Switzerland may engender visions of grand ski resorts. Sure, you can ski and toboggan near Lake Geneva. But the Lake Geneva region also offers delicious dining opportunities along the lake towns of Lausanne and the Montreux Riviera. During a summer visit to Lausanne, I discovered the fourth largest Swiss city is rich with eclectic neighborhoods and talented chefs. Montreux buzzed with preparations for the famous jazz festival. Meanwhile the picturesque towns ringing the lake from Lausanne to Montreux such as Vevey own up to their name as the Montreux Riviera with their relaxed lifestyle. I also boarded a train for a brief, scenic ride to Rougemont in the Alps where I experienced modern lodging and exceptional gastronomy.
1. Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville de Crissier (Lausanne)
The five-pronged, star-like symbol of the restaurant represents the five elements of gastronomy from wood and fire to earth. The experience at this Michelin-starred restaurant lives up to this sensory billing. Located in a suburb of Lausanne, the former town hall building belies the simple luxury of the interior with matching patterns in the curtains, carpet and wall coverings. The only restaurant to maintain three Michelin stars under four consecutive chefs welcomes all guests as family. After a nine-course, small-portioned lunch, I wanted to take a long walk around Crissier and return for dinner.
It may be crazy to call bread service a separate course, but that is how I felt after taking the first bites of warm lemon bread and a mini-epi loaf served before the amuse bouche of iced tomato velouté with guacamole mousse accompanied by a petite corn muffin. Later, during the Limousin beef course, I nearly swooned over the olive bread delivered with it. The langoustine tails cooked in the traditional coral-colored sauce American were delightfully dressed with raw and caramelized fennel and citrus chips. Other favorite courses included pan-fried scallops with citrus fruits and the local and selections from the cheese cart. After a palate-cleansing frozen “Mojito” granita, dessert arrived with a flourish of a dark chocolate dome encircled by oversized Provençal cherries and pistachios.
Insider’s Tip: Speak with the sommelier about the excellent list of Swiss and international wines. The chef offers Kitchen Academy cooking lessons and dining in the kitchen.
2. Brasserie du Royal at Hotel Royal Savoy (Lausanne)
Renovated a few years ago, the Royal Savoy Hotel near the Olympic Museum in Lausanne is an excellent example of Swiss “palace” hotel architecture. Replete with the new SkyLounge bar overlooking the city and Lake Geneva, the gastronomic star at the hotel is the bright and airy Brasserie du Royal with an appetizing patio area during summer months. There is also a grand lounge bar, and check out the new, luxury spa a few steps away. The motif of the main dining mural is ancient Greece offering homage to Lausanne’s role as headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Michelin-starred French chef Marc Haeberlin designed the restaurant and his imprint shows in several signature dishes and the “Monsieur Marc” tasting menu. Executive Chef Julien Krauss crafts excellent food with a local orientation. I enjoyed his white asparagus and tiny, thyme croutons and savored the smoked fera fish from Lake Geneva with vodka and lime cream. The cassolette of Vallorbe snails is artfully garnished with fresh flowers. I didn’t know a cod dish could be so simple, so beautiful, and so delicious as the Brasserie’s candied cod with bacon in a shellfish emulsion with calamansi lemon. For dessert, the signature peach “dome” in a Champagne zabaione light custard is a refreshing finish to the meal.
Insider’s Tip: Sharing is a good way to explore this diverse menu. Ask about local wines such as St. Jodern Kellerei from Europe’s highest vineyard in Visperterminen in the neighboring canton (county) of the Valais.
3. Les Trois Couronnes at Hôtel des Trois Couronnes (Vevey)
A short 15-minute train ride Lausanne leads to a star of the Montreux Riviera, the town of Vevey. The new Chaplain’s World museum documents in interactive ways the history of Charlie Chaplain’s childhood, Hollywood career and his retirement near Vevey. For lodging, the Hotel des Trois Couronnes on Lake Geneva offers luxury accommodations, a spa, and Michelin-starred Trois Couronnes. Also overseen by Chef Lionel Rodriguez, the 3C bistro on the lake offers the same quality and focus on creative presentations.
