A pop-up named Polp

Geneva has had some tricks up it sleeves, but none quite as surprising as Polp, a pop-up wedged between a fitness center and a Migros. The man in the window is mustachioed, smiling and friendly. The choice is yours and you only have one choice: pita stuffed with octopus, wrapped in brown paper, ready to eat anywhere but there.


A mouthful is consistent, replete with octopus carpaccio, slightly spicy, adorned with rucola, olives and green peppers, and peppered with oregano. So far so good, but the best was the surprise ending: there in the pita’s base you’ll find a couple of anchovies with their characteristic saltiness, but – hey wait, where you going?? – anchovy-haters, rest easy, these come curled up in pillowey, creamy burrata that helps round out some of that edgy anchovy.


Sound a little crazy? Then the experiment is probably working, because this is the craftwork of a self-proclaimed “Mad Chef”. Of Milanese extraction, Walter el Nahar has already gotten his experiments in the high-end Fiskebar in the Hotel de la Paix, and Susuru, the most recent, (questionably) popular ramen shop to hit downtown. He’ll be thinking up concoctions for his pop-up through November, with a new dish each month. In July, Filipino style ceviche. In August, he goes local (just in time for Swiss National Day on August 1st), with crayfish and a cuchaule fribourgeois – a slightly sweet saffron brioche bread, recently endowed with its own PDO label. Glad I’ll be coming back from vacation in time for that one!

Come fall, look out for his next wild idea, a gastropub that will serve you four days a week, and provide free meals to those in need on the 5th day. It’s name? Le Cinquieme Jour. Simply mad.


Address: 15 rue des Eaux-Vives

Open: Mon-Fri, 11:30 until their stock runs out 

Cost: 15chf for a pita

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El Catrín: authentic Mexican at last

Fans of the Americas and their culinary traditions, you should all be extremely pleased to hear that Geneva has recently seen the opening of a new Mexican restaurant. Long time residents of Geneva will know that we have been deprived of authentic Mexican (or something like it) for far too long. At El Catrín though, the tacos are made with real corn tortillas, the tacos are adorned with queso fresco, cocktails are made with a base of smoky mescal, and palates are refreshed by the a variety of agua frescas- all ingredients that are authentic parts of the smoky, earthy flavours of southern Mexico.

The setting also takes you out of the grey streets of the Paquis: at El Catrín, energy bounces off the walls like a Mexican jumping bean. On any given weekday (except Monday!) you’ll find a young crowd sipping down cocktails and Negra Modelos, and munching on nachos after work. The colorful walls and a minimalist spattering of kitsch keeps the environment buzzing.

Feeling indecisive about the menu? As a starter, their guacamole is creamy and consistent, and served in larger portions than at your average Geneva Mexican restaurant. While the molletos verged towards the dry side, the tacos did not disappoint: the pork options (pibil and al pastor) were tender, juicy and aromatic. The Taco Trio menu gives you a nice tasting of what the place has to offer, and at 35chf, the Combo El Catrín is a steal – by Geneva standards. Only item that failed to impress is the starting green salad, which departs too much from Mexico.   

Basically, an evening here promises lots of goodies all wrapped up in a colorful piñata. But better reserve ahead- with just a few tables, the spot fills up quickly.

PS – Before leaving, don’t forget you can buy their corn tortillas to use at home.

Jazz and Rösti at Café du Bourg de Four

As a rule, I would say that a restaurant situated right next to a city’s main historical attraction is going to be bad. I would never select the closest restaurant to Notre Dame, Westminster Abbey or the Colloseum. The exception to that rule is the Café du Bourg de Four, which is just a stone’s throw away from the Cathédral de Saint Pierre. Head there for the best rösti in town- and if you can make it on a Tuesday eve, you’ll be rewarded with a live duo/trio of guitarists serenading the joint with jazz standards. 

Open since 1874, this restaurant is a cross between Cheers and Sardi’s in Manhattan. Local legislators and politicians who work down the street have dropped in here for lunch for decades. Their legacy lines the walls now, in the form of cartooned portraits, mixed in with local news covers throughout the restaurant’s history. The overall feeling is not unlike stepping into a time capsule to turn of the century Geneva.

