Recently, my wife and I had the pleasure of spending three days in Lausanne, exploring the city’s amazing architecture, history and museums.
Smack-dab in wine country, this was the chance to acquaint ourselves with one of Switzerland's most spectacular wine regions. Despite a packed schedule of things to see, every meal time turned out to be its own adventure. Lausanne has a wide variety of fun restaurants serving creative, French inspired cuisine.
By the end of our trip, both of us could say that Lausanne was our favorite city for dining in Switzerland. Here are our favorite eating and drinking spots from our trip. (And if you have more suggestions, let us know in the comments below!)
Breakfast or brunch in Lausanne
Blackbird Breakfast Club
Want to forgo your hotel's breakfast room, and instead search for something more capable of soaking up one too many glasses of Chasselas from the night before? Blackbird Breakfast Club did the trick for us. They serve an excellent flat white (which can be a bit difficult to find in Switzerland). Plus, what was hands down the silkiest Hollandaise I have ever had atop my Eggs Benedict.
The pancakes were perfectly light and fluffy, the only knock against them being the syrup which was not real maple syrup. It is a popular place, with a line of people waiting for a table, but everyone was perfectly happy to wait, always a good sign.
The service was friendly and relaxed, and the atmosphere was airy thanks to panoramic windows. It is an ideal place to get some quality breakfast favorites from around the western world. (They even have a full English breakfast!). It’s the place to calmly prepare for a busy day of museums and walking around Lausanne.
For something completely different, try the TOM Café on the top floor of the Olympic Museum. It serves an all-you-can-eat buffet brunch with a panoramic view of the lake. Families and friends from all over the world were enjoying an enormous spread of hot and cold food, and the atmosphere was lively, congenial, and very international.
It definitely felt like a small of Olympic village. The views of the park and lake are beautiful, and it is a nice way to prepare to spend a few hours in the Olympic museum.
Where to have lunch in Lausanne
Auberge de la Gare de Grandvaux
Heading out to the Lavaux wine terraces? Get off at the Grandvaux station, a 10 minute ride from Lausanne. You will find yourself in the center of a breathtaking swath of terraced vineyards that make up the UNESCO World Heritage region of Lavaux.
Located just next to the station with a fabulous view of Lake Geneva, Auberge de la Gare de Grandvaux serves fresh dishes with local ingredients, delightfully presented, and a selection of Lavaux wines. I went with the beef tartar, which paired perfectly with a couple glasses of crisp Chasselas from down the street.
The waiter brought us each a taste to check the seasoning, before serving what was one of the most beautifully presented lunches I have ever had. Even the hot toast was nicely presented; the meal was, in a word, delightful.
Café du Grülti
If you are looking for something a bit more traditional, check out Café du Grülti in the old town of Lausanne. It sits just off the town hall square with its famous glockenspiel. They serve Swiss favorites like Raclette and fondue, but we decided to go with the daily specialties, including a very tasty Squab with Madeira sauce.
The appetizer of foi gras, gently cooked and served with fries, was melt-in-the-mouth good. And the lake perch filets with brown butter and lemon made a nice, light meal after the morning of walking.
Restaurants for dinner in Lausanne
After all the traveling and walking of our first day, we decided to keep the momentum going by heading to the popular Bleu Lezard. I must have had six glasses of exquisite Chasselas during our winery tour. So I decided I needed a break from the vin, asking the garçon for a cocktail du moment. And sure enough, moments later, two very tall, and very blue, Mai Thai’s appeared at our table.
The beignets were lovely and deceivingly easy to eat; anyone who can make deep fried food taste light and fluffy deserves a medal. The pate foie gras was interesting, mixed with whole shrimp and served with a red onion jelly.
The burger was just meh. In my experience, Swiss beef tends to be very lean, which is great for tartar. But it can make ground beef applications like burgers end up too dry. Alas, the tartar degustation was fun and tasty, with several different kinds of tartar to try including a salmon version that was sort of like a deconstructed poké. (if one can deconstruct a raw dish?)
The decor was fun and characterful, without trying too hard, and the atmosphere was lively without being too loud. The same can be said about the food, which was creative and different without being ridiculous. It definitely felt like the hip place to be.
Brasserie de Montbenon
Our favorite dinner spot was hands down the Brasserie de Montbenon. The restaurant fills a cavernous oval room facing the lake in a late Belle Époque palace overlooking the city and lake. Though the brasserie is also a brewery, it was still early so we had an apéro before dinner.
As we sipped our cocktails (highly recommend the Gin Bizz), we admired the beautiful molding on the ceiling and watched the chefs working in the open kitchen. The food is typically French and somehow more whimsical than the sum of its parts.
For appetizers, we had chicken rillette on a toasted baguette, which was like a little summer picnic on a plate. The main was a delightful spring twist on tartar made with veal, white truffles, lime, and some very nutty parmesan. (In case you are wondering, yes we basically lived on tartare and foie gras this weekend - don’t judge.) The service was excellent, and thanks to the atmosphere, menu, and size it would also make it a great choice for families.
Waterholes for drinks in Lausanne
For an afternoon pick-me-up, we headed to Ta Cave, a unique crowdfunded wine bar that turned out to be a very popular spot. The place was packed with people spilling out, glass of wine in hand, into the street. We managed to snag a little table and sat about people watching while enjoying a recommended glass of local white and some fresh chèvre.
The atmosphere is lively, a bit crowded, but in a congenial sort of way rather than an uncomfortable one. It is the sort of public place you go to have a private conversation, so it’s perfect for people watching or maybe a casual date.
About the European apéro culture
For those unfamiliar with the concept of an apéro, it’s almost like a Mediterranean equivalent of an English Tea, with its own canon of nibbles and beverages.
The Mediterranean countries have developed an entire genre of afternoon drinks for a special time called the apéro. The drinks are typically fizzy, fruity, and colorful; the ubiquitous Aperol Spritz and boozy Negroni are two of the best known drinks in this category.
Switzerland, however, has its own unique apéro culture. In Ticino, they follow their neighbors to the south with all manner of Amaros and bitter liquors. In the German and French speaking parts, however, apéro drinks are typically based on white wines. These have often been fortified with herbs and botanicals like a vermouth, and mixed with fruit and something bubbly.
My personal favorite is the Lillet Vivre, a delightful spritz based on at the floral fortified aperitif Lillet Blanc, and something of a regional specialty. Fun fact: The original recipe was called Kina Lillet and was a key ingredient in Bond (James Bond’s) Vesper martini. Today, the recipe is sweeter and more floral. It makes an absolutely delightful and refreshing drink that is full of seasonal fruit.
And finally, for the most unique setting
Terrasse des Grandes Roches
Our last stop before heading to the train station was the Terrasse des Grandes Roches. Nestled deep into one of the arches under the Bessières bridge, the bar served strong local beers as well as wines in one of the most unique settings I have experienced.
The terrace was sheltered by the curve of the bridge’s arch. It stretched out over the street below, well above roof height, offering a lovely golden sunset view of the old town.
Colorful string lights as well as painted tables and chairs made it feel fun and casual. There were several people there just reading books in the warm sunlight, enjoying the peace and quiet afforded in the lee of the bridge. It was the perfect place to wind down and contemplate what an amazing city Lausanne is, before heading to the station.
His expat family has now lived in the Basel area for many years, so it’s safe to say his heart belongs in Switzerland.
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