Private hammam adds opulence to a stay at Geneva’s Hotel d’Angleterre

Soaking body and mind in a soothing hot bath, then relaxing in the privacy of one’s own steamy hammam after a long day’s city sightseeing, is a traveler’s nirvana – and it’s just what Geneva’s Hotel d’Angleterre offered my companion and I during a recent stay.

Conveniently located in each of two bathrooms either side of our four-room suite, the hammam together with the sumptuous tub provided the perfect antidote to a tiring walking day through downtown Geneva and Carouge.

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Then, for added luxury, cloaked in thick, comfy cotton robes, smooth brandies in hand, my companion and I retreated to table and chairs on our balcony ringed by black wrought iron railings to relish sweeping views over Lake Leman, the Jet d’Eau and along the broad boulevard of Quai du Mont Blanc, fronting the hotel.

Now that’s what I call a dalliance in the lap of luxury. But it’s not the whole story.

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Bespoke room furnishings created a visual feast for our eyes: an intricately-designed lacquered writing desk that made me feel positively Regal as I sat there taking notes for this article; a Renaissance-style Italian coffee-table; rococo framed mirrors either side of the bed; and vivid wall prints, including ‘The birth of Venus’ by John Bulloch Souter and an abstract by Natalia Villanueva.

And it wasn’t only our suite that reflected the hotel’s striking elegance.

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Dating from 1872, the work of the celebrated architect Anthony Krafft, and now privately owned and family run Red Carnation Hotel Collection, crystal chandeliers, porcelain crockery, finely-woven linen tablecloths and candle-lit dinners are a hallmark of this historic five-star hotel. Even the interior carpeted steps of the side-street entrance, off Quai du Mont Blanc, is richly adorned, with impressive busts including that of Napoleon, and romantically illuminated at night with candles.

No stay at the 45-room and suite Hotel d’Angleterre would be complete without a leisurely sojourn in its eye-popping underground lounge bar and library.

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Featuring an intriguing leopard-skin motif, book-lined walls and a cozy ambience enhanced by an open fire, the ‘Leopard Bar’ has become a popular trendy venue, featuring live music every evening except Sunday. Splendid furnishings include rich leather chairs and a treasure trove of delightful artefacts such as tables made from authentic vintage Louis Vuitton suitcases, numerous leopard paintings, sculptures and luxurious prints. Beside it is a discreet, intimate, well-stocked cigar room with quality brandies to match, and the unmistakable face of Winston Churchill decorating the front wall. The entire leisure space is a chic blend of British elegance and South African veldt.

Sheer interior design creativity and boldness also characterize the ground-floor lounge, the ‘Petit Salon,’ where framed, humorous pen and pencil sketches adorn the walls, and which opens up to the lobby. An internal door leads to a larger ‘Parquet Salon’ catering for both corporate and leisure events.

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Dinner at ‘Windows’ restaurant on the ground floor was a delight. How could it be otherwise in a cozy ambience overlooking the busy boulevard, the lake and Mont Blanc? If you’re feeling peckish when you sit down at table, that’ll soon grow into a full-scale hunger upon seeing the tantalizing menu of fish, meats and signature dishes of Bea Tollman, president and founder of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, from her memoir, ‘A Life in Food.’

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We opted for starters of duck Foie gras ‘au torchon,’ candied apple with cider and spicy brioche bread plus Jerusalem artichoke soup, 65 egg and smoked bacon. The former appeared on plate as two coins of foie gras separated by a ‘dam’ of apple cider coulis with two slices of poached apple on the other side. The egg is one of the most versatile and indispensable ingredients in a kitchen but I had never tried the 65 degree version. Made famous by French chef and molecular gastronomist Hervé, the egg is cooked at 65°Celsius/149°Farenheit for a long time, with temperature control critical. Result: the white smooth, custardy and brilliantly white, the yolk soft but not runny and nearly as orange as if it was raw. It simply melts in your mouth and is delicious on its own with a little salt and pepper or with smoked bacon as it was served.

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For mains, our choices contrasted greatly. With mountainous terrain nearby, my companion selected venison fillet ‘sauce poivrade’ with seasonal fruits and vegetables, spatzles, a regional soft egg noodle, and cranberries. I went fishing – for Dover sole, grilled ‘meunière,’ with steamed potatoes and fresh herbs.

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As for the wines, we left that up to the sommelier, someone much more familiar with local vintages than us. Excellent pairings ensued including a Domaine des Abeilles d’Or Chouilly from the Genève appellation, South African vintages such as Blanc de Mer, a Riesling blend from Bouchard Finlayson on the Cape South Coast and the Rhone Valley red Clos des Grives from Domaine Combier. A flavorsome Magia grappa from Berta Distillery, in Piedmont, Italy ended the evening on a high note.

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