Following in the footsteps of Churchill and Mandela at The Dolder Grand
November 20, 2015
Writer: Rob Wetton
Much has changed at Zürich’s Dolder Grand since Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela graced its halls with their presence. But one thing has remained the same: it’s reputation as one of the finest hotels in the world.
Since Urs. E. Schwarzenbach relaunched the hotel in 2008, the castle-styled structure and surrounding establishment has expanded to include 176 rooms and suites. It has also modernised dramatically, offering guests iPads, for example, to explore the exceptional art collection, which includes more than 100 original pieces from the likes of Warhol, Dali and Pissarro.
And then there are the enhancements to the spa and dining experiences. Already highly awarded, the dining and spa offering at The Dolder Grand has reached new heights this year, having been awarded GaultMillau Hotel of the Year 2016, Hotel Spa of the Year (Western Europe & Scandinavia, World Spa and Wellness Awards) as well as Best Spa in the world (Virtuoso).
In a word, this five star superior hotel is a treat. You will find yourself savouring every second of the experience. And departing with higher expectations for everything posing as “grand”.
Wellness has remained a key focus of the hotel since its Curhaus opened in 1899, and with an area spanning 4,000 square metres, the spa undeniably remains one of The Dolder Grand’s standout attributes.
Once the sheer size of the spa has made its impression, the beautiful views of the alps, the chic modern interior and the wide range of options for relaxation become apparent. Among the other highlights that guests can look forward to are aroma pools, heated pebbles in a traditional Japanese Sunaburo and a snow room (apparently a good complement to the sauna).
While it may be tempting to unwind in these spaces for the duration of your spa visit, you would miss out on far too much for this to be a wise decision. It goes without saying that a visit to The Dolder Grand must include a private treatment.
I would personally highly recommend the “Hydraheaven” treatment. And when you do visit, here’s another recommendation: ensure you arrive at the treatment rooms half an hour before your session commences to enjoy the signature tea in comfort and prepare yourself for a deeper level of tranquility.
After I had my half an hour of relaxation, I met my therapist (Milja Haidak), who led me into a very spacious massage room. From the moment my treatment commenced, I was struck by Milja’s suprisingly soft touch, caring questions and professionalism.
The treatment had several stages. Milja commenced with a foot bath and scrub and then invited me into the waterbed. Here, cushioned by water below me without the discomfort of being wet, I lay, listening to serene meditation music. After what seemed an eternity, I was gently awoken. A mini-facial with an aqua gel masque from Kerstin Florian soon followed, along with a scalp, foot and body massage, which left me feeling renewed from head to toe.
Of course, for those guests desiring a little extra, there are more opulent treatments available. The Moor Mud massage, for example, offers a 150-minute treatment, which is recommended by the hotel. And Medical Wellness options are also available, ranging from caviar firming facials to plastic surgery.
The Dolder Grand is not only designed for those watching their weight and attending Wellness sessions. With two restaurants that are delicate in their presentations and explosive in flavours, the hotel will make any gourmand’s trip to Switzerland worthwile.
The most celebrated culinary offering at the hotel is The Restaurant. And as its name implies, it is not just “a” restaurant. Managed by Heiko Nieder, awarded “Best German Chef Abroad” (GaultMillau Germany), this venue is only one of 19 two-michelin star restaurants in the country and boasts 18 GaultMillau points. The restaurant’s success is partly driven by the opulence of the 4-12 course menu that is available, featuring delicacies from kobe beef to Norwegian lobsters. The 1,100 bottles of wine available also contribute to The Restaurant’s reputation. However, like any fine restaurant, what makes it truly exceptional, are the culinary skills that bring the food to life in the kitchen.
The other culinary option available to guests is the Garden Restaurant, open for all day dining. I was personally pleasantly surprised by the quality of this venue, as often secondary restaurants in hotels pale in comparison to the signature offering. The service team were charming and prompt, the wine options included a fine range of local specialties, including bottles from Valais and Zürich, and delicacies were woven into the dishes, such as the delightful alba truffles.
If you have the opportunity to visit the Garden Restaurant for dinner, I would highly recommend the Rösti and Züri-Geschnetzeltes. This Swiss speciality offers exceptionally tender meat and the presentation of the potatoes places the rösti above most that I have tried. Suffice to say, if you order this dish with a good pinot noir, you’ll be sure to savour every mouthful.
Last but not least, the breakfast at the Garden Restaurant is a treat and not to be missed. Once again I was impressed with the service. When asked whether the orange juice on the menu was fresh, the service assistant replied “It was squeezed earlier this morning, but we can squeeze more for you if you wish”. As for the cuisine itself, you can look forward to indulging in local Swiss cheeses, enjoying a traditional Swiss bircher muesli with figs and designing your own omelette.
After unwinding and dining in opulence, you’ll expect the same from the suites. And your expectations will be met. Whether you are staying in the Main Building, which contains the restored castle structure, or the new Spa or Golf wings, you will find yourself encountering only the finest luxuries. Once inside, you will bath with natural amenities from Kerstin Florian, listen to Bang & Olufsen speakers and, in some suites, savour spectacular views of Zürich and the alps.
As a potential guest, you will have four signature suites to choose from. And while each suite caters to a different target, having viewed the suites, it is safe to say that the Maestro Suite particularly stands out. Placed directly below the central tower of the Dolder Grand and spreading over two stories and 400 square metres, this suite offers truly exceptional views of Zürich, the lake and the alps. Suite 100 would also appeal to guests who appreciate inspiring design features. Reminiscent of the Rolling Stones, this suite contains red and black hues throughout and boasts an impressively large boardroom as well as a terrace with alp views. The two remaining suites, Masina and Carezza, each have their own unique attributes and both feature elegant interiors and memorable views.
Those guests requiring a more intimate space for a romantic break, could also be interested in the Junior Suite Deluxe offer. Having stayed in this suite, it is my personal recommendation and I can vouch for the exceptional comfort offered throughout, from the exotic snacks that are frequently replaced to the sofa and soft king bed. The suite also boasts lake views from both the whirlpool bath and balcony, offering many opportunities for romantic moments.
Like any of the best luxury hotels, The Dolder Grand has its own idiosyncrasies and extras that make it memorable. It is often these touches that kindle the irrevocable loyalty that returning guests have for such hotels.
One of the many benefits of staying at the hotel is the opportunity to enjoy a quality selection of cars free of charge, including BMW i3 and BMW 6 Series models. For the more adventurous, mountain bikes (and e-bikes) are also available.
Guests will also notice an impressive selection of exotic flowers throughout the hotel, which add a layer of natural extravagance to the ambience. During festive seasons, these are apparently particularly splendid, such as the 12,000 carnations that are arranged in a giant egg shape over Easter and the Christmas wreath, which contains 10,000 berries from the African winter cherry plant.
Cars and floral arrangement aside, observant guests will notice uncountable little extras that come their way and make their stay a treat. Whether it’s the endearing complimentary German bedtime picture book or the state-of-the-art technology throughout the hotel, almost every corner offers a pleasant surprise.
WHEN TO VISIT?
Festive days are certainly a good time to visit the hotel, with the famous New Year’s ball occurring every year (offering culinary specialities like goose liver and kumquat along with entrecote of bison) and Christmas, which boasts magnificent decorations and a highly regarded traditional English afternoon tea.
I would also personally recommend any time during the winter months. Not only does The Dolder Grand own Europe’s largest open-air ice-skating rink, but it also has an ideal perspective over Zürich. This means that when the snow falls, the Switzerland that you have always imagined comes to life before your very eyes.
For more details see: https://www.thedoldergrand.com/