2019/11/26

Park Hotel Vitznau, a staycation in one of Switzerland’s most prestigious resorts

Location

A culinary weekend in the country’s core, central Switzerland

Yet another chance to indulge in one of the best hotels (and restaurants) in my home country for my husband and me; this time we were invited by friends who celebrated a special birthday! They had chosen Park Hotel Vitznau on Lake Lucerne for this purpose, and we could not be more delighted to spend a weekend at this hotel jewel, that had opened 2013 after an extensive renovation.


About Park Hotel Vitznau

The hotel’s history began 1867 with a boarding house called Pension Pfyffer, to which the Park Hotel was added later on. When it was opened in 1903, the new building was regarded as a prime example of the most beautiful hotel architecture at the time.

In 2009, Park Hotel Vitznau was bought by the Austrian investor Peter Puehringer, closed for a luxurious renovation – costing estimated 250 million SFR – and reopened in 2013. Only the façade had been left and the hotel, once a summertime-only resort with 101 rooms, had been turned into an all-year-round operation with 47 junior suites and suites.

The property is comprised of the mentioned hotel and a medical center, which are managed separately from each other. The 5th and 6th floors of the hotel building are reserved for the family office of the Puehringer Group.

Location

Park Hotel Vitznau is directly located on beautiful Lake Lucerne with a backdrop of rolling green hills in front of the Alps. The setting is truly picturesque, even more so when the weather played its part, which was not unfortunately not the case when we were visiting.

The hotel can be reached in about 30 minutes from Lucerne and 45 minutes from Zurich.


Rooms/Pricing

As mentioned, there are 47 rooms on four floors, each dedicated to another theme (wine/dine, finance/endowment, music/theatre and the painter Verlinde). No two rooms are alike and all of them are over-sized, the smallest one (Junior Suite with mountain view) is 45 sqm.

My husband and I had a Deluxe Junior Suite with mountain view on the second floor, called La Coopérative. It was dedicated to an ancient cooperative wine cellar from 1925 near Perpignan/France and featured a suited, luxuriously appointed décor. I was deeply impressed by the accommodation and the sweeping balcony as well as the amenities comprising a huge fruit basket, sophisticated chocolate, a small kitchen complete with coffee and tea maker coming with premium products, a fridge filled with soft drinks, beer and white wine as well as red wine, schnapps and sweet and salty snacks, made in house, and all this included in the room rate!
There was an in-room bathroom with a large, free-standing circular tub, a shower and a separate toilet. While the whole arrangement was nice from a design point of view, some features turned out to be a bit impractical, e.g. the shower coming with the danger of flooding the floor if you did not take attention.
Staying at the Park Hotel Vitznau comes with a hefty price tag. The least expensive room in the shoulder season, when we stayed, costs about 900 SFR/US$ including breakfast. While this is top end budget wise, it is aligned with the quality provided, which is far above what you usually get at other hotels of this class.

Restaurants

There is quite a choice when it comes to restaurants. The showpiece is Restaurant focus, awarded two Michelin stars and 18 Gault Millau points, where our party of four had dinner. More about our experience can be found in the next paragraph.

The second restaurant, PRISMA, has also a lot to offer with its Michelin star and 16 Gault Millau points. Here you get European-Asian cuisine in a contemporary yet relaxed setting.
When the weather allows it, you can have your meal at the Lake Terrace, awarded 13 Gault Millau points.

In case you fancy smaller bites, Verlinde Bar might be the place to go.

1. 4-course dinner at focus

As mentioned, this is the signature restaurant on site, helmed by Patrick Mahler who has been in charge for almost two years. He has built a reputation for integrating Japanese food techniques in his modern, creative and light cuisine.

When going here, you pass a couple of glass-walled wine cellars containing supposedly some 40,000 bottles with a value of 25 million SFR/US$!
The restaurant itself is impressive, generously sized with tables offering lots of personal space and comfortable swivel chairs made of leather. It is an elegant yet modern place and I am sure that the views of the lake and the mountains are phenomenal but when I was here it was already dark outside and the weather was rather nasty.
When it comes to food, the four of us thoroughly loved our experience at focus. The menu featured some of the most inspired dishes we had have in a while.

The snacks initiating the feast set the scene for what followed, a delightfully balanced series of artfully composed items that surprised at every bite.