Except for two things. The owners of the day are Swiss with ex-Yugoslavian roots, and the menu embraces their mixed heritage: a true illustration of contemporary Geneva. Rosti, a kind of large potato pancake typical of Germanic Switzerland, is at its best at this Café, crispy on the outside, moist on the inside.

 To get the full effect of the restaurant though, order the cevapcici rosti menu, which includes a starter of a Serbian Salad (which looks remarkably like a Greek Salad if you ask me), followed by a main course of Serbian beef meatballs or sausages with raw onions and a side of rosti. It is divine, but if you’re feeling less adventurous, the plain rosti with a fried egg and ham or bacon on top is another classic. (Better known to Brits and Americans as breakfast for dinner).

L’Aigle d’Or: Still Livin’ the Dream

It could be argued that Geneva is the city that always sleeps. Living here is a little like a fairy tale, particularly in the summer: a city that sparkles in the sun, a richly diverse population and virtually no crime… and also a city that took a big bite out of Snow White’s apple once upon a time and is now stubbornly stuck in its slumber for eternity.

Or so the youth would have it. I’ll be the first to applaud new restaurant openings in Geneva, and recently there have been many. But while the new generations go running around reinventing the restaurant wheel, our wiser and more experienced brethren are gettin’ down at restaurants that have stood the test of time. You’d be wise to follow their lead: this is a group that clearly put their finger on Geneva’s pulse a long time ago and have stuck to it. At the top of that list of hidden gems is l’Aigle d’Or, a classic bistro serving classic fare, but that still beats its drum somewhere in Snow White’s dreams.

On a Saturday night, a lively crowd of silver haired patrons streamed in to the restaurant, warmly welcomed with a thirst quenching rum punch and glass of white wine. They had arrived that night because the restaurant was holding one of their regular live music sets: excellent live bands, a fixed menu, and pretty much all the wine you can drink for the heart-stopping price of 60CHF. (And yes, that includes the welcome drinks). After a little tipple on the restaurant’s shaded terrace, the cheery bantering crowd found their way to well broken-into wooden chairs for the main event.


All the oldies of your dreams performed by Chocolat Blanc band members Cyril Azzam and Manu Araoz

That by itself is a formula that should be convincing enough. But then of course we’re here for the food: comfortably nestled on a corner in Carouge, l’Aigle d’Or has had one man at the cooker for 28 years. And the experience shows, not only in the impeccably delivered classic menu, but also in the subtle inventiveness that keeps the place current. The chef opened our appetite with a playful mouthful of white fish ceviche that was elegantly juicy and tangy. He kept it fresh with a green bean and crab salad, just a touch creamy, the sweetness of the crab hugging the crunchy green beans. A main course of osso bucco in a red sauce was served rustic, with roasting pans of yellow rice and ratatouille to match the summer season: melt-in-your-mouth veal in a sauce that was quickly mopped off the plate, punctuated with very fine bone marrow on bread. No salt needed. The dessert brought us all back home, with a meringue, coulis de fruits rouges and fior di latte ice cream- I asked myself only briefly why they hadn’t stuck to the traditional side of double crème, before polishing off the ice cream.

By that time, it was pushing midnight, and the place was in full swing, the crowd clapping, dancing and joyously signing “ride sally ride” on cue with the band. Drowsy with wine I checked my bike outside to make sure it hadn’t turned into a pumpkin: surely there was not a single restaurant in Geneva still roaring at 1am. Surely I was dreaming. Surely someone in the know would know that places like this existed. At least now, we surely do.





An evening at Yo’Mo is full of non sequiturs and densely flavored Lebanese and Mediterranean dishes. Having a meal there makes you feel a bit like you should be having a birthday party: oversized chairs, large scale pop art on the walls, contrasting patterns and colors on the sofas, pillows and rugs. A little like a piñata threw up in an airport lounge – but in a good way? On one side, a gorgeous view of the Lac Leman and the Jardin Anglais. On the other, a print of Mona Lisa smoking a hookah. A built-in bookshelf lines the far wall and is dotted with tchotchkes and books. (Haute Dogs was perhaps a weird choice of a cookbook to throw into the mix of a Lebanese restaurant, but there it was).