Chef Lionel Rodriguez believes that dining should be an adventure to remember and named his tasting experience the “Discovery Menu.” Before defining the ingredients and methods, Rodriguez draws a picture of the plate. As a result, each course is an artistic presentation with color and texture as key elements. The chef is obsessed with using the freshest and most local ingredients. The wine director offers top Swiss wines along with international varieties. Expect dishes such as “candied duck” foie gras with poached pears and pistachios, venison fillet with marrow macaroni and seasonal, vegetable millefeuille. The most requested desserts are the soufflés such as pear-caramel.
Insider’s Tip: Ask about joining Chef Rodriguez to visit the harbor and meet the fishermen—or request his recommendations for local wine tasting.
4. Très Café (Montreux)
Montreux is best known for its annual summer Jazz Festival. But there are many other cultural and culinary events throughout the year. To feed the hungry music lovers and visitors, the restaurant and bar scene is bright and energetic. There are several restaurants along the lake path. But only two blocks off the lake is Café Très. With a modern sensibility and seasonal, affordable prix fix menu, the meals here are especially fine to share with friends or family at one of the communal tables.
The setting may be casual and bright, but Café Très food and drink carries a gourmet stamp. The café is known for its foie gras and beef or red tuna tartare with traditional accompaniments. Daily, seasonal soups such as pumpkin with smoked bacon foam are excellent, as are the salads with walnut vinaigrette. Among the fish entrées, the seafood risotto was our stand-out selection. For entrées, the roasted lamb racks with spicy brown sauce, crispy polenta and Macedonian vegetables or the classic option roasted chicken supreme with Cognac Sauce and wild rice looked very tempting. There were several light fruit desserts available, and several unusual crème brûlées, but my choice was the café’s signature chocolate sphere with red fruits.
Insider’s Tip: While in Montreux, visit the 45 restaurant and 45 Bis bar at the Grand Hotel Swiss Majestic. Both culinary destinations feature floor-to-ceiling windows, and in fine weather, the 45 Bis bar opens the patio with stunning views of Lake Geneva. Order an aperitif while setting up sunset photos.
5. Le Roc at Hotel de Rougemont (Rougemont)
For a quick getaway and some Alpine ambiance, hop a GoldenPass train to the village of Rougemont. The scenic views from the train during the 75-minute ride from Montreux are worth the trip. Once in Rougemont, there is an array of outdoor activities from paragliding to hiking. Open during the months of June to November, Hotel de Rougemont delivers destination lodging. Though the architecture and décor evoke Swiss chalet cozy, the accommodations offer modern conveniences and services. The bar is well-stocked with global spirits and talented barkeeps for Happy Hour libations on the patio.
In Le Roc restaurant, Chef Philippe Bouteille is spurred to creativity by local ingredients. He endowed his “Chicken Egg” with a deceivingly simple name, but don’t be fooled. This beautiful starter is full of complex deliciousness with pea purée and bacon. When I tasted the perch fillets meuniere style with his secret tartare sauce of crème fraiche and double cream, I wanted him to bottle it for take-home. But the best dish was the hay-roasted lamb with rosemary juice and friend potatoes. Don’t tell anyone, but I finished the sauce by spooning it up and “drinking” it. Try the dessert with local apricots served tiramisu-style and with Abricotine Valaisanne, the local apricot liqueur.
Insider’s Tip: Ask for samples of the many Swiss and international wines. Don’t miss breakfast in the sunlit dining room with views of cows grazing on the Alpine hills.
Some or all of the experiences discussed within this article may have been provided complimentary in exchange for honest review. All opinions expressed therein are those of the author and from an honest perspective with the readers interest in mind. This article may contain affiliate links: Read our full disclosure here.