Leopard-print carpet, bordello-scarlet walls and oversized elephant heads are not what you’d necessarily associate with a Swiss spa hotel. But at La Reserve Geneva, on the pristine shores of Lake Geneva, designer Jacques Garcia has forsaken the usual minimalist, scrubbed-down look for one that can only be described as maximalist and flamboyant.
Flaming torches blaze at either side of the main entrance and you enter a world that would be more at home on the African sub-continent. Garcia’s play on the hotel’s name is dramatic and decadent – based around a luxury African game reserve. Glass chandeliers are adorned with multi-coloured parrots, dark oak parquet floors gleam and, in The Loti restaurant, a faux-tree grows through the middle of the space – its autumnal leaves sprouting above diners’ heads.
Rooms (there are 73 and 29 suites scattered around) echo this eccentric club-house feel: plum velvets, fine linens and blood-red accents are cocooning and welcoming. Leather-topped travel writer desks, colonial-style armchairs and bathrooms with acres of black granite give a ‘just back from safari’ feel. Best of all, most rooms have an outdoor terrace, brilliant for summer, with a select few boasting views over Lake Geneva.
While The Bar is popular with locals – it does a mean Mai Tai served in a horn – and The Loti is best for lunch (award-winning chef Virginie Basselot serves a mix of seasonal produce inspired by her Normandy background), the stand-out restaurant is The Tse Fung. Boasting the first ever Michelin star to be awarded to a Chinese restaurant in Switzerland, Frank Xu’s gourmet Cantonese menu is impeccable. Best known for his restaurant Le Gabriel in Paris, his signature dish is Peking Duck served two ways, although the menu is extensive with a notable dim sum choice. The dining room is also a highlight – red velvet and black lacquer furniture, silk hangings on the wall, and moody lighting – will take you back to the 30s by way of Shanghai.
While the hotel offers up plentiful epicurean opportunities, it, unusually, also serves up a more abstemious approach to weekending – or longer – in its subterranean spa. Here, the decadent decor gives way to a fresh, white-on-white scheme with pretty, jelly-fish lamps providing an ethereal half light and butter-soft, cream leather chairs and soft draped walls giving a cocooning feel.
Regarded as one of the best spas in Europe, its core approach is based around the Nescens Better Ageing programme, devised by Professor Jacques Proust, a leader in the science of biological ageing. Its holistic approach concentrates on diet, exercise, stress, osteopathy and that elusive ‘feel good factor’. Of course, slowing down the ageing process is the holy grail of the spa world and so, in order to prove its world-class reputation, the programme is all about results. Guests can check into a four-day, seven day or two week retreat where they will have access to a plethora of experts to provide them with the ultimate tailored lifestyle assessment.
It’s kicked off with the in-house osteopath Sebastien Ducasse, who examines your bone structure and movement. Discussions range from how well you sleep to examining how you sit at your desk. Your own personal trainer is then updated so they can create a bespoke exercise regime for your stay and beyond. Nutritionist, Julie Augustin, will appraise your diet and the spa chef will then create dishes according to her nutritional guidelines, and, invaluably, you will receive tips on what you can improve when you are back at home.
After the medical one-on-ones are out of the way, the jam-packed treatment programme kicks in, based around Nescens’ cosmeceutical line of products. Each day you will have a massage according to how you feel. You’ll also be able to drift off with a once-a-day balneotherapy, a wonderfully relaxing mood-lit, floatation treatment. Built around these are sculpting seaweed body wraps, rejuvenating scrubs, beautifying facials and firming leg treatments – making up around five hours of pampering each day.
Meals are taken at the elegant, organic spa restaurant, Café Lauren. From the John Dory with vegetable risotto to the baby squid served with a tomato broth and Thai rice, everything is exquisitely presented and sublimely tasty. Best of all, you can tuck in knowing that this is seriously healthy fare, albeit with a huge dollop of flair.
As well as two pools – the outdoor one is made into an ice rink in the winter – there is a sauna, hammam and landscaped gardens to while away the time. In colder months, the hotel is an ideal retreat for those wanting to rest and rejuvenate and think about how to achieve the best version of themselves. During the summer months, the hotel makes the most of its outdoors when its tented Summer Lodge pops up in the grounds – serving lobster, seafood and sushi. Best of all, though, is the hotel’s chic motoscafo, which zips you across Lake Geneva and into the city. It’s an anti-ageing therapy all by itself.
Rates at La Réserve Geneva start from £436 (CHF550) per room, per night including breakfast. The Nescens Better-Ageing four day programme starts from £2,682 (CHF3,200). For more information, visit www.lareserve.ch or call +41 22 959 59 01.