On a Monday evening (and a public holiday no less), Yo’Mo was open and ready to serve, and seemed to attract a diverse clientele. Over the course of our meal, a few North American tourists, a crew of local teenagers, and a conservative muslim family all took their seats in turn.



After way too much time spent pouring over the menu, a friendly waitress quietly and patiently took our order with a bashful smile. Having ruled out the “oriental style pizzas” for the night, we opted for a spread of hot and cold mezze – mostly classics, with the occasional twist. Eggplant caviar came in smokey hues, and would risk falling flat if it weren’t for the pomegranate pops of acidity. Hummus comes two ways: served plain, it was unctuous and totally free of that overwhelming raw garlic pervasive in too many recipes. Adorned, the acidity of the beef and pine nuts were offset by a gentle aroma of sesame. Tabouleh, served as it should be, with just a sprinkling of bulgur,brightened up the hummus and meat dishes. The kebbeh (meatballs) were served with an onion jam that tasted a little more like strawberry jam than one would want. Less inspiring was the falafel, which came out just a bit dry. Rich, smooth labneh and the fresh-out-of-the-oven flatbread  was everything you needed to dress and deliver the tang to your taste-buds. 


While the food may transport you, the music won’t let you mistake Geneva for Beirut. In keeping with the contemporary vibe, Yo’Mo rightly avoids the traditional tunes of the ‘Mediterranean’. But in its place, you get loungey electro no better than elevator music, reminding you clearly that it’s Geneve for the nouveau-riche after all. Until that random salsa song comes on, bringing non-sequitur and flavor back to the mix.


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A Truck with BBQ and Sauces for All

Ask any american BBQ aficionado and they’ll tell you what real BBQ is. You may disagree with them of course, particularly if you also happen to be a BBQ aficionado. The debate about the “true ‘cue“can get as nasty as a cock-fight: must it only be pork or can it also be beef? are you using the whole pig or just the shoulder? And “oh my god, is that a mustard-based sauce??

Like any foodie, when I try a food that is indigenous to a particular place, I want the real thing, and not some watered down version of it. If it’s Mexican, I want a proper corn taco with real quesillo and a good spicy salsa. If it’s Thai, I don’t want them skimping on the lemongrass or chili. And if it’s BBQ, well you certainly can’t skimp on the smoke or the rub or the tang.

Funky BBQ rolled into town about a year ago now, blaring the dinner bell to BBQ lovers far and wide. This is a daring initiative: Genevans are not ones for strong flavors, large portions, or making a mess. But without these, one simply cannot do a ‘cue. And like any good food establishment, our BBQ cowboys have to balance their offer of smokey tang with a hypersensitive Genevan palate.

So how did these ambassadors of southern funk do? I took the small portion of ribs and the Kansas city sauce, a side of mac n’ cheese, and some slaw, for good measure. To my chagrin, a cornbread that had previously been on the menu was dropped because customers weren’t biting. (Which begs the question, when will the Genevans become less afraid of all that is foreign and new? But I digress.)

The ribs were beautifully tender for the most part, and had a gentle aroma of BBQ, the flavors of the rub wafting from the depths of the meat. Could there have been more smoke? I can’t speak for the majority of their customers, but I felt like it could use just a bit more kick, either from the smoke or from the rub. But here is where the ingeniousness comes in: the Funky bunch have adopted a “BBQ and sauces for all” strategy, attempting to meet Genevans halfway, while staying true to the funk.  They let the customer pick their level of piquant by offering a range of sauces, from Kansas City to Dead Pig. I took the Kansas City sauce (being a little spice sensitive after all), and I absolutely loved its tang. Don’t forget, you’re invited to ask for more! Not pictured here, but the mac and cheese was truly creamy delight, while the slaw could have used just a little more acidity to cut through the smoke, fat and sauce of the ribs.


