Every luxury hotel that has flat roads around it should have bikes, and they should be free for guests’ use – they are, after all, jolly good publicity for a hotel. Just across from, and attached to, Copenhagen Airport, the Copenhagen Hilton has lovely silver bikes with prominent hotel name on them. The lovely Kempinski Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg has bikes with big baskets on the front, and the hotel name; the gal found her bike ideal for cycling around Alster Lake. The bikes at Mandarin Oriental Geneva are also good for lake-side exercise (and they have electric batteries if you need them).
This 1950-vintage hotel, by the way, is getting younger with every day – see the purple hair of the woman in the background of the photo, above. Arrive at this lovely hotel on a Thursday and you may coincide with the end of the week – OK, this is Geneva, and the weekend stars early – Taittinger party in the inside-outside bar. Servers wear purple Taittinger T-shirts, there are purple balloons flying, and the younger bankers and watch tycoons and other next-gen movers-and-shakers move, but do not shake. The bubbly is not free, but it is considerably subsidised by Taittinger.
There is colour, too, up on the balcony of room 718 (a mere 131 steps up from the lobby if, like me, you see stairs as a means of keeping fit rather than taking the elevator). Use the stairs and you pass, on every floor, a bas-relief rendering of the story of the Rhône, from source to sea. From my balcony I look out at the river, and if I turn to my left I can see part of Lac Leman and Geneva’s fascinating Old Town. I adore these seventh floor rooms, designed by J. Lee of BUZ in Hong Kong. Muted taupe colours with soft mole and sage, and floor-set Eco Smart inset gas fires, and glass walls, with Venetian blinds, between bath and bedroom.
The hotel’s Rasoi by Vineet (Bhatia) has a Michelin star and young chef Sandeep Bhagwat, a Pune boy who trained with Oberoi, does produce exquisite food. He also offers Indian cooking classes, veggie or non-veggie. The menus are also veggie or non-veggie. I had chosen a Tofu duo followed by Tandoori cauliflower but he sent out a delectable starter, a martini glass holding a zucchini salad, topped by a flower. This was supposed to be perfected by a leaning-shotglass of coconut lassi, yoghurt. We drank local wines, Sauvignon Dme le Grand Clos, Charles Novelle et Fils Vignerons, Satigny, and then a glass of red, Les Balisiers Comte de Peney by Gérard Pillon & Jean-Daniel Schlaepfer, Peney, Geneva. Once again I wonder why Swiss wines do not travel abroad.
Some things certainly stay in Switzerland. Ever come across a cuchaule? It appears to be a soft yeast bun with both egg and sugar in the recipe. Here on the breakfast buffet at Le Sud there are saffron cuchaules, which apparently are eaten with Bénichon mustard. Aha, more research needed. Bénichon mustard is named for a festival in the Fribourg canton. Cuchaules, generally at that festival infused with saffron and served as long plaits, are eaten with a typical ‘jam’ that is indeed mustard powder, but stirred with cooked wine, candy sugar and spice. Perhaps I should change my breakfast habit.
It is time to leave this luxury hotel. In the lobby I see a prominent Hublot vitrine. Good show. That is where I am off to, to learn about watches and all that: love it when a hotel’s experiences are something different, not ‘just’ a cooking class or a special spa treatment or something. This half-day with Hublot, with transport both ways included, is really different, educational and stylish.