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Zurich has no shortage of beautiful views, but the one from my hotel room balcony has to be up there as one of the best. Situated on the shore of the city’s famous lake, I have a panoramic vista that stretches across the water to the Toblerone-like mountains in the south and the picturesque city centre in the north.
I am staying at La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich, the latest offering from luxury brand La Reserve. This grand 100-year-old building has always been a hotel but was re-imagined by famed French designer Philippe Starck. He was inspired by the water-side location, choosing to style it as a modern day yacht club, complete with dark wood, leather, and exposed brick walls. It has seamlessly combined classicism with modernity and couldn’t be more different from its Belle Epoque predecessor.
What the redesign created is a casual luxury that entirely suits the Swiss way. It is effortlessly stylish but warm, somewhere both locals and guests want to come for a drink. The ground floor is home to Eden Kitchen & Bar, which serves traditional Swiss cuisine with a twist under Italian chef Marco Ortolani. The menu veers from serving simple grilled sole with pilau rice to Asian pork belly with fermented garlic to a classic cheeseburger.
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The La Reserve chain, which also has properties in Paris and Geneva, is owned by entrepreneur and winemaker Michel Reybier. As such, an extensive list of his best vinos are available, including his fabulous champagnes, as well as an impressive cocktail selection.
Attention to detail
What used to be a 50-room venue has been reduced to 40, creating larger spaces that Starck has styled with soft lighting and a natural colour palette. A king-size bed is situated in the centre of my room, directly facing floor-to-ceiling glass doors so guests are greeted by the lake as soon as they wake up. Both Starck and La Reserve’s attention to detail is evident throughout. There is a thoughtfulness that has gone into the design. There are sun hats for the good weather and umbrellas for when it rains.
A small pouch for your room key is made from the same buttery leather as the desk chair, a silver elephant with its trunk in the air is a handy ring holder next to the sink, and Dyson hairdryers make a welcome change from the substandard offerings often available in hotels. Toiletries are an exclusive, in-house brand, and a bottle of bath flakes really allow guests to take advantage of a massive, freestanding tub that also utilises that view.
An inspired menu
After an afternoon in the room I try out the hotel’s crown jewel, a Peruvian/Japanese restaurant called La Muña. Set within the domed roof of the building, which was the old hotel’s attic, it has the atmosphere of both a private yachting club and a wooden Alpine lodge. Walls are adorned with art and nautical references, while diners can choose between leather chairs or comfortable, floral sofas. They have also transformed two open spaces into roof gardens with sweeping 360 degree views.
La Muña serves up an inspired menu combining the best qualities of the cuisine from both countries, including beef entrecôte with gyuniku sauce, tuna tartare with sesame and jalapeno and even a simple dish of spinach, parmesan and truffle oil that he transforms into something truly magical.
The hotel is just a few minutes’ stroll from Zurich’s opera house and ten minutes from the main shopping street of Bahnhofstrasse, so I spend the next morning exploring. Zürich is Switzerland’s wealthiest city, and it has a reputation as a home for bankers, but it has so much more to offer.
Life here revolves around the lake and the rivers that wind through the city. Bathers enjoy the water at almost any time of year, while riverside cafes and bars are the perfect way to people watch.
The city’s architectural heritage is also striking. The old town straddles the Limmat river and features a 12th century cathedral, tree-lined squares, cobbled lanes and St Peter’s Church, which has the largest tower clock face in Europe. But leave the city centre and you can find fantastic modern marvels, from the geometric Landesmuseum, to the multi-coloured Pavillon Le Corbusier, named after the Swiss artist and architect. Art lovers could also easily spend all day at the Kunsthaus Zurich, which houses one of the most important art collections in Switzerland, from Warhol to Durer.
Zurich in a box
Having worked up an appetite, I ate in Zunfthaus Zur Waag in the centre of the old town. Built in the 17th century, the building was home to the weavers guild but now hosts one of the city’s most iconic restaurants, serving up traditional Swiss fare. As they eat dishes including schnitzel or a creamy white wine soup, diners can view the Fraumunster Church through its historic stained glass windows.
A visit to Switzerland really wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a chocolate shop, and Zurich is the country’s cocoa capital. There are chocolatiers almost everywhere you turn, from the expensive Sprungli to Laderach, which has massive slabs in its windows. I went for Confiserie Honold, which was founded in 1905 and has been in the same family for four generations. It is famous for its beautiful truffles and petit fours made from the original recipes. I chose to take home a range of flavours, from the classic to the experimental. Rich, exciting and luxurious, they are almost Zurich in a box.
Rooms at La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich start from 700CHF (£555) per night; lareserve-zurich.com
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