All that’s left now is to see for yourself if this uptown funk gonna give it to you the way you like it. My guess is, as long as you haven’t staked out your own BBQ territory and built a strong line of defense against adaptations, you’re gonna love it. But don’t believe me – just try.


Le Flacon

Last fall, after a summer full of weddings and visits and friends and all sorts of excitement, I had clearly fallen behind on my reviews. So, in the spirit of starting somewhere, I started with a restaurant I had been eager to try for months: Le Flacon. I typed this one up fresh, put it aside for review, and then totally spaced out. So without further ado:

Why it was on top of the list of places to try out? It was opened by starred Michelin Chef Serge Labrosse of “Buffet de la Gare des Eaux-Vives” fame, before his second in command, Yoann Caloué, took over the toque and ladle in early 2015.

Never heard of it? Well, thanks to the *awesome* Canton of Geneva plan to build the CEVA, thus turning the Gare des Eaux-Vives (and so many other places in town) into a long term construction site, this one star restaurant had to close down. Because why would Geneva try to safeguard these little sparks of joy in our lives?

Thankfully, he found a new spot to call home, making very pretty dishes over in Carouge – where all the pretty things are.

What you get at le Flacon is a significant step up from the standard wannabe-classy Geneva fare. Most importantly in my book, Caloué is more daring with his flavor profile, and knows how to serve up a plate that’s very easy on the eyes. To start, I could not resist the slow cooked veal with burrata and tomato and cherry gaspacho. That’s right, tomato AND cherry, NOT cherry tomato. The combo was nothing I’d tried before, and while I can’t claim it was in perfect harmony, it was extremely delicious, and a refreshing change.


Barely cooked veal with burrata and tomato and cherry gaspacho

Next,  I ordered the Pluma iberique (pork) as my main course, and rather than go classic Spanish, the dish came out with miso and sesame purée, and very nicely prepared summer squash millefeuille. Not oily, not overcooked, just right.


This dramatic pluma ibérique a la Japonaise

Perhaps the most gorgeous dish of the evening, and apparently very well prepared, was the lime-infused sea bass starter, served with turnips, PEACHES, and almonds. Now how’s that for unlikely bedfellows.


Buried under those pretty little things is sea bass


Of course, when you take a risk on a dish, you sometimes come up short. One of us got doubly unlucky, first trying on the foie gras starter (served with a “sorbet” Piedmontese made of hazelnuts, and a cherry sauce), which tasted scarily like a foie gras dessert. Thanks, but no thanks. His subsequent order of sweetbreads that normally melt in your mouth came out relatively tough. Well, you can’t get it right every time, but for the price we paid, we did hope for a little more consistency.


Foie gras, brioche, Piedmontese hazelnut and Bigarreau as a sorbet…


sweetbreads with asparagus and chanterelles

Finally, for you alkies, the wine list is extensive, and they have a very friendly sommelier who will pretty much tell you want you want (it is Geneva after all). He served us a white wine to handle our fish and sweetbreads and pork that left us all dubious when he proposed it. It turned out to be absolutely delicious, and practically amber in color. Most amazing though was the gorgeous aftertaste: 10 days later, I took a long shot and called the restaurant to ask what wine we had ordered. The sommelier himself answered the phone and asked me when we came and where we were sitting. And with that information alone, he was able to inform me which wine we drank. With that, he got me hook, line and sinker.

So there you have it, a potion of rare quality for Geneva: experimental flavor profiles in a relatively casual setting (despite the obvious high-end ambition of the restaurant). It’s a bit pricier than your average Geneva meal as a result, and for now at least, the success of the experiments are a bit hit or miss. In exchange though, you get friendly service, which is a real rarity in Geneva, n’est-ce pas?

After Work at Taco Toots

Taco Toots joins forces with Brasserie des Halles de l’Ile with Mexican fare that raises the bar on Swiss Mexican food that extra bit higher for one of the cheapest meals this side of the kebab – but ¡dale! guys, crank it up notch and let those flavours you’re nursing shine. 

