Dapper porters dressed in stately red coats greet you at the door of this recently refurbished 135-year-old hotel in the heart of Geneva. The hotel staff are exceedingly friendly and well-versed in the ins and outs of the city. Dates, fruit, fresh juice and chocolate cake await Middle Eastern guests on arrival.
Le Richemond overlooks Lake Geneva, the Alps, and the Jet d'Eau, the landmark 140-metre fountain in the middle of the lake. It is a short walk to Geneva's finest shopping, art museums, galleries and a number of good restaurants. In less than 15 minutes, you will be in Old Town - a charming neighbourhood with cobblestone streets that is home to Saint Peter's Cathedral. A 10-minute drive will take you to the headquarters of the UN, the Red Cross, and scores of other international organisations. Carouge, a charming little neighbourhood full of eclectic shops, is well worth the 20-minute drive.
The clientele at this classic contemporary hotel are a mix of well-heeled couples, families and businessmen. It has an air of sophistication about it without being stuffy. The hotel hosts a monthly party in a lovely large open gallery space, which attracts Geneva's young elite.
I am a harsh critic of interiors, and I adored the double room I stayed in. A large foyer opens into a sitting room with dark wood walls and blue hues. The heavy blue wool curtains are a delightful touch. The bedroom and sitting room are separated by a wall with big-screen LCD televisions on either side. The king-sized bed with a beautiful blue-and-white quilt was exceedingly comfortable. The big, airy bathroom had a shower and a large bathtub. Some of the suites were a little too bling for my traditional taste - the colours too bright and sofas too curvy.
The concierge can answer pretty much any question about Geneva and the porters greet you by name when you go in and out. Because Le Richemond caters to a large number of Arab guests (the Gulf is Geneva's fifth-largest market), the hotel has four Arabic speakers on the staff. During Ramadan, they set up a prayer room in the hotel. Guests intent on investing in a luxury Swiss watch will be grateful for the unusual service of a "watch butler" who helps with such purchases in-house.
Le Jardin, the hotel's restaurant, is worth a visit even for those not staying at Le Richemond. The decor is tasteful - the restaurant is housed in a pretty, spacious room with comfortable booths and tables that are not too close together. There is a wide array of Italian dishes, from pastas to meat dishes and fish, and a fine selection of cheeses and Swiss wines. Owing to the large number of Arab guests, the room service menu includes some unusual items for a European hotel, such as hummus and moutabel. It's expensive, though - a classic club sandwich from the room service menu costs $36 (Dh132) and a cheeseburger $39 (Dh143).
As a design enthusiast, I was pleasantly surprised by the tasteful renovation of much of the hotel. Housed in a beautiful old stone building, the hotel underwent a major renovation when it was bought by the Rocco Forte Collection and reopened in 2007. They have preserved much of the building's lovely original detail while updating it. The decor is a mix of old and new - they kept some of the original antique furniture but have updated it with modern upholstery. Le Richemond's central location and panoramic views of the city from the balcony at night are also amazing.
The hotel's website is somewhat lacking: there are not enough pictures of the hotel online, and it's difficult to navigate.
Le Richemond is an excellent choice. The location, service and food are top notch. The small Japanese-style spa is an added bonus, particularly for Geneva where hotel spas are scarce.
Le Richemond is not cheap. In 2009 it ranked number 9 on the Wealth Bulletin's survey of the world's most expensive hotel suites with its Royal Armleder Suite, then $18,900 per night. A double occupancy room costs from US$740 (Dh2,718), including taxes and airport transfers (www.lerichemond.com; 00 41 22 715 7000). email@example.com