The hotel in Lucerne is The Hotel. Across from a park in a quasi residential/commercial neighborhood, not far from the rail station, this sleek marvel of glass, steel and hardwood is without doubt the most stunningly designed Swiss hotel we've seen. It is a creation of famed Paris architect, Jean Nouvel, winner of this years Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, whose credits include Lucerne's new lakeside congress center, Berlin's Galeries Lafayette, and the acclaimed Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.
Here there are no "singles" or "doubles," only deluxe studios, junior suites, and garden and park deluxe suites. Stepping into one from the unremarkable, industrial hallways serves only to enhance the experience of being in these extraordinary guestrooms. All feature giant, single-pane windows; pivoting matte stainless steel cabinets for storage and entertainment components; minimalist furnishings designed especially for The Hotel by Nouvel; Brazilian cherrywood table surfaces; deeply-polished floor planks; and, on the ceiling of each room, in soothing, muted colors, a scene from one of 25 films. At night, wall sconces illuminate these guestroom ceilings, creating an extraordinary exterior view for passersby.
The Hotel's stylish Restaurant Bam Bou features Asian/French dishes prepared by a California chef, Andrew Clayton. Choose from such starters as Crab Cakes with Saffron Chili Hollandaise, Five Spice Foie Gras Terrine or Thom Kha Curry. Main dishes are pricey and include Rack of Lamb Tandoori, Indonesian Marinated Duck Breast, and Wok-Fried Tagliatelle with Squid & King Prawns.
Though Bam Bou is below street level it uses a clever arrangement of canted windows and mirrors to essentially "pipe" daylight into the black-walled room. In addition, the system allows pedestrians to see down into the restaurant for a glimpse of the kitchen's carefully prepared and arranged dishes.
Our only demur about the five-star The Hotel, other than its pretentious name, is that comfort may have been compromised in guestrooms in order to accommodate design. There are no couches, only one pleasing-to-the-eye but rather severe leather easy chair. If there are two people in the room, someone has to sit in a straight-backed chair or on the bed.
The Hotel sometimes offers discounts at its website, making the deluxe studio a good value in a city with Zürich-like prices.
Daily Rates: Deluxe studio CHF 390, junior suite CHF 460, deluxe suite CHF 510
Rating: Quality 18/20, Value 14/20