Standing on a seventh-floor rooftop terrace of Le Richemond, Geneva – the Dorchester Collection’s latest luxury hotel – Klaus Kabelitz is king of the castle. The terrace is usually private to whoever is staying in suite 701 but for the summer the clever ‘king’ has transformed the suite into an airy spa suite, complete with relaxation room and bathroom, and that terrace. The gal thought it a brilliant idea, an alternative to the four-room spa that is one floor (16 stone steps) down from the hotel lobby. And when Geneva is basking in the sun, it is jolly nice to be outdoors as much as possible.
Geneva comes into its own in summer. The jet d’eau, water spout, is the city logo, rising as does up to 459 feet thanks to the force of two 500 kilowatt pumps. There are around 7,000 litres in the air at any one time. The original jet d’eau, I gather, only went to 98 feet: it was installed in 1886 as a safety valve for the city’s hydraulic power network (the current jet was inaugurated in 1891 to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Confederation of Switzerland). Looking at the jet from Le Richemond’s seventh floor terrace, you see across to the French side (Evian is out of the picture, to the left). On a clear day you can see Mont Blanc.
Look down, to the small triangular park that is called Jardin Brunswick, named for Charles d’Este-Guelph, Duke of Brunswick. He lived 1804-1873 and was known as much for eccentricity as well as his canny investment skills. He never married, and when he died he left everything to the city of Geneva in return for the building of a mausoleum that should be an exact replica of the Scaligeri family tomb built in Verona in the 14th century. This mausoleum now dominates the Jardin, though the ‘alpine hut’ restaurant behind it comes into its own on weekend nights when it seems to be a popular hang-out for Geneva’s younger pleasure-seekers.
I wonder what the old Duke would think of Le Richemond – he never saw it as it opened two years after his death. For generations it was lovingly owned and run by the Armleder family, and now it is once again in the hands of private owners who passionately want to restore it to its former glory. By the latter half of 2014 it will be a picture. The 109 bedrooms are being done by Alexandra Champalimaud (think Two-E at The Pierre in New York), and the public areas will be designed by Rob Angell, who worked for years with the much-missed David Collins (think The Blue Bar in Klaus Kabelitz’s former fief, The Berkeley in London).
Already, the Kabelitz effect is being felt in the service, and the food. Take service. Before I left I needed some money changed. Concierge Christophe asked bellman Alberto to bring it to me, which he did – with a paper carrier holding water, apples and chocolates and a note from room service wishing me a good onward journey. What service! Take food. New chef Sylvain Bailly has kept old favourites on his menu (well, veal milanese and that kind of thing, and jolly good too). But he has also introduced new ideas, like a sea bream ceviche, with citrus vinaigrette.
And the kitchen comes into its own with desserts, which include a ‘story of the Black Forest gateau’ trilogy and, as shown here, affogato, vanilla icecream that has espresso poured over it. All this somehow tastes even better if you are dining, as we were, on the outside terrace of this luxury hotel. As part of the renovations the terrace will be glassed in, for all-year ‘outdoor’ dining. Life gets better and better!