Wylde World: Swiss Deluxe Hotels
by Shaun Middleton
Given the opportunity to experience the Swiss Deluxe Hotels group of five-star luxury establishments, we leapt at the chance. There are 38 hotels in this group so we decided to try two in a city environment (we went for Zürich) and another two in a classic Swiss resort (we picked St. Moritz). What connects these hotels and the other 34 in the group is, in their words: "the quality they offer, the prestige they exude and the personal attention which characterises the outstanding services they provide."
We popped over to Switzerland for four days to see if this was the case...
The Dolder Grand Hotel, Zürich
A combination of old world Swiss charm and sharp international chic is the best way to describe the The Dolder Grand Hotel. Dating from 1899, the hotel was given an audacious makeover by Foster + Partners in 2008, who added two new wings, which curve and embrace the original building.
Situated on the edge of a forest to the east of Zürich and overlooking the city's lake, The Dolder Grand has 173 rooms. The original building resembles a fairytale Castle (complete with Disney-esque turrets) and here the rooms are comfortable, welcoming and traditional. However, shouldhaute moderne be your bag, then stay in one of the Foster wings (known as the Golf or Spa wings, depending on which you are nearest). In these two curving arms, dimly lit corridors give way to sleek modern rooms. Dark wood floors and fittings, frosted glass panels (especially in the bathrooms) and glossy, fossil-filled tiles are the norm.
Lights, TV and curtains can all be operated from your bed by remote control. If you really want to experience the rock star life style then ask for the Rolling Stones-inspired Suite 100. Modelled on the groovy 100 Club in London, its decor is as black as Keith Richards' eye liner and as purple as Jagger's velvet flares. The bathroom looks like a psychedelic hamam and will satisfy even the most jaded banker's feverish rock and roll fantasies. A Stones-signed Union Jack electric guitar is nonchalantly propped up against a wall...is it security tagged?!
The Dolder Grand is ultimately a place to relax. Its spa (all 43,000 sq ft of it) offers so many treatments it may actually be difficult to leave the hotel. Most fascinating to Wylde was the Meditation Walk. In its ever-decreasing, spiralling high-stone-walled pathway you are led to a still centre point (strangely resembling the inside of a disco ball) where you are encouraged to simply be. The whole process takes an hour, apparently. However, if Zen and meditation are not your thing, then the 25m pool (with stunning mountain views), sauna and massage rooms (with live string quartet!) may hit the spot.
The hotel seeks to assault the senses at every level and the stunning views are matched by the hotel's truly impressive art collection. We spotted an enormous Warhol, three Pissarros, a Dali, Hirst, Haring and a beautiful Henry Moore sculpture on the outside terrace. Zürich is a town that takes its kunst very seriously and at The Dolder Grand it shows.
Prices for rooms start at 540 CHF/night
The Eden Au Lac Hotel, Zürich
We visited the Eden Au Lac Hotel for a meal whilst in Zürich and discovered a small but beautiful old lady (with a slight French accent?) who has kept her looks and still knows how to impress her guests. Beautifully sited on the shores of Lake Zürich the hotel is the epitome of old fashioned luxury and service, making you feel like a valued old friend who has returned once more to this home away from home. Having just fifty rooms means that the Eden can really go to town with personalised, yet unobtrusive, treatment of each guest. One is given an old fashioned key for the room... forget those ubiquitous plastic key cards! And like your room at exactly 23°C? They will have it exactly so for your next visit.
There's a great roof terrace bar and eaterie with the most stunning views over the city and the lake but the pièce de résistance is the Restaurant Eden with its Belle Epoque grandeur and 13 GaultMillau points. Chef Sebastian Diegmann creates fresh, seasonal French-inspired cuisine: we had a gorgeous Jerusalem artichoke soup followed by a perfect lemon sole and a champagne/Granny Smith/honey dessert that, back in the UK, we can still taste!
If you are visiting Zürich and fancy a change from the relentless international luxe-moderne, stay with this grande dame, who will comfort you and regale you with tales of the parties that she used to...and continues to throw... and to which you are of course invited.
Prices for rooms start at 412.50 CHF/night
The Kulm Hotel, St. Moritz
The oligarchs may come in by helicopter and private jet, but the only way to travel to St Moritz is by train. We boarded at Zürich and thoroughly enjoyed the Swiss landscape we initially raced through; the lake, some chalet-strewn towns and views of distant mountains; so far so chocolate box! Halfway along the route you change at a town called Chur and from then on the magic begins. Put it this way: Harry Potter's train ride to Hogwarts pales into insignificance. Suddenly and breathtakingly the colossal Alps soar up above you and you start to twist and turn on tracks that sometimes seem to teeter precariously over dangerous ravines. Vertical mountain sides wear a million snow-clad Christmas trees and after racing through pitch-black tunnels you gasp as you are suddenly confronted again with scenery that is truly mind-blowing.
