Well, my friends I’ve been to Nice and the Isle of Greece while I…well, you know the rest. Forgive my Charlene moment there. Is it New York? Los Angeles? London? Dubai? Hong Kong? Nope. It’s actually…in Montreux, Switzerland – a small town roughly 2 hours outside of Geneva on the shores of Lac Léman. That’s right, nestled in Fairmont’s Le Montreux Palace Hotel, well, actually you can only access by walking out of the hotel briefly along the Grand Rue to Harry’s New York Bar. Sometimes you just find great things in the most unlikely of places. I love a good burger and have certainly eaten my fair share while traveling the globe. Yet, at the same time, it is not something I actively seek out while on the road. So how did I stumble across this one? Well, Harry’s has always been one of my all-time favorite bars. It has a great atmosphere and the service is second to none. Their bartenders mix a mean cocktail and the manager cannot do enough for his patrons.
When in Montreux, my other half and I make a point of hitting Harry’s at least once (sometimes more) an evening. It is a great spot for a relaxed drink before heading out to dinner and even better to have a nice nightcap before retiring for the evening. If you go outside of the Jazz Festival period it is never really crowded and even when it is it works. Over the years we have some to know some of the regulars who frequent the place and the service staff has been pretty consistent over time. So what does all this have to do with a burger?
One late evening after hitting the Casino I decided to have a quick drink to round off the evening. Now, my frequent readers know I am a bit of a lush so no surprise there. My other half and I popped into Harry’s and settled into one of their comfortable booths. We ordered our drinks but I was feeling a bit peckish (again, no newsflash there) and decided to peruse the bar menu. The menu is really very comprehensive and has everything from Rib Eye to Spaghetti to the famous burger. I was craving a burger so when the manager came over to attend to us, I explained my allergies and if I could have the burger sans bun and fries (possible shellfish cross contamination). Without skipping a beat the manager could not offer me enough options to pair with my burger. I mean, I typically just get the patty with lettuce and tomato but he felt it his duty to make sure that I felt like I was not getting the full experience. I don’t think there was anything he would not hair offered to pair with my burger. I settled on a fresh salad of mesclun greens lightly tossed with the house vinaigrette.
When the burger arrived, the presentation was impeccable. A hearty patty grilled to perfection with every possible accoutrement one could hope for – condiments, pickles, sliced tomato, onion, well you get the idea. I have always enjoyed topping my burgers with a ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard which I keep in separate areas of the plate, almost like a painter’s palate, and paint each bit with just the perfect amount of each. OCD? Perhaps, but it truly makes for the most perfect of bites.
The burger itself has a consistency unlike any other you will come across. I tend to order all of my meat charred (though this is slowly changing) but not here – medium is the perfect temperature to enjoy these burgers. Perhaps it’s the Swiss beef (I love that the Swiss put the country of origin for meat on every menu) or perhaps it is the atmosphere or maybe a combination of both that makes this the best burger. When you cut into it you barely need any effort and the first bite is something you will not soon forget. It is almost creamy in texture and seasoned to perfection. It is more akin to eating a fine pate than a greasy burger. I have no clue what they mix into the meat but whatever it is makes for absolute burger perfection. The spices are subtle but so well balanced that one could easily eat the burger by itself and not even notice the lack of condiments. To me it is true burger perfection as it can stand on it’s own without bread, without cheese, without any of the traditional accompaniments – how many burgers can really do that?
So, if you find yourself walking along the Grand-Rue of Montreux, do yourself a favor and pop-in for a cocktail and perhaps a nibble. My partner and I have enjoyed many a meal at Harry’s (outside of the famed burger) because we went for a drink and ended up tucking-in for the evening because it is just that cozy.