The first regular course was a wonderful composition around the king prawn, my personnel favorite of the dinner. The chef, who delivered it himself, gave us the advice to mix up the ingredients before eating, and he was so right! When doing this with apple, fennel and crustacean foam, this resulted in a beguiling effect.
The Ora King salmon, which was next, was paired with beetroot, caviar and smoked fish velouté. It was perfectly balanced although a bit less interesting as the first dish.
The main course consisted of local fallow deer in a combination with porcini, chicory and cherry barbecue. Astonishing, a deer dish in its most consummate form!
The chef did not disappoint in the department of desserts either! Both, the pre-dessert (Jerusalem artichoke and plum)
and the main one (nougat: banana, ginger and parsley)
were totally new taste experiences as some vegetable elements were integrated. Although the flavor combinations seemed unusual at first sight, they were absolutely harmonious when melting in the mouth. I wished only the main dessert had been a bit larger than the pre dessert.

The petit fours
were divine too as it was the case with the bread, served before the first course. Of course, it was a sour dough bread.
That seems to be state of the art in the refined gastronomy at the moment!

By the way, I mentioned in the beginning that the chef delivered the first course himself. He was not the only one from the kitchen that appeared at the table. There were others bringing plates they were responsible for, I assume. Quite a new element! Another thing I liked here was the fact that all the food that came to the table unannounced, was explained on cards accompanying it.
So often I had dishes in other restaurants where I had to guess what I was eating (because I did forget or did not understand what I was going to get). What a brilliant idea!

In terms of prices, it is going to cost you. A lot. Our 4-course dinner amounted to 185 SFR/US$, the full menu (6 courses) would have cost 230 SFR/US$. Although being pricey, it comes with indulging in a truly new culinary experience.

After all these praises, there is also one negative thing to mention, the wine-pairing. Not its quality but its quantity. We had four glasses of wine for a bit less than 100 SFR/US$ per person and it has to be remarked that the pours were not exactly generous. All diners of our party agreed that we were given slightly undersized wine pours at least half of the time. That is a pity, especially in light of the elevated price!

2. Breakfast at focus

Breakfast was served in the same restaurant where we had dinner and it was a highlight, too! Fortunately, we could enjoy the views at this point of time although the weather was far from ideal.

I have had my share of breakfasts, all over the world. But what was offered here, was unique! There was a beautiful buffet with cold items, of course. In addition, there was a menu with additional dishes to choose from that was far off the beaten path you encounter at other luxury hotels. Needless to say, you get all sorts of eggs but much, much more: classics just as cured salmon trout, Croque Monsieur with truffle butter or duck liver terrine, then an array of healthy items (acai bowl, overnight oats or Miso soup), sweet dishes as Crepes Suzette, rice pudding or apple crumble and finally a wide selection of smoothies and drinks. I was deeply impressed and sampled quite a few dishes from this gorgeous menu – especially after the friendly server told us that the portion sizes are small and encouraged us to order more than one item –, and enjoyed all of them: duck liver terrine,
Miso soup
and Belgian waffle with berries and yoghurt ice cream.
What a feast!

The enjoyment of all these breakfast treats was slightly tempered when I caught sight of something that did not fit, another hotel guest in need of nursing care … He was looked after by an employee of the medical unit (she fed him). I found this a bit unusual, as vacationers in such establishments might not be pleased about being face to face with the abyss of life.

Ambiance/Service

Park Hotel Vitznau is in my (humble) opinion one of the most prestigious luxury hotels in Switzerland. It is big enough to ensure every possible luxury yet not too much so in order to guarantee a personal service. One cannot help but notice that money was not an issue when redoing this place. The outcome was a real gem, the beautiful old façade was preserved while all modern amenities were included.
That being said, you feel comfortable here as the staff, from the bar to the dining room, hit the perfect notes of warmth and friendliness with this small touch of formality you expect from a luxury hotel. I especially liked the confident behavior of a young male employee at the bar when we ordered pastries to accompany the welcome drink, a glass of the fabulous house champagne – generously poured, what a contrast to the partly skimpy wine pours experienced at the dinner at Restaurant focus! He was capable of describing us exactly what kind of treats are available – and there were many of them – and made us feel very welcome in these first moments of settling into Park Hotel Vitznau!

Date of visit: October 2019



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