Away with the fairies at Beau Rivage Hotel Geneva
A five-star hotel with world class gastronomic fare? Or one of the best 'restaurants with rooms' in Europe? Either way, Beau Rivage is a masterclass in Swiss hospitality
‘Away with the fairies’ is a term generally used to describe someone acting foolishly or distractedly, as if they’re in a dreamworld. However, whilst packing for a trip to the luxurious Beau Rivage Hotel in Geneva, I contemplated that surely this saying is actually more of a compliment than an insult. After all, fairies are generally thought of as friendly and sweet and kind, and ‘away’ implies a trip or adventure or holiday, so overall this should be something positive.
Touching down a while later in Geneva, on a beautiful sunny day, I further reasoned that even if we are talking about the ‘distracted and dreamy’ definition of the saying, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally mentally switching off and taking a good break. Maybe we all need a few days away with the fairies every once in a while.
A good break, with plenty of luxurious pampering thrown in for good measure, is exactly what Beau Rivage Hotel provides. The five-star establishment has been an iconic landmark in Geneva for more than 150 years now, closing only twice in its history (for World War II and then more recently due to covid). Perfectly located between the bustling city centre and the lake, and with stunning views out over the famous Jet d’Eau fountain, the name Beau Rivage (French for ‘beautiful shore’) is very well suited to the hotel. It is also an establishment that has welcomed many celebrities and royalty through the years.
If these walls could talk, they would no doubt mention the Austrian Empress Sissi, a beautiful princess with ankle-length hair who was tragically stabbed while walking on a nearby promenade, and returned to her room where she later died. The Czechoslovakian document of independence was signed at the hotel, and it also hosted the formation of the renowned Red Cross, as well as a Sotheby’s event in 1987 when they famously auctioned off the jewels of the Duchess of Windsor. These days the ultra-modern and comfortable suites and penthouses pay homage to the history of the hotel, with many named after famous guests of the past such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Charlie Chaplin.
The entrance hall provides a suitably grand introduction: marble columns, large frescoes, an overarchingly bold neoclassical style and the intricate mosaic floor all combine to provide the initial ‘wow’ factor. The rooms and suites are equally stupendous: expect bathrooms almost as large as the bedroom, gilt-framed furnishings throughout, and at least one piece of furniture per room which looks as though it belongs in an auction house rather than a hotel. It seems no expense was spared and plush pink marble, grand chandeliers and classical period paintings were liberally called upon for the design of the interiors.
The rooms are individually styled, with Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco influences being found in the various suites. The renovations in 2018 saw 17 rooms added to the 5thand 6th floors, many of them split-level duplexes, making a total of 95 rooms and suites in the hotel. While exploring it’s worth keeping an eye out for the 150 angels tucked away in various forms (sculpted, carved and painted), as clearly Beau Rivage Hotel provides not only a holiday away with the fairies, but the possibility of floating on a cloud with angels as well.
The Polish equivalent of ‘away with the fairies’ is ‘thinking of blue almonds’, and within minutes of arriving that was an accurate description of my relaxation levels. Albertine’s Terrace looks out over the lake, and it’s perfect for completely unwinding, preferably with a cocktail and snack in hand (none of the almonds are blue, thankfully). It’s stylish and trendy, but also relaxed enough to while away a few hours mindlessly admiring the view while enjoying the Asian and Mediterranean flavoured tapas selections.
The drinks menu has an extensive list of wines and champagnes, and the cocktails are bold, daring and temptingly ‘moreish.’ If this is what life is like away with the fairies, then sign me up for an annual pass. And for those after more than just a drink, a tasting experience in the wine cellar also comes highly recommended: our sommelier was able to accurately and passionately talk about an impressive amount of the 1,350 different wines collected from all over the world, some dating back over 100 years.
Le Chat- Botté (‘Puss in Boots’) is the Michelin star restaurant which has been led by chef Dominique Gauthier for the last 30 years, and has been awarded a deserved 18 out of 20 rating from Gault & Millau. The tasting menus are an absolute delight, with each course (and there are many) transporting the guest to a new world of tastes and textures. The amuse bouche more than lived up to their name, and even the more daring dishes were stupendous (take a bow, stuffed morel mushrooms served with green peas juice and garlic milk foam). Sustainability is also a key vision of the restaurant, as on average 65% of the ingredients are locally sourced.
This was well complemented by the sommelier, who takes the diner on a meandering exploration of fine wines from the local regions. By the end of the meal it was a tough choice, but my personal favourite dish was the blown sugar pink rhubarb dessert: an impossibly delicate sugar globe, which once cracked revealed the sweet rhubarb treasure within. The Greek equivalent of the ‘away with the fairies’ phrase was now true: ‘in his head three are singing and two are dancing.’
Venturing out of the hotel, Geneva is a wonderful city to explore. Boasting the backdrop of the scenic Mont Saleve and nestled along the shores of Lake Geneva, the city has a peaceful and natural feel to it which is well suited to swimming and walking in Summer. Its history stretches back all the way to Roman times, so exploring the Old Town’s impressively ancient cathedrals and museums makes for a delightful stroll into the past. By contrast the newer part of town is all about the elegant shops, glitzy restaurants and well-known international organisations (such as the Red Cross and the League of Nations) giving Geneva it’s nickname as the ‘City of Peace’.
Add in a sunset cruise on the water and some wine tasting at the nearby vineyards, and before you know it you’ll have a bona fide holiday itinerary planned. It’s true the prices are not to be sneezed at (it’s best to double check before tucking into a hearty meal) but as a city for an escape from the normal routines of life, Geneva ticks all the boxes. After all, everyone deserves to ‘dream of green horses on walls’ or ‘ponder the crab’s immortality’ (the Romanian and Mexican equivalents of ‘away with the fairies’) every now and again.