You and your friends have argued on whatsapp for hours about where to go for your after work drink. Arnold et Julen? Your Eaux-Vives dwelling friends will veto. Bottle Brothers? No Paquis way. For years, nay, decades this left bank right bank divide has funneled us all into Brasserie des Halles de l’Ile, but, quite frankly, they are slow, badly organized, and I’ve witnessed one too many creeps lurking around. And I don’t like their brunch. Still, I go, because, you know, Mojito.

When I went down there yesterday evening, it had been some time since I had circled that drain (where the Lac Léman turns back into the Rhone), and I was surprised to see a new addition to the cluster of businesses on the place. Behold, under the shade of trees people were sipping on Spritz Apérols and scarfing down tacos.



Says the owner, sarcastically, “You know how there’s all this great Mexican food in Geneva, right?”

Oh yes. I know all too well. Mañana’s serves the best of whatever produce Coop scraped off its racks and turns it into “salsa” and “guacamole” over stale chips. Mmmm gimme some of that. Le Chat Rouge is a big step up, but still, measly portions of guacamole make you feel like Calvin is managing the kitchen.

Things started to perk up last year though when Taco Rico opened up in Plainpalais – our very own Chipotle style joint that is actually quite generous on the guac and introduced caramelized and pickled onions to the Genevois palate. (Thanks Taco Rico!)

But I digress. Taco Toots, on Place de l’Ile has been open for a while now, and they are already attracting a crowd of tipsy after-workers who fell into the Brasserie des Halles de l’Ile pit with a serious case of the munchies. Jackpot.

Taco Toots is making a valiant effort at making Mexican food a little more authentic, but is going to need to spice it up to be truly chingon. The menu is simple (beef, pork pibil and veggie tacos, tostadas, and a quesadilla), the produce is good quality and fresh, the tortillas are sourced from the only authentic provider in town, and the service is super friendly. Win win win win, right?

But there’s more. I had two tacos with sides and an agua de jamaica for all of 14chf. WHAT??


But, as you can see, the portions per taco are on the conservative side. The clear favorite is the pork pibil, which was obviously cradled in warm, gentle spices for many many tender hours. The result is a juicy taco with a subtle seasoning. Almost too subtle. People who like a punchier taco will have to hit the spice bar to give it that extra umph. And hang on to that napkin – as long as they haven’t invented a “taco holder” you’re gonna need it!

The quesadilla came in a close second, with its unctuous cheese melt and some tangy veggies giving it some edge. In fact, it was favored by a vegetarian over the veggie taco option, which consisted of underseasoned roasted veggies.


The beef taco also had a lot going for it, but needed a little acidity kick in the rump to balance out the beef and the fresh diced veggie garnish. I know the Swiss aren’t known for their adventurous side but I think they can take a little more seasoning in their food without being overwhelmed with flavour. I added some of the tomato salsa, which helped, but a longer marinade or a spicier rub may have done that beef good.

And if you really love Mexican food, you’ll know it’s all about the fixings. With our tacos we got a good side of guacamole, pico de gallo and really crisp taco chips – a highly addictive trifecta.


So what is this agua de jamaica and agua de tamarindo thing, and why is it so exciting? When I lived in Southern Mexico (for a short, but oh so delicious time) I discovered that they make agua de whatever fruit you want, and serve it by the pitcher. Agua de limon is a bit like lemonade, and agua de jamaica is a bit like cold hibiscus tea, but tartier, sweeter and fresher. For me, heaven in a glass, and I bow to Taco Toots for bringing it home to me.


Cheers Taco Toots for raising the bar on Swiss Mexican food that extra bit higher – but ¡dale! guys, crank it up notch and let those flavours you’re nursing shine.

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Play that Funky Brunch

Just when you thought brunch was a bust. The moment that simmering fear started crystalizing in your head that brunch is in fact a cruel ploy to get you to pay extortionist prices for an omelet in high heels and a tiara. In that very instant of reckoning that we are living in a post-brunch world, brunch – or something like it – came to Geneva.

