This Breathtaking Swiss District Is One of Europe's Most Exciting Places to Eat
Canton de Vaud, one of Switzerland's most stunning regions, has become a hub of extraordinary dining. Here's where to eat
When one thinks of Switzerland’s Canton de Vaud—the mountainous district bordered by Lake Geneva to the south and France to the west—quite a number of things might come to mind ahead of its culinary landscape. The actual landscape, for one: Vaud is renowned for its vistas, especially those of the placid lake, Evian, France and its Alpine silhouette.
It’s a region full of wonders, Vaud. Its capital city, Lausanne, is home to both the Olympic headquarters and museum and the world’s only 7,000-pipe, six-million-franc, Italian-designed organ, which is found in the gothic Notre Dame de Lausanne cathedral. In the summer, hordes of music lovers pour into the Vaudoise city of Montreux for its famed jazz festival (and presumably to pose in front of the statue of Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury). The city of Vevey, into which Charlie Chaplin assimilated after being made persona non grata in the States, is the site of a museum that celebrates the reticent thespian’s life and career.
Partakers in winter sport head east into the Vaudoise alps for all the ski action one can muster and in Veytaux-Chillon, the medieval castle that inspired the Disney rendering of Prince Eric’s castle in The Little Mermaid is perched on the banks of the lake.
Make no mistake, however, the food and wine scene in Vaud should be one of your top reasons for visiting the Swiss region. After all, it is home to the Restaurant de L’Hotel de Ville de Crissier, the three Michelin-starred wonder that is on about every best restaurant in the world list.
Vaud is as easy to get to as its denizens are warm and agreeable. It's easily accessible from Geneva. From New York,I elected to take the scenic route: A direct flight to Milan on Emirates Airline and a three-hour train ride that gave the sensation of piercing through a postcard as I zoomed past picturesque villages tucked into verdant snow-capped hills. Perfect! It’s time to eat! From traditional to modern cuisine, Vaud is at your service.
If you like your meals with a side of literal song and dance, 3 Sifflets is your go to spot in the town of Vevey. The casual restaurant famed for its traditional Swiss cheese fondue is a stone’s throw away from Vevey’s iconic hotel, Les Trois Couronnes, situated on the main thoroughfare of rue du Simplon. The entire restaurant grinds to a halt as your choice of an assortment of fondue flavors is brought to your table by a server in makeshift regimental regalia, carrying the red and white national flag on a post and announcing that your fondue is yours for the savoring over the blare of patriotic music. In a flash, the kitsch display dies down and you are back in the quietude for which the Swiss are renowned, dipping your pieces of bread into silken melted cheese. 3 Sifflets
Domaine Bovy Winery
Vaud’s Lavaux countryside—a UNESCO World Heritage site—is the location of one of the most idyllic vineyard terraces one can fathom, with the seemingly-ceaseless rows of grape vines stretching to the mouth of Lac Léman. Of the several vineyards where one can try a glass or three of Chasselas, a dry white varietal with distinctive full, fruity flavor that is essentially synonymous with Swiss wine, the family-owned, boutique Bovy winery is one that is sure to please. Sit on the charming veranda overlooking the lake for a tasting of wine and tapas after a member of the family has given you a tour of their cellar in which the oak barrels have been hand-painted with renaissance scenes by Maurice Bovy, some dating back over 100 years. Domaine Bovy
Named for the sculpture of a giant fork sticking, tines-down, out of Lake Geneva in Vevey, a monumental ode to the nearby Alimentarium Food Museum on the shoreline of the lake promenade, Ze Fork is a fashionable restaurant that features a menu that is a compendium of mini prix-fixe menus broken down by gustatory theme. “Les Champs” (The Fields), for example, offers a trio of tasting portions of tartare of deer with blueberries, blinis of gourd and ham of wild boar and ballotine of pheasant, while “La Mer,” you guessed it, features a tasting of imaginative seafood dishes. There are multiple themes from which to choose, and thus, multiple reasons to return. Ze Fork
Cruise company CGN operates a number of gourmet cruises, serving breakfast, lunch or dinner, aboard their beautiful Belle Epoch paddle steamers that glide down Lake Geneva. Profit from envious, mobile views of Vaud’s towns and mountains while you eat like royalty. Book a lunch reservation for La Suisse, CGN’s flagship, and enjoy a classic three-course meal in a dining room that might as well be straight out of the imagination of Cecil Beaton. Be sure to let your server know when you board at which stop you must get off to ensure all your courses are served on time, as you do not want miss out on Switzerland’s most famous dessert: crispy meringues showered in fresh double cream from Gruyère, the medieval village in Vaud’s neighboring canton, Fribourg. CGN Gourmet Cruise
Breakfast at The Beau Rivage Palace
Lausannois hotel Beau Rivage Palace is perhaps Vaud’s most exclusive and historic hotel. Boasting an impressive roll-call of celebrity guests (many of whom are pictured on a wall of framed, signed, black-and-white photos on the hotel's lowest floor), Beau Rivage Palace is perhaps most known in the culinary world as home of French chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s two-Michelin-starred, eponymous Swiss outpost.
Yet, equally impressive, is the hotel’s breakfast service. Composed of a stunning buffet display and à la carte service in a sun-slathered dinning room, breakfast at Beau Rivage Palace is an elaborate affair rendered with the same soft elegance and light touch of whimsy the entire establishment espouses. The bread selection alone, with its bottomless choices of pain au sucre, croissants, pain au chocolat and other yeasty pleasures cascading out of a silver nest-like basket on each table, is enough to indicate that one is in for an indulgence. The smoked salmon is a particular delight, and the fresh juices made to order are a must. Since you’re already there basking in Beau Rivage Palace opulence, pop into the Cinq Mondes spa on site after breakfast to round off your luxurious morning with a rejuvenating massage. Beau Rivage Place
At the modern restaurant Eligo, in Le Flon, Lausanne’s bustling quartier, chef Guillaume Rainex reigns in a kitchen separated from diners in the sparsely-decorated restaurant only by a thin glass membrane. Foodies flock to the 15 Gault-Millau point (and one Michelin-starred) restaurant to watch the quiet and studious chef alchemize fresh, seasonal, locally-sourced produce into creations such as seared tuna with gelée and frosted yoghurt. The tuna is warm, supple, salty; the gelée is sweet; the frosted yoghurt infuses the dish with an opposing yet harmonious dash of grainy coldness: this is the sort of inventiveness that can be expected from an outing to Eligo. Save room for dessert, which is just as impressive as the rest of the menu, especially if you order the soufflé. Eligo