Le Richemond: a lakeside, grande-dame of Swiss hotels

A grande-dame of the Swiss hotel network, first opened in 1875, Le Richemond occupies an envious location overlooking Lac Léman and Mont Blanc, as well as being close to Cornavin, Geneva’s main railway station.

Our suite, 404, offered even more, including a small terrace with a wrought-iron balcony presenting panoramic views of the famous Jet d’Eau and down along a charming park with the elegantly-sculpted Brunswick Tower, a replica of the Scaliger Tombs in Verona, Italy and a tribute to the Duke of Brunswick who left his riches to Geneva, as well as the historic Cottage Café in the Square des Alpes.

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Enhancing the location even more is the fact that the free boat service across the lake (on bright yellow mouettes) is a mere two-minute walk away and a friendly down-to-earth international neighborhood of cafes, stores and bars lies immediately behind the hotel.

Entering Le Richemond is an uplifting experience, one previously enjoyed by some very well-known personalities including Charlie Chaplin, Louis Armstrong, Sophia Loren, Rita Hayworth and Marc Chagall.

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A sparkling lobby features gold-filigree columns highlighting an Art Deco tone and a marbled floor leading to a curved reception desk. Glass display cases along the wall promote brand name products such as Krigler perfumes, Sisley toiletries and spa products, Adler jewelry and Gubelin watches. A curved staircase with decorative wrought iron railings leads upward to 109 rooms and suites as does a set of elevators in front of the reception desk.

‘Le Bar,’ with a hedged terrace, is located to the left, with ‘Le Lounge’ to the right, where breakfast and dining rooms are also located. Soft, plush crimson armchairs in the lobby invite guests to sit, relax, enjoy the day’s newspaper, people-watch or just chat idly with friends and family. 

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Temporary exhibitions infuse the ambience with a touch of modern glamor.

Suite 404 reflected a modern, hip, design with hefty blue floor-to-ceiling curtains, three television sets, including one above the bathtub, a spacious bedroom-cum living-room and an elegant speckled gray and white bathroom with gleaming chrome fixtures, double sink and shower. Toiletries are L’Occitane. Relaxing on a comfy sofa in the living room, you can daydream watching the lake through the bay window or read under the standing lamps on tripod wooden legs.

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Service at Le Richemond during our two-night stay was friendly, warm and personal, especially in ‘Le Bar,’ where we spent a leisurely evening enjoying some of the hotel’s most popular cocktails and where live music takes place – To establish a mellow mood to match the ambience we chose two cocktails, ‘Jardin’ (cinnamon, vervain, apple and Grand Marnie liqueur) and ‘Smokey Grape,’a spontaneous creation, by Candice, the experienced mixologist. ‘Le Jardin,’ a fine-dining restaurant extends across two rooms and a romantic terrace secluded from the street by flowering plants, where an extensive buffet breakfast is also served.

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Under the direction of chef Philippe Bourrel, dining at ‘Le Jardin’ was a treat, akin to eating in an interior vertical garden so plentiful were plants in vases and glass bubbles. Framed black and white photographs of farmers, experienced truffle finders and fishermen, provision providers to the hotel, lined the walls, all inspiring trust in the locality and freshness of products served on-plate.
With a broad menu ranging from bream and scallop to pheasant and venison, we decided on a balanced turf and surf melody. For starters, my companion opted for pan-fried foie gras with figs, grapes and horseradish and I for langoustine with purslane and chickpeas. Our mains reflected similar contrasts. One, shellfish butter roasted blue lobster, arrived with chestnuts and chestnut gnocchi. A delicious addition to this dish was Piora cheese, a hard, farmhouse, unpasteurized, cow cheese from a mixture of two consecutive days’ milking made beside Lake Ritom in the Valle Leventina in Ticino, an Italian-speaking canton in southern Switzerland. Our second main was local Geneva veal with salsify declination. Historically believed similar to the delicate flavor of oysters, the taste of the root-like salsify is closer to that of asparagus or artichoke hearts. 

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As for drinks, preferring pairings to a single vintage, we imbibed on Humagne Blanche from the house of Volcan de Chene in Valais, southwest Switzerland, and Volcan du Chene by Philippoz Freres Leytron in the central part of Valais.

In terms of group service, Le Richemond offers multiple events rooms. Decorated with trompe-l’oeil paintings, mirrored walls, magnificent parquet flooring and Murano glass chandeliers, its ballroom hosts seated dinners for up to 80 guests, and cocktails for up to 100. Its Paul Klee Salon can host a seated dinner for up to 200 guests, or cocktail receptions for 280.

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For a pampering experience in the cosmopolitan city of Geneva, a wide-ranging gourmet menu and classic, yet modern, design, Le Richemond is hard to beat.

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