Few hotels have a dedicated funicular leading straight into the lobby. But a hotel with the word "mountain" in its name has every legitimacy to make the arrival as smooth as sueded fleece.
On a recent Friday after work, our city bus from Lucerne's station stops just footsteps from the funicular at lake level. Mamiko and I both tilt our heads upwoards, gazing at the hotel we would call home for the next couple of days. The Art Deco Hotel Montana is set above the lakeside and has a majestic presence. Built as one of the last palace hotels in Lucerne, the Montana is a real eye-catcher.
Belle Epoche vibes away from Lucerne's tourist streets
The ride on the world's shortest funicular takes just a minute. But being the geeks we are, it is already a major highlight which has to be photographed... The next highlight follows in the beautiful lobby which takes us back to another century. In the early 20th century, tourism in central Switzerland was in full swing. Lake cruises on steamboats had been around for decades, but the railway connecting north and south through the Gotthard tunnel was still a novelty.
Asked about the meaning of "art deco" in the hotel name, we are told that it is about simple forms, lines and volumes. In addition, the art deco style relies on decorations, carpeting and even the placement of pictures on walls, among other things. Throughout the weekend, we look for clues of "art deco" in the grand lobby, in the staircase and in the hallways:
The Hemingway Rum Lounge has won a Swiss Bar Award in 2014:
And this is the breakfast room with its wooden decals and tropical greens:
Our love affair with the balcony at the Art Deco Hotel Montana
Today, tourism is just as prevalent in Lucerne, so we are glad that our hotel sits a few steps away from all the Lion Monument and Kappeller Bridge action. It is quiet in this neighborhood and we spend a lot of time on the balcony. In fact, the double room is absolutely pristine, but the small balcony with space for a couple's table is our favorite space.
Time passes as we watch the boats navigating the lake and the evening hues covering the mountains in the distance. It is time for dinner. (By the time we would return to the room, Lucerne will be glittering from the city lights reflecting in the lake...)
Experimental Cuisine at the Montana Kitchen Club
Despite its legacy and rich history, the Art Deco Montana does not shy away from reinventing itself. We would soon find out that we are in for quite a treat at the in-house kitchen club. Attached to the main restaurant kitchen, this area is reserved for special events. It features a communal table and unobstructed views into the open kitchen.
As a first in Switzerland, the chefs of the Montana are inviting curious guests for an otherworldly kitchen experiment. We are among those curious foodies, and the chefs greet us with a tasty rhubarb beer and some colorful lollipops of foie gras encrusted in white chocolate.
As if these appetizers are not enough of an experience for our palates, there is dry ice creating a lot of fog! Are we in some kind of dragon's lair?
The concept behind the experimental kitchen shines through: Executive Chef Johan Breedijk and Spanish top chef, Rafael Martinez, are presenting a series of eight courses of molecular cuisine. (They call him "El Nino".) Having never tried this 21st century way of combining appearances and ingredients, we are fascinated: Dishes are not what they appear to be!
The meal starts out with a plate of leaves and flowers, entitled "A springtime forest walk". Martinez dares us to start from bottom to top, suggesting we chew on an electrifying buzz button flower to cleanse our palates. And cleanse, it does! The Szechuan Button flower temporarily numbs my mouth and creates a strange saliva, only to sort of reset my taste buds. I surely will never forget this "experiment"...
In the hours that follow, we will be tasting molecular Caprese salad featuring shaved ice mozzarella:
There will be potato crystals and asparagus macrons - a total of 90 ingredients overall. And more often than not, my senses are not aligned when it comes to taste vs. looks.
The wine pairings are spot on, we enjoy chatting with our neighbors and watching Chef Martinez handle tweezers like a pro. I could not imagine a better way to spend a night in a restaurant kitchen, but the experience will set you back 250 francs - appetizers and wine included, and no dish washing required.
Find out more about the Experimental Cuisine which takes place Thursdays through Sundays this June.
Art Deco Hotel Montana
Phone +41 41 419 00 00
(For the purpose of this review, we were invited to the Art Deco Hotel Montana for a one-night stay, incl. participation in the Kitchen Club.)