A2D on the Go: From Switzerland to Brazil
As global concierge professionals, we’re constantly out and about, scouting the best places to eat, the trendiest new hotels, the hottest concerts and events and anything quirky, fun and adventurous. Our “A2D on the Go” posts feature personal tips and insights from members of the A2D Concierge team.
Our goal is to offer the very best advice and insights to help our clients make the most out of their business and leisure travel experiences. Our network extends around the world and opens doors into places and experiences that few have access to.
The following post is from A2D CEO and Founder Stig Egard.
From Switzerland to Brazil
October weather in Switzerland is unpredictable at best. Looking forward to a much-needed respite, my wife Ruth and I ventured to Zurich to begin our 1-week getaway. Our home away from home, the Dolder Grand, located in a refreshing green zone above the hustle of the city, offers amazing views of the metro area, the lake and the Alps.
We arrived on a Sunday and knew at once that we must sample their “legendary” brunch. Located in the beautiful Garden Room, the buffet offered extensive selections of lake fish and meats with a dizzying array of sauces. It all looked lovely, but the idea of lining up for a buffet took me back to my childhood vacations with my family, taking the boat from Oslo to Copenhagen with people standing in long buffet lines to sample mediocre food. Despite all the high praise and top-reviews I had researched about this buffet, I found it expensive and quite disappointing. The buffet was packed with people from the bourgeois circles of Zurich, much like you’ll find in top hotels on Sunday morning in almost every major city around the world. The buffet was unimpressive in a hotel known to impress.
After brunch, we checked into the hotel and were upgraded to beautiful junior suite, boasting a very modern interior with stunning views to Lake Zurich and the golf course. It wasn’t long before we had booked appointments at the spa for a much-anticipated neck, shoulder and head treatment. I don’t often comment about spa treatments, but this one was perhaps one of the better massages I have ever received. After our relaxing spa appointments, we wandered the hotel grounds spent time viewing the hotel’s art collection with more than 100 artworks including Andy Warhol, Henry Moore and Salvador Dalí.
For lunch the next day, we headed to Restaurant Sonnenberg to enjoy what the Michelin guide describes as a classic French restaurant above Zürich with wonderful views over the city and lake. Swiss cuisine is also highlighted on the menu and includes specials such as Swiss veal chops, boiled beef and Piedmont gnocchi. Ossobuco is a favorite here and with good reason. If the weather is pleasant, the terrace is a wonderful place to enjoy your lunch with a view.
After lunch, we took a leisurely 1.5-hour drive to the Chedi Andermatt hotel in the sleepy village of Andermatt. Located just 1.5 hours from Zurich and 2 hours from Milan, it is ideally located to attract guests from the region.
Everything about the Chedi Andermatt is considerate, comfortable and tasteful. As a mountain hotel, it is warm and inviting with an outstanding staff. The Chedi has several dining options which do not disappoint. The main restaurant offers an extended Asian and International menu with new dishes added regularly. On our second day at the hotel, the hotel’s Japanese restaurant (The Japanese) received its first Michelin star.
During our stay at the Chedi, we dined at The Japanese for three evenings. Each night we received the considerate attention of Daniel, an energetic service professional with outstanding knowledge of the menus and Japanese sakes. Daniel’s knowledge is so expansive on the topic that he should give a sake master class.
Another stand-out at the hotel was Simon, the young Swedish sommelier who popped by during our meals tempt us with his wines. Simon is one of the most prosperous sommeliers I have met. He will sit down with you for 30 minutes to pick 2 wines for your evening meal. I just love it when people know their business. Both Daniel and Simon did, which made our time at The Japanese nearly perfect. After dining three times at The Japanese, we felt that we had exhausted the menu and decided it was time to move on.
After a wonderful week in Switzerland, we departed for Brazil, joined by our daughter Amba. After arriving in Rio de Janeiro, we were picked up by our regular driver Rodrigo, who is always reliable and one of the best private drivers in the world. Our 200km drive to Buzios took us just under three hours which is a long drive after such a long flight. We considered ourselves lucky after hearing tales of 6 to 9-hour drives from Rio to Buzios during peak hours. If you have the means, helicopter is the best alternative to arrive in Buzios.
Our hotel in Buzios was the lovely Vila Da Santa. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the friendly concierge Marco, who assisted us during check in and helped us feel at home. The hotel, which is more of a mansion, has 19 rooms, spa and a semi-private beach with chairs and restaurant and bar service. Our plan was to spend six nights here. At a price of 450 euros per night, we found the Vila da Santa very pricey, especially considering that the hotel had very few guests apart from 2-3 couples we saw occasionally for breakfast.
We enjoyed the quiet, and soon realized that Buzios is a wonderful place to enjoy sunny days. The only drawback is that anything less than full sun made the days seems to linger uncomfortably with little else to do.
Wherever we travel, the most important issue for a nice stay is a variety of good restaurants. Our immediate sense was that Buzios would be a disappointment. Here and in many other places in Brazil, the kitchens are not world-class. We recognized that our satisfaction would be dependent on our expectations, so we tried to keep our expectations low and to enjoy the charm and ambiance of the area.
Over the years, we have become spoiled with so many wonderful meals in some of the best cities in the world. After exploring the restaurant scenes in London, Los Angeles and San Francisco, it is difficult to find a restaurant that will meet these high standards. So, we settled in and tried to find the best restaurants in Buzios. Honestly, when I see a sign that reads “fresh fish straight from fisherman” my first reaction is suspicion. I have no doubts that the fish is fresh. My concern is how they will prepare it.
Sadly, during our stay in Buzios, we did not have one good meal outside the hotel. Looking back, the only place I remember is Restaurant 74 at the beautifully located Hotel Casas Brancas. The view was stunning and the service by our friendly Argentinian waitress was very good. But the food was only average, a failed attempt to recreate fusion cuisine from the mid-eighties.
Intent to enjoy our time in Buzios, my wife Ruth and I decided to take walks in the early morning before the world wakes. Unfortunately, we encountered people sleeping outside, garbage bins turned over and swarms of birds fighting over food from the trash strewn about. After our first morning, we felt less interested in venturing out again for our walks. I seriously do not understand how the tourism authorities can permit such a negative perception, when the entire local economy is dependent on tourism. We chose to spend our time relaxing at our lovely hotel with their lovely staff, enjoying spa treatments. The dining at the hotel was good, but not great. Truth be told, the hotel was the only place we had a decent meal during our time in Buzios.
We would go back to Vila Da Santa during the sunny season, but perhaps not for the rate they were charging. The hotel should revisit its rates and focus on increasing occupancy. While we rarely expect perfection, for 450 euros per night, this hotel can and should do better.