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Food Hotel: Dolder Grand – Zurich

Food Hotel: Dolder Grand – Zurich
I’ve never quite got my head around Zurich. How can this city of sober bankers also host one of the world’s largest Techno street parties each year?
How can somewhere completely landlocked claim so many beach-worshipping residents? And considering it was once forbidden to laugh here in public, what is the story behind the Dolder Grand, a castellated, Disneyfied, belle époque building that sits atop its swanky Dolderberg hill overlooking the Lake and work-a-day city below?
Is it some kind of practical joke?
Not if the interior design is anything to go by; this is serious business. 443 million Swiss Francs worth of serious business to be precise, for that’s the amount Norman Foster and United Designers threw at it when the hotel closed for a major renovation in 2004.
It reopened in April 2008 with a peformance in the ballroom by Mary J. Blige signalling an intent to be as hip to Zürcher youth as it is comforting to Switzerland’s moneyed middle-class. The former are more frequently found, swaying gently to guest DJs, in the basement bar, with its extraordinary floating light system; the latter prefer the gentle ambience of chef Heiko Nieder’s
Food Hotel: Dolder Grand – Zurich
restaurant (called simply The Restaurant) which, since the end of 2008, can boast one Michelin star and seventeen Gault Millau points.
Heiko is not quite Heston Blumenthal but he likes to mix things up a bit, serving lobster with shavings of tender strawberries, a necklace of finely diced beetroot with pomegranate, ginger and orange, and melting suckling boar accompanied by pumpkin, coffee, pear and charcoal oil. It’s quite normal in this place of contradictions to wrestle gamely with great spider crabs complete with tiny portions of green tomato and kiwi, to marry turbot and octopus with salami and wild aparagus, or to complement an oyster and brie amuse bouche with a freshly baked black barley and black caraway seed baguette. You are as likely to be sitting beneath a painting by the Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies as you are to be just beyond ear-shot of your neighbouring table where some minor member of European royalty or A-list Swiss TV star might be sitting; and if the atmosphere is normally one of hushed reverence for the food then nobody is going to censor you if you do fancy a guffaw these days.
Not surprisingly the Dolder is very secretive about its current celebrity guest list, but it has been far less reticent about past aluminaries by naming its four suites in honour of a handful. With an illustrious list to choose from, including Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill, it eventually opted for the Masina, named after the actress wife of film director Federico Fellini; the Maestro, inspired by master conductor Herbert von Karajan; Carezza, in honour of the Swiss artist and sculptor Alberto Giacometti; and Suite 100, bedecked in black and pink décor and complete with a union jack electic guitar to signal that the Rolling Stones once signed the hotel’s guest book.
Being a lesser mortal I had to content myself with one of the Dolder’s other 173 rooms and suites, my Junior Suite Deluxe boasting views of the Lake from both a wrap-a-round balcony and a freestanding, self-cleaning, whirlpool bath in the Zen-like bathroom. Cool, cream, contemporary chaise longues and a handful of techno gadgets have given this 110-year old building a bit of a James Bond feel, but if the remote control console that allows you to operate the curtains, lighting and flat-screen Bang & Olufsen TV from the comfort of your bed, and the in-mirror bathroom TV that took me on a quick virtual tour of Zurich and allowed me to check the weather back home whilst cleaning my teeth, worked like clockwork, the steam shower with essential oils took an excrutiating twenty minutes to mist up. With all this and more on offer I’m still not sure I’ve got my head around Zurich. The bath-salts flecked with Lotus blossom, the snow paradise, meditation maze and hanging-basket chairs in the chill-out room of the Dolder’s 4000 square metre spa, the pyramids of madeleines served for Sunday Brunch, and the banana and coconut curry ice-cream served in the Garden Restaurant for lunch all seem conducive to a spot of hedonistic lassitude.
Yet down below the city remains stoic and grim with business. But without contradictions, isn’t life just a great big fiction?
The Dolder Grand, Kurhausstrasse 65, Zurich, Tel +41 44 456 6000
1 Comments | Add a comment


Pali Banwait
Been to Zurich, great food and great people.


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14 September 2009
By: Andrew Copestake
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