L’Hotel de Ville: Violier’s heritage, Giovannini’s rigour and a delicious duckling

Sembra Parigi, invece è Bray. Il Waterside Inn vive delle capacità di Diego Masciaga
L’Hotel de Ville: l’eredità di Violier, il rigore di Giovannini e un anatroccolo squisito


I understood one thing: once in Bray, Crissier, Lugano or Castellammare di Stabia, French restaurants are pretty much the same.

It always looks like as if you’re in Paris.

This is their main negative side: lack of character. The positive one, instead, regards  the courses organization. Which allows me to understand how the specialized food-guides work. Let me explain: unlikely the Italian cuisine, that focus every meal on important and plenty first courses, the French menus are concentrated on the main course. This allows the French restaurants to take and advantage on the others. And to be in the top rankings of the area.

This is the case of L’Hotel de Ville, located in Crissier, an adorable half-mountain town on the Lausanne lake. A Swiss restaurant, clearly inspired by French cuisine, named in 2017 as the best restaurant in the world by La Liste (a food-guide born in opposition to The World’s 50 best restaurant). This happened thanks to chef Benoit Violier effort, who committed suicide only one year ago: L’Hotel de Ville is dedicated to his memory. The reasons behind his death haven’t been explained yet: among the hypothesis, economical issues, frauds and nervous breakdown occur. No one ever dared to ask the causes of his death to Violer’s wife, Brigitte. He was only 44 when he died, and had recently obtained the “best chef in the world” title. Maybe a So Wine So food reporter will ask this question sooner or later, but this is another story…   


Now, the kitchen of L’Hotel de la Ville is managed by Franck Giovannini, Violier’s sous-ched, who previously inherited the restaurant from Philippe Rochat. It’s quite interesting to watch Giovannini at work: young but very determined with his brigade. The kitchens are huge, more than 350 square metres, where 20 guys are divided among the various dishes and 5 are exclusively at the desserts.

Before dedicating myself to the menu, a business lunch made of six courses, I focus on the toilets (clean, essential and very French) and then on the dining-room. It can host up to 45 guests and a wonderful isle stands at its centre, with a glass chandelier on it. The staff uses this isle to refine to courses or to leave the wine bottles on it. L’Hotel de Ville has a 37 pages wine list: a very wide choice of Magnum, of different kind and size. Maybe I might have been distracted in the past, but I have never seen anything similar in the other restaurants that I have visited.

Meanwhile Giovannini explains me that his dishes (like Passard’s or Lesquer’s ones) are focused on vegetables. And incredibly, he doesn’t love to use an ingredient that the French cuisine is very attached to: butter. He prefers cream to prepare his infinite toppings, because, as Heinz Beck says, lunch or dinner don’t finish when you leave the table, but when you are home and deal with your stomach…

I ask for a wine taste. They offer me three wines: two white and a red. The first two are those that impress me the most: a Domaine Chanson, Pernard-Vergelesses Premier Cru Les Caradeux, structured and well-balanced, with a light-gold colour and perfumes of citrus fruits mixed with apple and fresh honey. It also has a good minerality and delicate notes of oak. Then a Philippe Darioli Pinot Bianco: an aristocratic and very delicate wine, with fresh fruit aromas. 

A fresh appetizer arrives first: a lobster cut and served in circle on the plate, with a lobster sauce in the middle, slightly clotted, a tomato with a decorated lobster on it, a zig-zag cream and tomato juice. Some salad, some reductions and tomato peel petals were on the dish as well.

Besides a wide choice of bread, semi-vegetarian raviolis are served as well: filled with green beans, green bean cream, parsley and pistachio, and covered with caviar. Really tasty.

It is time for the mullet: cooked on the skin side, with basil chips, basil sauce and a potato dug and filled with sweet red peppers.

Compared to the original menu, I decide to change the main course and to focus on the duckling. It is prepared for one single person (if you are more than two people, you’d better order the duck), and cooked at low temperatures before searing it. The restaurant manager will debone it at the table with and enviable dexterity, it is lacquered with red fruits topping, which is also the sauce. Surprisingly, they serve me the duckling breast first, then they take the rest of the meat back to the kitchen, because the legs need more time to be cooked. It is and incredible and delicious dish. The best duck I’ve ever had in my life.

Let’s finish with the desserts: a peach sherbet, a peach ice-cream, white chocolate and peach, and a peach-flavoured cookie with peach Chantilly-cream. Then a peach snow cone and a peach in syrup. Finally, an astonishing vanilla and apricot soufflé: my mouth is still watering! At the very end, petite patisserie and a verbena infusion.

The sour note comes at the end of the meal: during the staff shifts I am completely left alone for 25 minutes before the bill could reach my table. Pretty expensive too.

But we will talk about this topic in a few days…

Final mark: 3 beards and a half.


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