THE BEST FONDUE IN GENEVA
by Kristiana Psee and Alexandra Belz
Main photograph credit: CGN cruises
Finally, it’s cold enough to ditch the diet and indulge in a pot of sinfully rich, silky smooth cheese – with a friend or two.
There is no better way to experience Swiss culture than sharing a traditional fondue.
We know you know what fondue is, but we thought we’d throw in a Wiki definition to impress you:
Fondue is a traditional Swiss dish of melted cheese served in a communal pot (caquelon or fondue pot) over a portable stove (réchaud) heated with a candle or spirit lamp, and eaten by dipping bread into the cheese using long-stemmed forks.
It was promoted as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) in the 1930s, and was popularised in North America in the 1960s. In Geneva, fondue is moitié-moitié (half-half) made with Gruyère and with Fribourg Vacherin cheese. It originated in the 1930s as a way to use up stale bread and old cheese!
HOW TO EAT FONDUE
The cheese is kept at a smooth, creamy consistency over a low flame. When you near the bottom of the pot, a waiter will usually scrape off the bottom of the pot to give you the crusty golden cheese swirls known as religieuse – meaning nun!
White wine made from the Chasselas grape, such as a blanc from la Côte in Vaud is typically paired with fondue. Avoid water, juice or beer – which it is said will cause the cheese to coagulate and form a ball in your stomach, leaving you with indigestion!
No fondue is complete without an assiette valaisanne alongside it, a selection of dried meats with pickles and baby onions.
Best way to end a fondue dinner is a glass of kirsch as this will help to settle the stomach. This is not the time to order that rich chocolat fondant!
BEST FONDUE RESTAURANTS IN GENEVA
MOST CONVIVIAL – Bains des Pâquis
This popular local hangout offers great fondues (including a champagne-based version) at reasonable prices in a very informal setting right next to the lake – essentially a noisy, big tent, but the atmosphere is great!
Don’t expect any frills, but for a good night out with friends and family (or a family lunch) this venue is unbeatable. We love spending time in their hammam and spa (and even taking a quick dip in the icy lake) on a freezing winter’s evening and then wrapping up warm and sitting outside next to their fire drums, sharing their fondue and glühwein to warm up. Watch out for those cheese hangovers!
TOP TIP: A few measures of Schnapps after a heavy fondue helps to settle the stomach. Trust us, it works!
Be sure to book your fondue in advance.
THE SWISS EXPERIENCE – Edelweiss Hotel
Located in the heart of the city in Paquis, Edelweiss Hotel offers a pure alpine experience, with a traditional Swiss ambiance, live Swiss entertainment, the famous moitié – moitié fondue plus the traditional cuisine with dishes such as rösti and dried meat plates, Gruyère double cream and meringues for dessert, with quite reasonable prices for Geneva. The customer service is excellent and the whole experience is very pleasant – leaving you feeling quite smug.
Place de la Navigation 2, 1201 Genève
+41 (0) 22 544 5151
MOST POPULAR WITH LOCALS – Café du soleil
The most popular fondue (as voted by locals) is served in Café du Soleil in Petit Saconnex. Even though the restaurant is not in the heart of the city, it is easily accessible by public transport. Geneva’s oldest restaurant – it is 400 years old! – and it serves a great fondue made with cheese from La Roche village, north of Gruyère. With reasonable prices, a pleasant atmosphere and friendly customer service, Café du soleil, attracts locals, tourists and business people. Be sure to book in advance.
Place du Petit-Saconnex 6, 1209 Genève
+41(0) 22 733 3417
NON-TRADITIONAL FONDUES – Le Gruyérien
A good option if you’re ready to move on from the traditional fondue. Besides the moitié-moitié fondue, there are unusual variations such the 100% chèvre (goats cheese) fondue or the fondue tomate (with tomatoes) which is served with boiled potatoes rather than bread. Friendly, simple and informal, the owners are welcoming and the restaurant offers an overall authentic experience. Either of the two locations (one in Chêne-Bougeries and ne in Plainplais) are easily reached by the city tram service.
Le Gruyérien Chêne-Bougeries
Chemin de la Bessonnette 2, 1224 Genève
+41(0) 22 349 1012
Le Gruyérien Plainpalais
Dvd de Saint-Georges 65, 1205 Genève
+41(0) 22 320 8184
OLD TOWN FONDUE – Les Armures
Located on 1, rue Puits-Saint-Pierre, Hotel Les Armures charms with its historic stonework supposedly dating back to the 13th century and its modern contemporary elegance.
The cheese fondues range from classic (moitié-moitié) to fondues with herbs, with tomatoes, with wild mushrooms, wild mushrooms and bacon.
As for parking this area is a car-free zone so leave your car at parking St. Antoine, Boulevard Emile- Jaques- Dalcroze 10, 1205 Geneva, and from there is it a lovely 5-10 minutes walk through the old town.
Address: Hotel/ Restaurant Les Armures
1, rue Puits-Saint- Pierre, 1204 Geneva
Tel: 0041-22-310 91 72
Opening hours: every day non-stop until 23:00
POP-UP LUXURY FONDUE – Le Chalet by Mandarin Oriental
Every winter, from the end of November to the beginning of March, the Mandarin Oriental, a luxurious yet modern hotel in the heart of Geneva, sets up a charming and very authentic Swiss Alps pop up Chalet inside their premises. From Monday to Saturday, from 7 to 10 pm, you can indulge in its cozy, warm and authentic Alpine atmosphere that will transport you directly from the city to the ski slopes, without even leaving town.
The decoration is outstanding, they literally thought of every little detail to truly make you feel that you are inside a real chalet, and not inside a hotel. The fondue is good, even though it is not our favourite, but the unique décor and atmosphere makes this venue definitely worth a visit. Even the waiters wear traditional Swiss outfits. The prices are comparable to the other fondues places in town and remain quite reasonable for a 5-stars hotel. Also, good to know, the chalet can be privatised for parties and private events.
Mandarin Oriental, Quai Turrettini 1
From the end of November to the beginning of March, Monday to Friday, 7pm to 10 pm
Contact information: +41 (22) 909 0000
FONDUE EXPERIENCES WITH A DIFFERENCE
FONDUE CRUISE – CGN croisière fondue
A cruise on the lake and a fondue – two Swiss experiences in one! From end of October till mid-May (Fridays only), the CGN company with the biggest fleet of cruising boats in the area offers a fondue cruise. The cruise lasts about 2 hours and its perfect for families or groups – a good one to impress the in-laws or family from abroad.
The price includes the cruise and the selected fondue (drinks and dessert not included). Reservations are advised.
Quai du Mont-Blanc, 1201 Genève
+41 900 929 929 (0.50 CHF/min)
FONDUE IN THE SKY – Verbier / Crans-Montana
If you are an adventure traveller and you love the mountains, drive up to Verbier or Crans-Montana and enjoy a delicious fondue while riding up to the top of the mountain in a tele-cabine. Approximately 2000 meters above the ground, Fondue in the Sky includes a 1-hour-45-minute trip with a 3-course dinner of local goodies. The meal includes a charcuterie platter, fondue, dessert, wine and soft drinks. There are 40 cabins on the cable car, each with room for up to six people. This exclusive restaurant just received its 4th award as the “Unique Restaurant of the year 2018”.