On the outskirts of the city, within nudging distance to the Uetliberg Forest, is an escape from Zurich’s city lights. The Atlantis by Giardino is the latest offering by luxury hotel group Giardino, the renovation took place in 2015, with re-opening in early 2016. It now boasts a stylish modern interior with cool design nods to its decade of conception – the Seventies. And it’s here, that emulates everything I found convivial about Switzerland: well-being, purity and an understated, contemporary, decadence, with a hand stretched out to nature.
A ten-minute (shuttle provided by the hotel) drive from the city, takes you metaphorically miles from city life. The hotel’s offerings of holistic treatments, yoga retreats, an indoor (and outdoor pool), a divine bar and two non-stuffy eating options, one of which includes a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, means you can easily be swept away into a bubble of contentment. And with the weather unkind, we enjoyed barely leaving its confines.
Its seventies heritage is stylishly retained in the hotel by its new owners, from its imaginatively carved wooden reception desk to its curvaceous clambering spiraling marble staircase.
Even the exterior – though not to everyone’s taste, is a classical dormitory-style true to its past. At the same time, it’s a design fan’s nirvana; from retro padded walls in bedroom, to curvaceous lines of the bar, modern art on the walls, clam shaped sofas and huge Seventies inspired armchairs.
I am a Brit, so the bar seems the inevitable place to start. By day, the area is somewhere calm to relax in its comfy chairs and plump cushions. My partner and I slumped here, reading the array of beautiful books on Swiss landscape on offer or a paper. Little L, read her book, and we took it very easy. By night, one melts into the cool, laid-back bar, with the tinkling of live jazz by the low amber-light bar area, it’s the perfect place to sip a cocktail and watch the vista of the twinkling Zurich cityscape. In its former guise, the bar had graced the presence of the likes of Frank Zappa, Mohammad Ali and the grand piano here was once played in an impromptu gig by Freddie Mercury.
Outside, though a little cold for this time of year (March) is a huge outdoor terrace area. In summer, the outdoor pool is opened to guests, along with the addition of the adjoining ocean bar.
We quickly melted into our room as it had the usual luxurious comfort you’d expect from a five-star. The Atlantis has 95 of them in total, all of differing dimensions, starting from ‘cosy’ at 30sq metres to cavernous suites at 250 sq. m. Our room was plenty big enough, even with the sofa made into a bed for Little L. A luxurious desk ensured I could ‘work’, while the colossal king-size bed with feather light pillows, which one could fit in several people at once (though it’s not that kind of stay!) was ensured a blissful night.
Our balcony was bijou, though enough to take in the wondrous views of the city, the gardens and a little of the mollified stillness of the woods. On this, a March morning, the fog rolled over the mountain, and provided a somewhat connected feel to our environment. The floor to ceiling sliding doors made it a magical experience to watch Little L fall asleep to the distant glow of the city below. The bathrooms were well stocked, wall and floor marble and I liked the touches of a smaller sized bathrobe and slippers for Little L. There’s plenty of drinks and snacks and fruit to nibble at in the rooms. The only irritation was the ludicrously hi-tech lighting. With four university degrees between us, both my partner and I were stumped by how to dim the lights, though saying that our seven-year-old managed it, leaving us 40+ luddites trying to figure the touch-sensitive light pads with unpleasant nocturnal awakenings.
Breakfast is in the Hide and Seek – the hotel’s more relaxed restaurant and consisted of a veritable feast: anything from vegan offerings and gluten-free pancakes, rainbows of juices (and Prosecco if you fancy), cheeses, yogurts and fruits, to vegetable fried rice, bacon, pickles and cooked food. Service was friendly, though one busy morning they didn’t bring a request for milk for fifteen minutes, (a small thing in the scheme of things) and rectified the next morning when the waitress simply knew: ‘we have you milk ready’ – nice touch.
Fine dining at II Michelin-starred Ecco
One of our evenings here, we ate in its two Michelin starred (and 16 Gault Millau points) restaurant, Ecco. It’s a creative, future thinking and wonderful place to dine, with no hard sell of champagne before we’d sat down, and not a single sullen look when seven-year-old L dipped cucumber in caviar and then ketchup (though not to be encouraged), while balancing a stuffed rabbit on her knee.
It was without a doubt, the most professional, warm and happy service I’ve had in a fine dining experience – and writing a lot about food, I have had a few. Ecco itself is a daring and beautifully crafted menu by talented chef, Stefan Heilemann, and with five courses feeling more like ten, (after the amuse bouches, pre amuse bouches, pre appetisers) you should come hungry.
Expect to happily languish there too – our meal lasted near four hours. Food is served in curved sofa seats, and chair, the lighting is like beautiful truncated stalactite of ice, and modern art, and the happy banter of guests around us, made the whole evening fly. Staff was attentive and well oiled and service was slipstream smooth and gloriously warm and friendly. Well done Ecco.
There’s a lavish spa here, offering yoga classes, various treatments including detox, Ayurveda, beauty and fitness within a beautiful spa. It might sound strange, but the floor was a hit with Little L – a dark brooding parquet number, as she told me it was 54-years-old by counting the rings in the wood.
The spa area leads to its indoor pool which, although could do with a few more recliners – we found them all full with nowhere to put our stuff, is lovely enough, and complete with whirlpool from where I could see Little L in the pool (this is important for parents) though she is actually a better swimmer than me. The relaxation room wasn’t the most inspired I’ve seen, though well stocked and the sauna was lovely. The changing and marble showering areas were lush in a figure of eight.
We left here feeling rejuvenated and relaxed in what is a splendidly understated chic and nonchalant luxury hotel.