I am finally making progress on posting about my trip to Montreux last month and this trip visited some new favorite locales that I wanted to share. To make things a bit more streamlined I decided to do a hybrid post with some reviews here and others housed on TripAdvisor (all easily accessible in one click). This will be a supplement to my Gluten-Free Guide to the Swiss Riviera started last year. Oh, and if you have not yet read about how I got there this year, be sure to check out my review of Turkish Airlines Business Class service to Geneva via Istanbul.
The food is always the highlight of any trip I take – I know, color you surprised. I particularly look forward to our annual visit to Montreux because it is usually entails some great new gluten-free or gluten-friendly finds – and this trip did not disappoint.
To begin, where you stay as a Celiac or food allergic traveler does matter. In Montreux it is always the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace – not just because it is the address in Montreux but because all Fairmont hotels handle special dietary needs and preferences like no other hotel chain. They have the Lifestyle Cuisine Plus program that addresses a range of restrictions including gluten-free. Best of all they feature local ingredients so no two menus are the same.
Le Montreux Palace goes above and beyond to meet my Celiac needs and this trip was no different. Perhaps the best way to start your day in Montreux is dining at the Palace’s La Palmeraie (it’s breakfast room with stunning views of the mountains). It features, on it’s own, many gluten-friendly options but the hotel does one better and provided a basket of all things breakfast-related gluten-free. But perhaps the absolute best thing is the gluten-free free breads, and wait for it croissants and pain au chocolat. The breakfast buffet itself is an extensive mix of hot and cold options including made to order options that will not leave you hungry. Tip: Try to secure a rate inclusive of breakfast. While it adds to the room rate, it is cheaper than walking-in and paying per meal. I believe breakfast on its own is around CHF 40 per person.
Another great dining option at the Palace is Harry’s New York Bar. This is hands-down one of my favorite bars in the world and you’ll find me here at least once a day as it is the perfect place to start the evening with a cocktail or end-up after exploring Montreux for a night cap. They too have gluten-free options (including a gluten-free warm bread assortment that I drool over). Sometimes I’ll be sitting at the bar and just decide to move to a table for dinner. The bartenders are world-class and will remember your name and drink. Locals and visitors frequent Harry’s. This trip I had a couple of meals there ranging from a Viande de Grisons (air-dried beef which I always have at least once) to a perfectly cooked New York Strip steak.
La Terrasse du Petit Palais is another hotel option (just across the street from the main hotel building) that is great for lunch al fresco on their expansive covered terrace. It provide beautiful vista of the lake and mountains. This trip I had an amazing (and enormous) salad of handmade mozzarella Burrata on a bed of tomato “Carpaccio”. It was truly a stand out with milky mozzarella that literally melted in your mouth. For dessert lovers they off what is quite possible the largest Madagascar vanilla crème brûlée I have ever seen in my life (think large soup bowl) that is garnished with fresh raspberries.
You can read more about my hotel stay here.
Some other stand outs this trip included a visit to Auberge de la Cergniaulaz which at more than 4,200 feet in elevation is a true unexpected secret high in the mountains above Montreux proper. Thanks to our local friends for sharing it with us (and for navigating the tight mountain roads to get there and back). The vistas from this location are nothing short of magnificent as the restaurant faces a deep valley of green that seems to go on forever.
The food is the real star though. Traditional specialties get some modern twists but remain true to their roots. We feasted on the largest plate of Chanterelles that have ever been placed in front of me as a starter cooked very simply with a hint of white wine. It was recommended that I indulge in a specialty of the house – Lapin à la tessinoise et sa fameuse polenta or Ticino-style rabbit served with famous polenta. (Ticino is the southernmost canto in Switzerland bordering Italy). The rabbit arrived in a clay pot and was very osso buco-like in flavor – not to mention fall off the bone tender. The famous polenta was a large serving of cheesy polenta that was one of the most decadent side dishes I have ever had. Thankfully their was a lighter option for dessert so it was fresh mountain blueberries with double-cream – okay so perhaps a bit more decadent than light. But don’t just take my word for it – check out these reviews on TripAdvisor (including mine).
Another great new-old find was the reincarnation of a restaurant that we had eaten at years ago (we were actually among the last diners to eat at its former location). The Brasserie Bavaria is located just a few doors down from its original location with the same owner/chef. I was on the hunt for Rösti and if anyone was going to have it – it would be the Bavaria. Not only was the service amazing but so was the Rösti “Suisse” that I indulged in – topped with slab bacon and two sunny-side up eggs or spiegeleier. It was among the best Rösti outside of the German-Swiss Cantons. Perfectly crisp and not at all greasy. Just a dinner plate-sized pancake of potato goodness. And before you ask, yes, I did have a salad as a starter. My partner had the Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (veal) with potatoes and the table service was French-style with the main course plated in front of you (the remainder covered and kept warm) until your second serving. The portions were definitely large here and we did not leave hungry. Again, check them out on TripAdvisor where you can view my experience as well. You can also check out my “meh” experience at Au Parc in Montreux.
If you are visiting Vevey, do yourself a favor and visit Le Mirador Kempinski Hotel even if just for cocktails on their stunning terrace. A funicular ride up the mountain to Mont-Pèlerin through the local vineyards and a short walk afford some of the most amazing vistas you’ll find in the area. Service was top-notch and a relaxing afternoon high above Lake Geneva was most welcome.
What trip would be complete without the vacation snapshots. Here are a few from the Montreux-area — from Vevey up the coast past Montreux toward Territet and Villeneuve.