The Oriental Gem on Lake Geneva
July 23, 2016
Written by Ridima Mittal
Sparkling on the shores of river Rhône, surrounded by rugged peaks, Mandarin Oriental Geneva is truly a pearl of the region. With 189 rooms and suites on offer, the hotel has the space to experiment with a marriage of Swiss and Oriental charm – and the result does not disappoint.
Since its inception in 1950, as the first hotel built in Europe after the Second World War, Mandarin Oriental Geneva continues to define and redefine the best of “cultural fusion”. Each year, it surpasses its own proficiency in excellence, gathering an increasing number of reviews on social websites from loyal and new visitors, who believe in its unique dedication to service, presentation and design. Lars Wagner, the General Manager, has a vision for Mandarin Oriental Geneva to be “the market leader – an innovator – and a hotel well integrated into the local community, which provides intuitive, from-the-heart service”. He further adds, “Service from-the-heart means we greet you, we talk to you with a lot of pride and dignity and we’re natural”. He states that “every Mandarin Oriental around the world has its own unique sense of place and is inspired by local customs, habits and flavours.” He takes particular pride in the “smart, appealing food and beverage concept” that La Riviera, MO Bar and Rasoi together portray in their culinary offering.
THE ALLURING “SWISSNESS”
The hotel offers a front row seat of Geneva’s rich heritage. Being the primary choice for many corporates and leisure travellers because of its proximity to historic and business districts, the hotel projects a certain “Swissness” throughout its service and presentation. Upon entry, a colourful Swiss cow statue welcomes guests into the establishment, designed by the innovative and playful designer Percho from Carouge (a charming municipality in the canton of Geneva). The hotel also contains a unique logo, capturing all the Swiss cantonal flags in woods carried from the Swiss Alps.
The ‘Swissness’ prevails when one enters the room. There is a personalised note from Mr. Wagner with a culinary ritual waiting to be celebrated. Inspired by a Geneva tradition of “Smashing the Marmite”, which symbolises the victory of Geneva against the invasion of the Savoy Duke troops on December 12th 1602, a chocolate sphere is broken with a hammer to reveal a surprise inside. As an extended courtesy, one also gets to savour the complimentary Swiss chocolates.
THE MARRIAGE OF EAST AND WEST
The interiors of the guestrooms are designed by renowned French artist, Sybille de Margerie, who combined intelligent symmetry with clean curves and embellished the rooms with new elegant furnishings. Modern Art’s bold presence is softened by the soothing earth tones of greens, browns and creams. Luxurious materials have been used throughout, including parquet, Greek marble and soft wool carpets as well as leathers, silks and mohair. And to extend the celebration of the local region, every item of furniture is Swiss-made.
The Mandarin floor, a recent addition to the Mandarin boat shaped architectural design, is located on the hotel’s sixth floor. This floor hosts spacious rooms that blend contemporary Sybille de Margerie designs with effortless elegance and offer two sophisticated palettes: fuchsia and silver or delicate tones of gold. The Junior Terrace Suites and The Oriental Suite have been designed by Buz Design of Hong Kong who has created a contemporary urban retreat concept. All the suites have private terraces, where guests can enjoy panoramic views of the Rhône River, Geneva’s historic Old Town and the surrounding snow-capped mountains. The Oriental Suite is ultra-luxurious. It covers 150 sqm and has a large living room, dining room with a butler’s pantry, bedroom with walk-in closet, spacious bathroom and its own spa facilities, including a hammam and a 62 sqm terrace.
And then there is the Presidential Suite. Located on the very top floor with a 360-degree view and its own elevator, this suite is the ultimate expression of luxury at the hotel, boasting Art Deco elegance and comfort. The Presidential’s terrace looks out over the city, the lake, harbour, the Salève mountain and ultimately – weather permitting – the famous Mont Blanc peak.
THE GASTRONOMIC TREATS
La Riviera, a pop-up restaurant in the establishment, projects an image reminiscent of the French Riviera. The Café celebrates exceptional seafood and cuisine cooked in Provençale herbs, served with a modern touch. In the words of Mr. Wagner, “I wanted an extreme contrast, you can call it a blend. The colourful paintings from Paulin Nikolli, a Nice artist, represents a lot of blue for the water, a lot of yellow and orange for the sun and you see a common theme in colours and content. So, I wanted a contradiction between simple restaurant and a very colourful artwork.” La Riviera is thus a perfect choice for guests desiring a flavour of France (including a taste of a wide range of Provençale wines).
Rasoi by Vineet is another culinary choice at the hotel – an elegant Indian-inspired setting for the urban connoisseur. The restaurant’s schematic textural pattern was designed by world renowned Adam D. Tihany (widely considered to have coined the term “restaurant designer”) and inside guests can delight in fragrant roses, Indian instrumental music and a live tandoor, where breads and meat are prepared for a memorable fine dining experience.
Rasoi has cultivated a unique offering for Geneva, adopting the Indian culinary tradition of minimal ingredients, while blending them in tangling bouquet of aromatic spices. Yet while Baskar Chakravarthy, Chef de Cuisine, adopts the philosophy that “cooking is actually a simple science”, I can vouch for his modesty, having indulged in the cuisine myself. Chasing the art to achieve that impeccable taste, he uses the “goodness of western cuisines with Indian flavours” preparing plates with a devotion to “the right cooking technique for each dish”. My personal recommendation would be the Gourmand tasting Menu that exhibits the melange of noble spices with experiential zest. An exotic presentation with sumptuous textures and tastes – the menu beholds a surprise till the last dessert. The suspended sorbet of peach and fennel, complemented with champagne, was just one of the highlights of this menu.
The hotel has a third venue on offer for the culinary enthuisiasts – MO Bar. Positioned as an oasis for corporates, guests can enjoy gala evenings with live music and delightful cocktails. The bar showcases a range of opulent alcoholic brands, such as Louis XIII de Rémy Martin Grande Champagne Cognac, which lends the destination a certain air of extravagence. The signature drink called MO Spice cocktail simply cannot be missed when visiting.
THAT LITTLE EXTRA
In an effort to strengthen bonds with returning visitors, Mandarin Oriental Geneva continously pushes itself forward in bringing the best experience to its customers. They have recently launched two new packages that further preach the rich legacy of Switzerland, with panache. The first package, ‘Happy Suite Diamonds’, offers guests a private two-hour workshop at the renowned atelier Chopard. At Chopard, guests will have the opportunity to learn the art of jewellery-making from the experts and discover the secrets behind the modern jewellery masterpieces. In the second package, ‘Sweet Swiss Getaway’, the guests are chauffeured to the atelier of Geneva’s renowned chocolate maker Favarger. There, Favarger’s Master Chocolatier Philippe Colnel guides the guests through a bespoke, private two-hour workshop, during which they also create their own chocolate delicacies.
After my experience at Mandarin Oriental Geneva, I can say that I will very likely be one of the hotel’s many returning guests. The impeccable service, panoramic views, creative designs, seductive cuisine, air of elegance and the passion to constantly outdo itself, sets the hotel apart as one worth returning to again and again.