Of course, you’ll tell me, Geneva has had its brunch spots, from the haughty to the healthy. In days of yore, you heard me squealing about the elusive and exclusive poached egg (which, last I checked, can still only be found at Au P’tit Bonheur), the unacceptability of buffets, and the obstinacy of Swiss brunch menus having to include copious amounts of bircher muesli and quiche, when what you really want are pancakes, bacon, eggs benedict and a bloody bloody mary.

So if you’ve followed my brunch posts, you’ll know my three rules of brunch: no buffets. poached eggs a must. and there must be booze. (That is what the b in brunch stands for, right?) Well, this week’s contestant is 1 for 3: food is served buffet-style, they do not have poached eggs, and they do serve booze. Arguably, the first two theoretical blunders cancel each other out, because who in their right mind wants a poached egg that’s been sitting on the buffet?

Funky Brunch

Funky Brunch, Geneva’s latest (successful) pop-up, appeared as a blip on the radar back in December 2013 at Fenomeno. A glance at the pictures that went up on fb at the time had me intrigued; but no, back then I had been burned by too many boozeless bircher brunches to risk another flop.

Now, at 1 and a half years old (what’s that, about 5 in restaurant years?) the Funky Brunch has gone from a blip to a bang, taking over a kitchen near you almost every Sunday. When I first arrived at Windows, the restaurant overlooking the lake at Hotel d’Angleterre, I was reticent. Of the two sittings available, I had reserved the early one at 10:45, and there were kids everywhere. I ain’t juding – just sayin. And there in the back was the usual classless buffet. In my skepticism, I grabbed a plate, put my head down and hit the buffet like a perfect little lemur: two scoops scrambled eggs, two slices bacon that’s been sitting around… excuse me while I face-plant in my plate.

eggs n bacon (and beef carpaccio)

eggs n bacon (and beef carpaccio)

But then. Oh, but then. When we regrouped at our table, my friends came back with entirely different food on their plates. Where had those colorful diverse salads come from? Green beans with orange peel? Fava beans and radishes? Bulgur with tomato and cilantro? Asparagus, haloumi and sun dried tomatoes?

red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue, I can sing a rainbow too

red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue, I can sing a rainbow too

While my eyes took in the confetti-looking food, a faint smell of fish and french fries tickled my nostrils, and out of the kitchen came marching a waiter with the first serving of fish & chips. A furtive glance to the left revealed a station with a roasted leg of lamb and gratin dauphinois with a light creamy mint sauce. Then someone else came back to the table like he’d seen the promised land: indeed, he’d just returned from the buffet of milk and honey – and cereals and pancakes, and – wait, are those cupcakes??

crispy and fatty and n'er too salty

crispy and fatty and n’er too salty

lamb, jus, mint sauce and some sneaky asparagus salad

lamb, jus, mint sauce and some sneaky asparagus salad

The offerings officially had me sold. Granted, not everything was perfect: the salads could have used some salt, and the lamb, while very tender, wasn’t so inspiring in flavor without its creamy mint sauce. But the OJ was fresh, the fish was crisp and the chips were thick, the salads were delightfully seasonal and refreshing, and the cheesecake was lip-smackingly sour.

DESSERTS: dark chocolate mousse to die for, sour cheesecake, rice pudding (?) and slightly oversweetened apple tarte

DESSERTS: dark chocolate mousse to die for, sour cheesecake, rice pudding (?) and slightly oversweetened apple tarte

So we plowed through, course after course, sipping our coffees, cucumber-celery juice, and Aperol Spritz as a DJ spun R&B classics that even the rug rats were dancing to. A clown appeared half way through my third helping of wakame-wrapped salmon to entertain the kids, and by the looks of it, they’d had some fairy visits too. Having come to the early sitting, we probably saw more kids of the short, pudgy, single-digit kind, who, I am guessing would be replaced by the tall double-digit stinky kind come second sitting.

And indeed, Funky Brunch has figured out how to reconcile the needs of all Geneva brunchers: from the parents wanting a break from the kitchen, to the Saturday night pack rats in for their carbicide Sunday boozer. A true place where little Joey can get his face painted while mama clutches her well-deserved Bellini (and yes I will have that refill, thanks).

