By Andy Hayler
The village of Crissier is just over 35 miles from Geneva, but the drive along the shore of Lake Geneva is stunning.
The journey is worthwhile not just for the scenery – on a gentle slope overlooking Crissier is Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville, a very fine eatery that has earned and retained three Michelin stars during the tenure of three chefs over the course of almost four decades. From its opening in 1971, Frédy Girardet built the reputation of the restaurant (then known as Restaurant Girardet) and attained legendary status in the food world. When he handed over to his longtime right-hand man, Philippe Rochat, in 1996, the cooking didn’t miss a beat. The current head chef, Benoît Violier, worked in the kitchen here for 16 years before taking over the stoves in 2012. He has continued is the same style, and in my experience, having eaten here through each of these culinary eras, standards have been fully maintained – the cooking is a little lighter in style now but is every bit as good as it ever was.
Hôtel de Ville offers a calm and relaxing setting for a sublime exhibition of classical French cuisine. A particular highlight at a recent meal was ravioli stuffed with cèpe mushrooms and hazelnuts—the pasta having ideal texture, the mushrooms lovely flavor—served with a deeply flavored sauce. Another triumph was perfectly cooked langoustine, with a lemon sauce providing just the right level of acidity, and a hint of ginger an extra flavor note—superb technical cooking based on impeccable ingredients. A meal might conclude with a flawlessly light passion fruit soufflé with mango and passion fruit sauce. Little details, such as the terrific bread, made from scratch daily in the kitchen, and the superb coffee, demonstrate the care and attention put into to every aspect of the dining experience here.
Service is dazzlingly good, as precise as a Swiss watch, yet still friendly. Indeed, the service operation is so famously seamless that at least one other three-Michelin-star restaurant sends its managers here to learn from the masters. Hôtel de Ville has a private dining room that can seat up to 20 people, or alternatively the main dining room can be booked en bloc for a private party, accommodating a minimum of 40 and maximum of 50. Hôtel de Ville is a terrific venue for a private dining function, serving some of the finest food in the world (entrees from $65 to $195).