Mandarin Oriental Geneva exemplifies Brand Switzerland. Just like the country’s train, everything works and little details count.
When I arrived at the hotel – coincidentally only 11 minutes’ drive from the station – I was immediately struck by the glorious flowers in the centre of the lobby, that reflected both sides. To the right, the open-plan bar led to two restaurants. This is a reflection, perhaps, that the hotel’s GM, David Collas, appreciates food, and other fine elements of life, through and through. He was born in Reims, France, the capital of the Champagne region, and although he continues to be particularly partial to Krug, it was food that won his life.
“I left home at 16, went to cook school in Paris and have never looked back,” he told me. He continued that his culinary background definitely helps when it comes to running a hotel. “The food and beverage side is so complex it teaches you to manage all facets of an overall hotel operation.”
And this is a hotel that has so many facets. Usually, it is about 70% business guests, and strong with English speakers, from US and UK, as well as Australasia and elsewhere. But with Geneva’s proximity to both France and Italy, and the fact it is a transport hub for the world, you are just as likely to hear Arabic and Russian, or whatever. Collis reckons that his 250-strong team speak a couple of dozen languages, between them.
I was in 718, one of the six 65 square-metre suites on the seventh floor, added above the six-floor hotel in 2009 (there are now a total of 181 keys). Come in, to a wood-floor foyer, ecru leather-look walls. To my left, a closet has sensor-activated lights, and a safe. To the right is the brown marble bathroom, with two washbasins, a glass-walled toilet stall, and a no-door rain forest and hand-held shower. The big tub, with its own wall-set television shower, is complemented by an electric rail to warm my towels.
I go back to the main room, which has a mottled sand-coloured carpet, walls that evoke sandstone, or a bamboo-look. Behind the bed, on the right, a smoky-glass wall is flanked by wood panels – interior designer is Lee Rofkind/Buz. The floor-standing B&O is simple-sleek, like floor-set Eco Smart inset gas shaft emitting a two-metre across strip of centimetre-deep ‘fire’. The front of my space is all window, looking over the Rhône, immediately across the two-lane Quai Turrettini (even better views come from the 125 square-metre private terrace of the Royal Penthouse, also on this floor).
Heading back down to ground floor via 131 carpeted stairs, I follow the river, or rather bas-relief wall sculptures, outlined as if in sand, showing the Rhône’s progress, from here to the sea. Each floor’s likeness shows a different logo, with metal statues by a one-time gymnast locally based with her family. Outside, I did in fact follow the Rhône, the real river, and then, after a real lung-enhancing bout of exercise, I head to the hotel’s Yakumanka restaurant, for Peruvian heaven say ceviche and my favourite tuna tartare, all from celebrity consultant Gaston Acurio (lucky locals have an online menu that includes a Peru-style burger, wagyu with Valais bacon, polleria sauce and fries).
Collas says today new-luxury special memories include thoughtfulness for customers. For me this includes offering genuine tastes. I love the fact that here breakfast included the so-Swiss egg yolk-heavy white buns, often eaten with a Friborg specialty, Benichon mustard, notable for its cinnamon and star anise taste. And with that final dose of Switzerland, it was time to return to another national treasure, Swiss Rail.
Lead image: Penthouse Terrace, Mandarin Oriental Geneva