift. But generally, the money has been spent on restoring old-school grandeur with marble floors, gilt ceilings, chandeliers, stained-glass windows and extraordinary murals.
Past guests include Coco Chanel, Mary Pickford, Gary Cooper and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Noel Coward and Somerset Maugham (the latter two featured the hotel in their novels). The hotel's current guests are a mix of nationalities and professions but it is "old money" that dominates.
There are four restaurants: the sushi bar Miyako; the Cafe Beau-Rivage on the terrace that provides brasserie-style food; L'Accademia, an Italian restaurant; and the signature Anne-Sophie Pic au Beau-Rivage Palace. Pic, renowned for being the only three-generation, three Michelin-star chef in the world, brought with her high expectations, and she doesn't disappoint. She offers an a la carte menu plus two fixed-price, five-course tasting menus. One, dubbed "Emotions", is the more daring and imaginative menu. Costing 245 francs (Dh959), it features ingredients ranging from sea urchins to tongue, black truffles and juniper-smoked venison. The other, the "Pic collection d'hiver" (330 francs [Dh1,292]), includes line-caught bass with aquitaine caviar "as my father Jacques Pic loved it, 1971" . The kitchen adapted the Emotions menu into a vegetarian tasting menu for me and it was suitably delicious and surprisingly light.
A memorable day in which I breakfasted on the balcony of my room, skied all morning, lunched in a mountainside restaurant in Villars called L'Etable with only a glass wall between us and the sheep and the donkeys, and had dinner at Anne-Sophie Pic. If only life was always like that.
Trying to find the spa when I was already running late. It is badly signposted and the approach is through what looks like a door to a service lift. But the body and spirit massage - a mix of Thai, Balinese and European influences - was sensational.
Elegant and classy. With the fashion for designer boutique hotels, it may be a bit impersonal by comparison, but you cannot fault the service, location or grandeur of the decor.
The bottom line
A garden room costs from 520 francs (Dh2,036) per night, including taxes. Beau-Rivage Palace, Place du Port, Lausanne 6, Switzerland (www.brp.ch; 00 41 21 613 33 33).