After what seemed like a good long spell in UAE, to return to Europe, specifically Switzerland, and its history is a reminder of the importance of an authentic past. The luxury Royal Savoy Hotel & Spa Lausanne, a Preferred property, has been here since it was opened, as The Royal Hotel, in 1909 by the Haeberly family. They built elegance, in the form of a six-floor mansion with high ceilings, in a small park half-way up the slope from Lac Léman to the city’s rail station. It was re-opened in 2015 by its present owners who, working with designer Maria Vafiadis/MKV, have turned the main reception lounge into an art gallery.
Cleverly, part of that lobby is separated by a glass screen to hide the bar behind, which flows out into the garden. Some of this outer space is divided by low box-shrub parterres into quasi-private sitting areas, ideal for local Swiss who do like to sit in small groups, taking in the sun and having a glass of local wine, perhaps Clos du Boux 2016 Grand Cru Epesses Luc Massy, poured from an unusual 1,400ml bottle to avoid taxes in years gone by. A glass-sided corridor leads from the main house to a new extension. Now, in all, there are 196 rooms (LOVE the sixth floor Mansard rooms in the original block, see a video, below). I also really loved the 24/7 gym, and spa, in the new block – the therapists truly seem to personalise whatever product, and treatment, they think best for you.
There is one restaurant, with four different rooms, and for both meals I was sitting next to the open kitchen, always a pleasure but especially so when the operators you are watching are keen and agile young Europeans brought up with respect for the apprenticeship scheme. I was with the hotel GM, Alain Kropf, and as it happened his boss, Bruno Schöpfer – the guy on the right above, with Alain Kropf – was also staying that night. I do not know what the Schöpfer party ate but I can report my ‘soup’, hiding an egg Florentine, and Swiss veal flank (which barely needed the Laguiole-type Snife – yes, that is the Swiss maker’s brand) were both outstanding. Marc Haeberlin, whose name is on paper bags holding the baguettes kept warm under a hot lamp in the restaurant, is consultant here, and he really believes in local products.
Alain Kropf and I talked fitness. He picked up Ironmanning during 14 years in Asia and here, with Switzerland’s terrain, he is in his element. Tomorrow morning he will be up at five for a practice. I wake up at five and am greeted by a paper bag of Swiss edibles thoughtfully provided as part of my welcome: I have Rösti, Knorr Aromat herbs Cenovis (like Marmite), Ovomaltine, Kägi Fret chocolate wafers, Rivella milk drink and much more. Anyway, after a good workout down in the gym I am back in the restaurant – going in past a wine wall that is an excellent primer to Swiss wine areas – and love the elegant buffet. Today is Lausanne’s marathon (no, Mr Kropf is not taking part, but do see a video, below, taken just outside the hotel). I feel even more healthy, myself, after trying a room service lunch, a simple vegan bowl, with tofu, eggplant caviar, sesame paste, pomegranate, pecan nuts, mine, coriander, chia seeds. Any hotel that can offer from Haeberlin heaven to vegan basic has a true understanding of modern luxury. AND NOW SEE, IN ORDER, LAUSANNE MARATHON, WALKING INTO THE RESTAURANT, ND SUITE 606