Luxury Blooms at Le Grand Bellevue
BY: ALEXIS MUNIER
PHOTO: ATELIER ZÜRICH
Every great love begins with a great story – and Le Grand Bellevue is no exception. The newly reimagined luxury hotel is the lovechild of Daniel and Davia Koetser, who met at the hotel 10 years ago during its previous incarnation as the Grand Hotel Bellevue.
“My wife and I met at the opening night of the Gstaad Yacht Club (the club is located on the property),” says Daniel Koetser. “Seven years later we hosted our wedding brunch there. To acquire the hotel seems to have had a further play on destiny, and my conviction for the success of this property.”
The couple’s commitment to that deepening connection is evident in every loving detail of the renovation of the now resplendent resort.
Heaven is in the details
“Casual luxury” is how Davia Koetser, whose company Atelier Zurich was responsible for all the interior design, describes the refurbished hotel’s new style – but that term doesn’t go far enough. In the surprisingly cosy lobby, brocade couches, stools, loveseats and even hanging birdcage-style chairs adorn the large space, encouraging guests and visitors alike to sit down, relax, and perhaps pick up one of the many books in the collection curated in partnership with Hauser & Wirth experts. Sumptuous materials abound, with silky velour and rose-coloured damasks mixing with rugged earth tones and burgundy tweeds to provide an air of easy, eclectic elegance.
The hotel bar boasts one of leading Chesterfi ld manufacturer George Smith’s leather masterpieces in 17 meters of rich, burnished tan comfort. The bar itself is topped with a stunning “tablecloth” of polished zinc – but its real appeal is the specialty cocktails and richly roasted coffees brewed with La Cimbali, known as the “Rolls-Royce of coffee machines.” Across the room, a Steinway baby grand piano beckons guests who want to share their musical talents when the professional pianist winds down for the evening.
Michelin-starred chef Urs Gschwend commands the simple yet refined menu. Dishes such as braised veal with saffron risotto and sautéed spinach are served up beautifully, right alongside juicy burgers and French fries. Even vegetarians can indulge, given the many tasty meatless offerings – including a Moroccan couscous salad with mint and artichokes, no doubt inspired by Restaurant Manager Manuel Schott’s time at the legendary La Mamounia hotel in Marrakesh. The icing on the cake? With its range of options and prices, the creative menu is designed to appeal to affluent guests and discriminating locals alike.
The Koetsers’ extraordinary attention to detail applies to technology as well as accommodation, putting Le Grand Bellevue at the forefront of Swiss hotels.
“We have deconstructed the formal check-in model,” says Koetser. “Le Grand Bellevue is the first in Switzerland to go exclusively ‘tablet’ on check-in.” This is just one of many innovations that allow the hotel to break new boundaries in the hospitality industry. “At the personalised reception desk, you won’t fi nd check-in agents, concierge and desk managers,” says Koetser, “but rather a small, highly informed staff of Guest Services Agents who do it all.”
First comes love, then kid-friendly
Despite how the both the hotel’s and Koetsers’ romantic history are entwined, and however romantic its new ambiance, Le Grand Bellevue was not designed to serve only as a seductive hideaway for lovers. It’s designed to reflect the Koetsers’ love of life and their desire to provide a personalized, welcoming experience for all their guests. Nowhere is this philosophy more evident than in the way the hotel now caters to families with children. The Koetsers can vouch for the facilities – with a two-month old daughter, they are no strangers to the challenges of travelling with small children, especially in a luxury environment.
Determined to serve as a congenial getaway for children and parents, the Koetsers have created an environment that’s as fun for kids as it is relaxing for their parents. A full babysitting service is available, as well as an enlarged playroom replete with toys and games. Older children will appreciate the mini-cinema, where age-appropriate films will be screened on a regular basis. The kids’ area is conveniently located just next to the spa area, so that parents can leave their children to activities they’ll enjoy while they themselves indulge in a few hours of fitness, swimming, or beauty treatments.
A rose by any other name
Change your name, and it’ll change you, or so the adage goes. For the Koetsers, the name change – from Grand Hotel Bellevue to Le Grand Bellevue (in effect from mid to late summer) – refl ects the transformation they’ve engineered at this long-lived establishment. Under their stewardship, the hotel will strive to reclaim its past glory yet simultaneously leap into the 21st century.
“I grew up with stories of Gstaad’s heyday in the 1960s,” recalls Koetser, “where I understand you could fi nd stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton sipping cocktails alongside Saanenland’s farmers in the hotel bar. By eliminating the snobbery which sometimes accompanies luxury establishments, we can reinstate the unique blend of society for which Gstaad was once known.”
It’s a goal worth striving for. And with the hotel’s refined yet casual décor and good quality to value ratio for food and drink, the Koetsers should succeed in attracting a varied clientele of tourists, locals, chalet owners and stars alike.
It’s all about the journey for this destination
Like any great love story, Le Grand Bellevue will continue to evolve. Now that the newly renovated lobby, dining areas and bar are open for business, the guest rooms will receive a similar updating – just in time for the opening of the winter season. For the Koetsers, it’s just the next turn in the road of their new life as Gstaad hoteliers.
“A hotel should be a wonderful journey,” says Koetser. “You should enter and feel like you’ve arrived someplace special.”
Given their magic-wand makeover of Le Grand Bellevue, so far the Koetsers are off to a very good – and very special – start.