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.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.