Son of a railway worker from Vaud and an immigrant from Lombardy, Philippe Rochat is today one of the most popular personalities in Switzerland. Above Lake Geneva, his refined cuisine reaches dizzy heights and perpetuates the spirit of the legendary Fredy Girardet.
In these times of general belt-tightening, recommending a trip to Switzerland to eat in an outstanding “3-star” restaurant may seem immoral to many of our readers! The time when people treated their families to a meal at Michel Bras’ or Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant once a year is long gone. And yet… if food is your passion, agree to make a little sacrifice for it and head to Crissier, above Lausanne: you won’t regret it!
Underrated by the French, Philippe Rochat is one of today’s most reticent chefs. The finest products are unpretentiously shown to intense advantage at his restaurant, for example his excellent Guilvinec langoustines, fried with violet artichokes from Italy and livened up with an hibiscus-based reduction…
From the first mouthful, one is struck by the fullness of the flavours as much as by the sense of balance that dominates each dish, as illustrated by his large white asparagus from the Valais region, covered with a fine lemon-flavoured mayonnaise with chervil and sprinkled with oscietra caviar.
In taking over from Fredy Girardet in 1996, Philippe Rochat was compelled to perpetuate a certain idea of cuisine that could be summed up in one word: purity. Purity of flavours, purity of product and rejection of any additives. “The more I progress, the more I try to refine my cuisine, strip it down, show to advantage the basic ingredient, combined with one or two very subtle tastes.”
Thus, at Philippe Rochat’s restaurant, it takes just three separate flavours to construct a dish of tremendous intensity. So try his Adriatic razor clams with small chanterelle mushrooms and red onions with lovage, his winkles and scallops braised with wild fennel, or his teppanyaki* of wagu beef with black sesame… There’s nothing to add! At the end of the meal, Philippe Rochat invites me to have coffee in his kitchen and introduces me to his team, led by the brilliant Benoît Violier (Best Worker in France 2000). In the course of the conversation, I discover a rather anxious man: “One often thinks, in cookery, of the work that goes into making a fine product, and sympathises with those who produce it. But will the young generations still want to work the soil and have black fingernails? To wake up in the middle of the night to make bread? The answer is even less obvious now, because large-scale distribution is engaged in a ruthless price war.”
Not to be missed
The cheeseboard placed under the responsibility of Antonino Pereira is magnificent. The French cheeses are from Bernard Antony, and of the Swiss cheeses, I recommend sampling the fabulous Gruyère made on Jean-Claude Biver’s farm. As for wines, head sommelier Bertrand Lutaud always gives good advice. Have confidence in him and try the sublime white wines of Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, the famous winegrower of the Valais.
* “Grilled on an iron plate” in Japanese.
Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville
1, route d’Yverdon
Crissier 1023 Vaud.
Tel: +41 21 634 05 05
Lunch menu from €110, Tuesday to Saturday.
Sampler menu from €185 (3 starters, 3 mains, cheese, 3 desserts)