Luxury Hotels

More on the luxury Bürgenstock Resort

Bruno Schöpfer

Yes, eating and drinking are essential components of Bürgenstock Resort, be it a quick snack at the top of the historic funicular or a detailed wine-tasting in a dedicated oenological room at Bürgenstock Hotel (the resort’s Champagne partner, incidentally, is Roederer). Culinary Director Mike Wehrle, whom the gal had followed around his previous luxury Peninsula hotel postings, is already feeding over a thousand some days – there have been ten weddings here in the last two weeks, says the CEO of the whole caboosh, Bruno Schöpfer, who has personally masterminded the resort’s renovation and expansion for the last nine years. He has been meticulously involved. Over lunch in the Pan-Asian restaurant Spices, as he toyed with one of the best-ever mixed sashimi platters, he explained how he had to have the chairs here re-done three times: interestingly, their backs and sides are single pieces of maroon leather, slit into trellis formation so they can be pulled up, to produce vertical C-shapes (the result is really comfortable).

Breakfast buffet, Escoffier
memorabilia over

I dined at RitzCoffier with Robert Herr, GM of the whole complex, who moved here after a couple of decades with InterContinental, lastly in Beirut. RitzCoffier is a once-off, honouring the fact that both Escoffier and Ritz worked down in Lucerne, at The National Hotel. The restaurant is a high-ceilinged salon in the 1903-original Palace Hotel, looking far down to Lake Lucerne. Today, its upper walls, and the shelves of its central, 120-year old, now-simply decorative range display copper and silver cloches and platters, some a little bashed, that Escoffier himself used. At dinner, tables are set with white Bergan linens, with napkins, on Bernardaud porcelain, rolled in gold twig-like rings – we shared a magnificent Swiss veal chop, deftly carved tableside, and drank glasses of Riflessi d’Epoca 2014 Merlot.

Travel writer Annie Fitzsimmons

At breakfast, linen cloths were removed, for simplicity, and the central range, which is labelled C. Keller, Trüb, hosted the continental buffet: I was tempted to order the Bürgenstock egg royale hot special, namely two poached eggs, organic of course, with Scottish smoked salmon and hollandaise (Mike Wehrle says you can trust his local fresh produce to be bio as the farmers he visits regularly are nibbling on, perhaps, carrots, knowing they are pure goodness). His breads, coffee and yoghurts are all made by vendors to his exact specifications, and he takes great pride in one cheese, Five Star, bespoke for the hotel. Mike Wehrle has a hundred cooks, in total, but he still cooks himself, trialling and sampling.

Best public transport

Swiss gourmets are not surprisingly discerning when it comes to quality of products, and cooking, and as well as local and international offerings, this luxury resort has the Asian of Spices, plus an Arab-Iranian restaurant with shisha lounge, and a Swiss taverna and more. I could have stayed for days, sampling them all, but it was time to leave this superb luxury resort to head down, by Bentley of course, to Lucerne station, and I knew my train would be exactly on time. Yes, the only way to travel around Switzerland is by rail, and I do recommend a Swiss Travel Pass, managed by Swiss Railways SBB. Passes are available for three, four, eight or 15 days. Whichever you get, the process is really simplified. Order it online, print it out, with a QR code included, and you are all set. The pass works on trains, buses and boats and also allows access to over 500 galleries and museums. Adult passes range from second class for three days, through to first class for 15 days (note, there is no discount for seniors, but under-26 years, and kids, get substantial savings).

 

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Luxury Hotels

Finally, up to see the stunning new Bürgenstock luxury hotel

Look far down to the lake

Finally, it was time to return to Bürgenstock, Europe’s pre-eminent mountain-top resort that the gal had not visited since its renovation was just beginning, what seems like a lifetime ago. In fact the result is nine years’ work, and considerable investment by owners Katara Hospitality have resulted in this beauty, some 148 acres of Swiss countryside looking down to Lake Lucerne some 1,600 feet below. From the start, there had been a funicular to take people up and down, and this, built in 1888 and meticulously maintained, is still working: the most romantic way to arrive remains a 20-minute boat direct from Lucerne rail station to this edge of the lake, and then the funicular (the alternative arrival is via a modern road with enough hairpin bends for The Guinness Book of World Records).

A wall of history

I arrived by car, and was immediately impressed by the fact that the only prominent advertizing is for Longines and Swatch – it turns out that the hotel has a strong partnership with Swatch Group as the late Nicky Hayek used the ‘old’ hotel for global management meetings. Yes, as a whole wall of historical photos and other data shows, there were always buildings on this site. I stayed in the signature Bürgenstock Hotel (above), a new-build with 102 rooms and suites all facing down to the lake: this replaces the Park Hotel that was here. A few metres away, with interior connection, is The Palace Hotel, the more business-like sibling that is simply a renovation of an existing 1903 building. Want to stay in the charming 12-room Swiss chalet Taverne? Here, bedrooms replace the offices that were previously above the home of raclette, rösti and veal Zurichoise. Coming in a few weeks’ time is the Matteo Thun-designed Waldhotel, another new-build, with 160 rooms and wellness that will attract health-seekers from around the globe.

