La Réserve, Geneva
Swiss efficiency is hard to beat. Within minutes of landing at Geneva airport, I’m speeding down the motorway at 140kmph, only to arrive three minutes later at the gates of La Réserve. It must be the shortest transfer ever, and I like it. But the good first impressions don’t stop there. La Réserve’s lobby is like a giant Molton Brown box filled with delicious finds from foreign shores such as clawfoot tables, leopard print carpets and parrot lamps. So this is where Geneva’s been hiding its wild side.
The African-inspired décor and the general stylish spirit of the place is down to French interior designer Jacques Garcia. His opulent touch also sent Hotel Costes in Paris straight to the top of the hip list, where only the chicest of the chic perch their petite derrieres. Likewise at La Reserve, it is reserved for fabulousness.
There are three options for dining: Le Loti, a classic French restaurant, Tsé Fung, a dark and potent Chinese restaurant or Café Lauren, a luxurious spa restaurant, all cream leather from ceiling to floor.
The lobby’s safari theme is carried through to the hotel’s 85 rooms and 17 suites which boast raffia walls, folding cabinet desks and real feather detailing. Warm accents of purple, bronze and ochre drift across the walls and floors and each room has an insouciantly sexy yet comfortable feel. Opt for a lake suite and you’ll be able to watch the sun rise and fall over Mont Blanc’s manly white shoulders.
All these wonders aside, I’ve been invited to La Réserve to sample its ‘Better Ageing’ spa programme. So I pad down to the 2,000sq ft spa, the largest in Geneva, for a carefully tailored course of massages, facials and body scrubs. Sidney, my Tahitian masseur, manages to do something extraordinary: he massages my shoulders and feet at the same time. Then Elizabeth gets to work on the creases around my mouth with an electrical ‘mini-cupping’ device, which is a very strange feeling. I can only imagine this is what it feels like to have a suckerfish on your face. Then Dagmar arrives. Dagmar, my delightful Swiss therapist, scrubs me all over with crushed almond shells, then whispers in my ear: ‘Afterwards, you will feel like an opening flower in spring’. And she’s right. My skin is petal-soft, like a flesh-coloured peony.
In between treatments, I head to Café Lauren and work my way through the ultra-healthy menu. This heavenly sanctuary has a warm and cosseting feel with gentle glowing jellyfish-shaped lamps keeping the atmosphere subdued. Outdoors, there’s a decked area where you can mange al fresco. The menu is truly low-fat: no butter, no sugar, no egg yolks allowed. Instead, what you get is light scented dishes of neatly stacked fish, vegetables, agar-agar (an algae-based substance not dissimilar to tofu) and citrus fruits. Desserts are allowed, but they are sweetened with natural lactose serum instead of refined sugar, and all plates arrive decorated with flowers from the garden, tasting as delicious as they are virtuous.
After my treatments and my enforced low carb, low sugar and low-fat intake, I feel as light as a feather. I virtually float back to my room to pack my bags. Best of all, in the 48 short hours I’ve spent at La Reserve, I’ve learned something that will stay will me for the next 48 years: how to age better. Now that’s what I call Swiss efficiency.