Bon app!

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The Old World, Renewed, at La Bottega Trattoria

La Bottega Trattoria

La Bottega Trattoria

Going out to a restaurant can be as dull as it can be enlightening. And let’s be honest, it’s be a loooooooong time since it was worth talking about a new restaurant in Geneva. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen the resto scene spruced up by a hamburger wave and a caravan of food trucks. Arnold et Julen and Living Room kicked some light and pizazz into our winter nights. These flecks of big city life have enlivened Geneva, no doubt.

Still, the core of Geneva’s restaurant scene has continued to degrade its customers with the same old menus and uninspired preparations. Even glossy hot spots like Da Matteo or countless others, gleaming as they may first seem, are equally dull under the surface. Because let’s be honest: the glitterati to whom they seem to cater most often barely have any interest in eating in the first place, lest it plump them out of their sequined mini dresses and Armani jeans.

Yet, with a few outstanding exceptions, this seems to be the audience Geneva’s up and coming restaurant industry has consistently targeted. There can’t seem to be too many overpriced bistros dressed up as hipster joints (the Quartier des Bains is crawling with them), cheap pizzerias, or kebab shops. But there hasn’t been a single nook in this town for an eatery that exists to impress people with the actual art of cooking, introducing us to creative, mind altering flavor combos. For that, well, we have London.

But friends, Geneva has taken a step closer to being a cosmopolitain city when, a few weeks ago, La Bottega Trattoria opened its doors on La Grand Rue. An Italian restaurant it says, and the menu structure, wine list and pasta dishes do seem to prove it is so. But this is not your traditional Da Paolo’s , your spritzed up Luigia, or your insultingly bland and simplistic Kytaly. This is the Italy of meaty ragouts and fine use of herbs. The Italy that looks outwards, to the green flavours of Scandinavia and beyond. The Italy that says Italy isn’t about the pizza or the tomatoes or even the pasta; it’s about a celebration of the ingredients, and the desire to elevate them through loving preparation and creative combinations. Move over nonna: your nephews Paolo and Fra just got back from their world tour and have taken over the kitchen.

Best of the old world, reincarnated

Best of the old world, reincarnated

Good restaurants can stop there, with a core of delectable, if not irreproachable, dishes. A great restaurant will take that core and put it into a stimulating shell. Here too, La Bottega delivers: its decor is distinctly contemporary, while echoing back respectfully to the old world, with a white tiled interior, industrial lamps, and a large old map of Europe hanging solo.

All told, dinner at La Bottega is like driving a 1950s Alfa Romeo Cabriolet with a fresh coat of paint and an immaculately maintained engine. It may not quite take us to London’s cutting edge, but it will give us a fresh and stylish taste of Italy.

But enough with words, place aux photos:


aperiteasers of roasted cherry tomatoes, slightly undercooked cauliflower and carrot, and tangy Italian broccoli

Aperiteasers followed by aperitivi

Green is gold

Green is gold: cabbage leaves wrapped around a lightly mayonnaised crab salad, balanced off with lightly pickled cucumbers

root juice

Oeuf mollet with thin sheets of parsnip, white asparagus, and bathed in celery root juice

Primi: Pasta

eggplant sauce and balsamic over caramelized onion raviolis

Eggplant sauce and balsamic over caramelized onion raviolis. Sweet, wanting in acidity

perhaps the highlight…

it may not look like much but this veal tail ragu was as viscerally positive an experience as it gets

Who knew veal tail could be so unctuous. This dish may not look like much but it was as viscerally positive a food experience as it gets

On Secondi thought…

guinea fowl, sweet potato purée and company

The guinea fowl was prepared to perfection, juicy tender and lean on the inside, with a crisp layer of skin. Hanging out with sweet potato purée, parsnip and a couple of cherries.

Porc versus guinea fowl

Filet mignon of porc, prepared just like the guinea fowl. Guinea fowl won, by a hair.


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