Outside The Bürgenstock Hotel

Even though the first parts of this gigantic complex only opened August 28th, 2017 the Swiss have already been flocking here, in droves. At weekends, says Robert Herr, the GM who oversees the whole, his teams can easily be feeding over a thousand a day. Eventually there will be 13 eating and drinking venues, headlined by RitzCoffier, a traditional fine-dining restaurant named in homage to Ritz and Escoffier, who both at one time worked down in Lucerne, at The National Hotel. Food throughout Bürgenstock Resort is in the hands of F&B Director Lukas Zehnder and Culinary Director Mike Wehrle, both of whom came from Peninsula – Wehrle was there personally to greet me on arrival and I loved the edible gift in my suite, cheese shavings and baby vegetables (he is a great believer in local is best).

Welcome baby vegetables

Bürgenstock Hotel’s corner suite 1111 was very tactile; every bit of American walnut, be it floor boards or door surrounds, was smooth as silk, and the tweeds covering big sofas and chairs were soft as could be (designer throughout is Maria Vafiadis of MKV, who does most of the work for Katara’s Swiss division). I had a log-look fire, and, of course, stunning views – funnily enough even when it rained it was lovely looking out as raindrops temporarily attached themselves to the big windows that wrap around two walls of the living room. But, I have to admit, this is such an extensive resort that it is possible that guests will not spend as much time in their rooms as they would in a city establishment. Here, they are constantly tempted to go out to see and try the myriad of offerings that this luxury resort has and, of course, there is eating and drinking…  NOW SEE A VIDEO OF SUITE 1111

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Luxury Hotels

Geneva’s new luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel

Lobby chandelier

Continuing around Lac Leman, the slipper launch – see below – dropped the gal centrally in quai du Mont Blanc, and there was a young Polish bellman from Geneva’s newest luxury hotel, Hotel de la Paix, Ritz-Carlton. Yes, the 1856-vintage beauty that has been transitioning since 2015 finally emerged from chrysalis state on September 14th, 2017, and the result is beautiful. The six-floor open-atrium lobby still has its original chandelier, probably Austrian, but now it is embellished with angled planets that recur in lighting in the gorgeous all-day Living Room that occupies the entire east end of the main floor (the big oval bar table here was once a pharmacist’s table).

Guillaume Benezech in the bar

What was previously the back-office for front-office, if you see what I mean, is now a Philippe Pascoët chocolate emporium, the most enticing I have seen since the chocolate factory at COMO The Treasury in Perth. We walked east, along an inner corridor publicising Audemars Piguet, chosen, says GM Guillaume Benezech, because it is an independent company, and it stands for time that is one of the 75-room hotel’s differentiators (the others are art and nature). We were heading for the signature restaurant, FiskeBar, bsed on a Copenhagen Fish Market – why Copenhagen? ‘Cos it is a trendy global city, said Mr B. obviously thrilled with its success. I loved the open kitchen, the organic butter that came with a small milk churn holding absolutely addictive hotel-churned butter made from deliberately-fermented cream.

Smoked fish platter

Everything, apart from the caviar which comes regularly from Moscow, is home-made here, or bought in daily I started with home-smoked fish, red onion and sour cream. Where do the fabulous ceramic plates come from? The smaller ones, I heard, are saucers that the hotel’s florist uses under his flower pots: conveniently Steelite produces commercial plates that blend perfectly. The Peugeot mills are simple wood, similarly blending perfectly with the satin-smooth wood tables – two heights – and light or black wood chairs, and the whitewood flooring. Everything fits here, and I was reminded yet again how Ritz-Carlton has moved with the times to be absolutely 2017, if not 2018. No-one blinked when I redesigned my main course. This restaurant does not say No.

Aquavit anyone?

And even five years ago no Ritz-Carlton, or any other luxury hotel for that matter, would dress its signature restaurant’s servers in black Superga trainers, paired with pale blue shirts, dark blue trousers and big aprons with leather suspenders crossed at the back. But then in days past who dared to push round an end-of-meal trolley bearing a tasting of chocolates, and home-distilled Aquavit in a big glass jar? They certainly seem to have it right, here. Every top businessperson in town seemed to lunching at FiskeBar that day.

AND NOW, GOING BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF THE VISIT, SHARE THE MEMORABLE BOAT ARRIVAL

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