Canton of Vaud: Eat like a local in Lausanne

In Lausanne, Michelin-starred, fine-dining restaurants sit comfortably beside funky new openings and those serving up classic Swiss cuisine. Come expecting it all — you won’t be disappointed.Friday, 2 August 2019

Lausanne’s restaurants — which range from Michelin-starred gems to innovative, modern outlets — are spoilt for choice when it comes to first-class local produce.

Curved around the still, blue waters of Lake Geneva, crowned by vineyards and protected by the snow-capped peaks of the French Alps, Lausanne sits in one of the most beautiful nooks in Europe. Built over three hills, the city tumbles down from its summit at the gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame towards the lake, spanning medieval streets and boulevards and bridges.

Lausanne’s food scene is similarly multidimensional. The city is privileged by history and location, climate and culture, and it knows it: there are six Michelin starred restaurants in the area of the canton of Vaud's capital, including the three-starred Hôtel de Ville in Crissier and two-starred Beau-Rivage Palace and Anne-Sophie Pic.

A fierce pride in local ingredients — think truffles, asparagus, fish and wine from eight appellations — makes the city a hub for classic French-Swiss cooking. But it’s also fiercely innovative, as showcased at the street food markets and pop-ups of the annual food festival, Lausanne à Table.

Whether you’re scaling the wooden staircase that climbs to the top of the city or exploring its tiny metro, each area throws up something new. And from fine-dining to fondue, takeaway kebabs to Thai-style tartare, its restaurant scene is just as exciting.

Morning

Start the day with a taste of modern Swiss food at Blackbird Downtown Diner, a funky brunch bar right in the heart of Lausanne, where the stilts of the tall rue du Grand-Pont bridge cross the bustling Place de l’Europe. Packed out on weekends, but a quiet hub for home workers in the week, the coffee and French-Americana brunch is hearty and excellent. Try the avocado on fromage frais-slathered toast.

A short walk across the bridge brings you to the Place de la Palud, where every hour a musical clock tells the story of the city, and Royaume Melazic, a cupcake boutique and coffee shop with a dazzling array of toppings (think salted caramel and peanut butter). It’s Lausanne’s modern take on an ancient patisserie tradition, and feels like the millennial cousin to nearby Durig, one of the most prestigious chocolate shops in Switzerland.

One of their thick, rich hot chocolates will power you up the nearby Escaliers du Marché, a winding, wooden-topped 18th-century staircase leading to the cathedral, and where every night since 1405, the city’s lookout has proclaimed the hour from the bell tower between 10pm and 2am.

Afternoon

It’s a much easier walk down the hill to the Bleu Lézard brasserie for lunch. A comedy and jazz bar by night, its light, creative menu is a great example of Lausanne’s recent craze for Swiss-Asian fusion, and Switzerland’s top female chef, Marie Robert, is one of its graduates. The salmon tartare with wasabi and citronella is a fine example of Asian ingredients meeting the fresh flavours of summertime Switzerland.

Just around the corner, modern bistro Etoile Blanche also cooks up creative twists on classic French-Swiss food: salmon gravlax poke bowl with mango sauce, for example, and duck breast with kumquats.

If you’re visiting during the winter and need something warming, visit the famous Pinte Besson, a tiny, wood-beamed restaurant that claims to be one of the oldest in Europe. The cheese fondue is wonderful.

There are good examples of chasselas, the region’s ubiquitous white grape, at the Pinte, but even better are on offer at the Bar à Vins Mövenpick, near the train station. Its airy terrace, with a view over the city and glimpses of the mountains, is a tempting place from which to work your way through some rare Swiss wines, alongside a light lunch of local cheese and charcuterie.   

Evening

An early evening stroll through the parks of the Esplanade de Montbenon leads you to Brasserie de Montbenon, a smart, fine-dining venue where the only thing that may eclipse the French-Swiss fare you’re served is the view. The restaurant’s elevated terrace stretches out across the lake.

If you can bear to tear yourself away from the Swiss sunset, head closer to the riviera on Lausanne’s metro. The blue line (no. 2) takes you south to the lakeside station of Ouchy-Olympique, and where just across the street, the five-star hotel Château d'Ouchy has one of Lausanne’s best new restaurants — 57 Degree Grill.

A lively kitchen bar overlooks its sizzling grills, but the best seats are on the lakeside terrace. The locally caught fish, lightly seared, is fantastic. Be sure to try either the little perch fillets or the fera, both are local specialities

Vegetarian food is gaining status in Lausanne, mostly thanks to the international group Tibits. To the initial consternation of foie gras-loving locals, the chain recently opened a flagship restaurant in the grand old railway station. They were won over, however, by its light, seasonal menu, and the place is now packed out every day.For a nightcap, head back into the centre of town and join the locals at The Great Escape, a relaxed bar and terrace where young Swiss professionals unwind with glasses of craft beer, cross legged on the patio or leaning against the walls of the plaza.

Essentials

SWISS flies from Heathrow to Geneva from £100 return. A train ticket from Geneva Airport to Lausanne costs £21. All hotels in Lausanne issue guests with a metro pass for use on local transport, included in the room rate.

One of the best ways to try a variety of local food is the Taste My Swiss City tour, a self-guided programme that includes small meals at three of the city’s restaurants (63.50 CHF/£50 per person). Alternatively, other gastronomic experiences can be found and booked here.

Stay at the Alpha Palmiers, a comfortable, modern hotel within minutes of the train station. Doubles from £109 per night, not including breakfast.

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