So you could say The Kulm (well, all of St. Moritz, really) is already at an advantage as you step, dazzled, off the train. Whatever, the magic really did seem to continue during our rather brief two-day stay in the town. The Kulm offers a warm welcome with a genuine grin on its face, attention to detail which is simply astounding and a pitch-perfect interior design scheme that straddles Heidi-friendly Alpine cosiness with an eccentricity, as evidenced by the lobby and lounge area where the walls, pillars and anything else that doesn't move are covered in printed silk. It could have been an unholy mess but it works brilliantly.
Whether you're an ardent skier, crazy about the Cresta run or you've simply come to relax and unwind (don't forget these resort towns were originally always about rest and recuperation) the hotel will cater to your every whim. The Kulm offers three restaurants, Le Grand (towering ceilings, chandeliers, red velvet furnishings, gourmet cuisine), the K (low ceilings, modern yet cosy ambiance, gourmet cuisine) and the cute Pizzeria. After several days of haute cuisine we decided to go for the latter...and loved it. The pasta was hearty and substantial, the Chef's pizza unusual: ham, tomato and pistacchio, anyone? The Fegato alla Veneziana (calves liver) melted in the mouth and was a real treat, warm, satisfying and unguent. We had no room for a pudding, so beware: the portions are meant to satisfy those who have been burning up calories all day.
For the slightly less energetic, the Kulm has a 2,000 m² spa with stunning views over the mountains and lake. There's an invigorating outdoor heated pool, plus 13 treatment rooms and even a private spa that the hotel delightfully recommend for 'a newly-married couple'! The whole spa is beautifully designed, calm, softly-lit and has that lovely spa smell that puts you at ease before you have begun to part with your hard-earned cash!
Prices for rooms start at 335 CHF/night in low season-510 CHF/night in high season
The Carlton Hotel, St. Moritz
Venturing out from the Kulm, past the amazing plethora of designer boutiques, we dined at the Carlton Hotel on our last night in St. Moritz. Ridiculously well-positioned in front of the truly majestic mountains and frozen lake and with all the discretion of a confident Swiss banker, the Carlton Hotel offers that standard of service to its guests which sets luxury hotels apart. In 2007 the hotel took the daring decision to reduce its number of suites to 60 so that everyone would have a lake view: no rooms face the town at the back.
The Carlton began and, with tongue firmly in cheek, perpetuates the myth that it was originally built to be the summer residence of Tsar Nicholas II. This spurious Romanoff connection inspired the Swiss designer Carlo Rampazzi when he redesigned the hotel interiors: you can spot the double-headed eagle everywhere. The interiors successfully mix new pieces with antiques and each suite has a unique twist... no cookie-cutter predictability here.
Crowning the hotel and boasting the largest suite in St. Moritz: the penthouse is truly a taste of how the other half live. Simultaneously huge and yet warm and cosy, every feature shrieks luxe. Three bedrooms (plus one for the nanny), separate dressing rooms, a fully-functioning kitchen (where a hotel employee will prepare your meals), an office and meeting area, and a small lobby for your security guard... sigh... one day!
Back down in reality on the ground floor, the hotel offers two restaurants: the Da Vittorio, helmed by brothers Enrico and Roberto Cerea, which has gained 17 Gault Millau points, and the Romanoff, which has 15 Gault Millau points and is where we ate. A really beautiful meal! Modern, lively cuisine using delicious, seasonal ingredients and local produce. Standouts were the prawn and lemon curry soup, the scallops with pea-mint purée and tomato marshmallows, a perfect beef fillet with spinach and potato-bacon espuma and the red mullet with balsamic lentils. The puddings (so often an afterthought) were stunning too. The pineapple millefeuille with coconut cream was a sudden burst of Caribbean sunshine and the marinated oranges with fennel sherbet an unexpected delight.
Slightly dazed, we relaxed after our meal in the wonderful, dimly-lit lobby/bar area by a roaring log fire... a perfect end to our whole Swiss Deluxe experience.
Prices for rooms start at 800 CHF/night in low season-1,110 CHF/night in high season
The Dolder Grand Hotel, Zürich
Eden Au Lac Hotel, Zürich
Kulm Hotel, St Moritz
The Carlton Hotel, St Moritz
For more information on Switzerland visit www.MySwitzerland.com or call our Switzerland Travel Centre on the International freephone 00800 100 200 30 or email, for information email@example.com; for packages, trains, and air tickets firstname.lastname@example.org