The historic 1909 luxury hotel on the shores of Lake Zurich was considered one of the finest establishments in Switzerland, a five-star historic hotel that survived two World Wars and several owners. But like most old Grande Dames, the hotel was showing its age. Enter renowned French architect and designer Phillipe Starck, a virtuoso known for his out-of-the-ordinary, anything-but-stodgy designs.
Starck stripped layers of wallpaper and plaster, revealing structural beams, original wood and marble floors, and brick walls. The neoclassical exterior, including rooftop sculptures, was restored. Next, he went to work on the interior spaces, envisioning an “imaginary yacht club.” The result, now named La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich, is a stunning transformation, mixing old and new, with elegance and warmth.
Architectural Digest called it a tour de force, a game changer in the hotel industry, and dubbed Starck a time traveler, converting the historic monument into a modern oasis of comfort and style. Starck says “La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich is like rock and roll dancing with the Queen of England; everything is classic, yet nothing is classic anymore. It is a timeless blend of creativity, classicism, and intelligence — like Switzerland itself.”
We finally had a chance to take a look at it on a recent visit to Switzerland. The location is great, only a short walk to the Opera House and other top attractions, and steps from Lake Zurich. The spruced-up Belle Epoque exterior is grand, but once you step inside it feels almost homey — well, homey in a very elegant, grand villa way. We entered the hotel through a side door into a small lobby, where we were warmly greeted by the staff. BTW: We found the staff to be gracious, knowledgeable, attentive, and accommodating without being intrusive. Down the hall is a bar and a DJ stand (yes! A DJ plays music most nights, which we found a little strange and a bit loud), a staircase and glass elevator leading to the upstairs rooms, and Eden Kitchen & Bar, one of two hotel restaurants. More on these later.
There are 40 rooms and suites, handsomely decorated with a mix of traditional and modern furnishings — all designed by Starck. There are nautical touches — i.e., room numbers appear like numbers on a racing sail — but it’s not overdone (no fake buoys or anchor lights, thank you very much). Instead, there are lots of textural touches: wood and metal, juxtaposed against soft linens and cushy fabrics. Some rooms have exposed brick walls, soaking tubs, and outside decks overlooking the lake.
The nautical theme and mix of textures carry throughout the property. The hotel is a textural masterpiece, with brick, marble, wood, metal, glass, cement, leather, and soft fabric accents everywhere. Old regatta photos, nautical maps, and other maritime art are cleverly placed.
Eden Kitchen & Bar, open for all-day dining, is the hotel’s main restaurant, a spacious light-filled room with large windows overlooking the lake and a big open kitchen. Soft brown leather chairs, red wood floors, and light wood accents add warmth to the room. Helmed by Italian chef Marco Ortolani, the restaurant has already received one Michelin star. The menu is quite varied, featuring a “Best in Town” cheeseburger, grilled lobster, house-made pasta dishes, and specialties like the dry-aged veal Milanese and the Chateaubriand for two.
But if you’re to have one meal at La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich (in fact, if you’re to have any one meal in Zurich), make it at La Muña, the hotel’s very eclectic, wonderful restaurant on the sixth floor. It’s a tiny, delightfully warm, and rustic spot tucked up in the domed attic, under big roof beams. This is where Ortolani and his team really shine, creating a mix of Japanese and Peruvian plates: impossibly fresh ceviche, sashimi, sushi, homemade gyoza, and top-shelf beef dishes. In warmer months, you can also dine on the adjacent roof terrace with city views.
Planning a ski trip to the Alps this winter? Consider a stopover in Zurich (there are several nonstop flights from Boston), and a stay at La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich. Rates $446 to $5,022.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org