The Woodward is perched on Quai Wilson, one of the city’s lakeside thoroughfares and major arteries
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Its externality is almost representative of the city of understated and sober Geneva: a pre-war building, all square corners, cornices, and rows upon neat rows of wrought iron balcony railings. The entrance, too, is unassuming—off to the side, with a modest awning and understated signage that proclaims that this is, indeed, The Woodward. The consummately professional doormen are the first clue that The Woodward is one of Geneva’s most exclusive lodgings. It is, in fact, the latest from the Oetker Collection, one of the interests of the famous German family behind also Le Bristol in Paris, The Lanesborough in London—not to mention frozen pizzas. The Woodward opened in September 2021, after five years of development. Despite its sizeable six above-ground storeys, it has only 26 guest rooms. In a first for the city, every single one is a suite, from the relatively modest Junior Suite at 55sqm to the 303sqm Royal Suite—which includes a dining room with banquet-worthy table.
A total of 21 of these suites command lake views. The Woodward is perched on Quai Wilson, one of the city’s lakeside thoroughfares and major arteries; weekday evenings are packed with traffic and sunny weekends are packed with people. A leisure harbour happens to sit right outside the hotel, its bobbing watercraft adding to the scene. Across the lake is the profile of Geneva’s old town, which lights up with innumerable watch brand names during the evening. To the right, one can see the Jet d’Eau, the dramatic water fountain that is Geneva’s most famous landmark. On a clear day, Mont Blanc’s distant peak is visible, and to the left, Lake Geneva stretches out in the direction of Lausanne. Those wrought iron balconies are all readily accessible from inside the suites, behind tall windows and billowy day curtains.
With living areas of sofas and coffee tables and fireplaces, and shelves populated with books and vases, there is a homey feel to the suites—specifically that of a modern Parisian apartment, one of reserved but contemporary taste and a penchant for light, neutral tones and subtle luxuries. The effortlessly relaxed décor makes it easy to miss, but close examinations are rewarding. The silk covering of the headboard is hand painted and embroidered by Fromental. The wall panelling is straw marquetry, courtesy of Lisson de Caunes in Paris. The chandelier is Baccarat, the drawer pulls are by Lalique. The minibar is housed within a lacquered armoire with mother-of-pearl inlays. In the spacious master bathroom, underneath the dual sinks, is a Dyson hair dryer.
The suites are thoughtfully laid out, and ideal to receive visitors. These suites generally have the main living areas separate from the private quarters and have their own half-bath, making them ideal for hosting social or business engagements.
The residential feel extends throughout the hotel. There is nothing cold or sparse about the carpets and Macassar ebony wood flooring of the corridors and stairwells, punctuated by eclectic pieces of furniture or décor with anachronistic vintage inspirations: here one might find a 14th-century style chandelier that was designed for the Yves Saint Laurent boutique in Paris, while over there may be seats in the style of the 1930s or lamps from the 1950s.
The lobby is not called the lobby, it is the ‘salon’—French for ‘living room.’ The front desk is tiny by hotel standards, and the exclusivity is such that queues are non-existent and luggage is obligingly whisked away to where they should be. There is little of a feeling of coming and going, and more in the way of borrowing a well-heeled associate’s second home.
Here also one finds the restaurant Le Jardinier, open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a casual dining venue that takes particular pride in its locally sourced produce. In fact, no ingredient will have travelled more than 150km before arriving at the restaurant’s kitchens. Whether chicken, fish, vegan or gluten-free, dishes are uncomplicated to best let those ingredients do the culinary lifting. Le Jardinier, a concept by Michelin-starred Chef Alian Verzeroli, has already made a name for itself in several locations in the United States; this outpost at the Woodward is the first one in Europe.
The restaurant is airy and high-ceilinged, and in fact is housed conservatory-style on a pair of verandas that overlook the lake. The Woodward is lucky to have these verandas, as the Genevan authorities are notoriously protective of heritage buildings; they relented in this particular case as it was shown through historical photographs that this part of the building started as a restaurant. As a matter of fact, the building came to life as the Hotel Bellevue in 1901, before becoming the local headquarters for HSBC Bank in the 1980s. A vestige of the bank remains in the basement: the door to the guests-only cigar room (named, in what must have been a fit of whimsy, the ‘Salon Al Capone’) is the old vault door.
The basement is also where one finds 1,200sqm of wellness facilities, including a gym, saunas, Swedish baths, the longest indoor swimming pool in Geneva, and the Guerlain spa and its six treatment rooms. For this French brand—well-known for its fragrances and skincare products—The Woodward represents its first spa in Switzerland.
Through the basement, guests can also access The Woodward’s highlight dining experience: L’Atelier Robuchon, though as an attraction all its own it also has a separate street-facing entrance for the general public. An established concept that boasts of a flotilla of Michelin stars across numerous cities around the globe, this is the first time that the storied Robuchon concept arrives in Switzerland and is helmed by Chef Olivier Jean, who spent seven years leading L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Taipei. The restaurant continues the legacy of the venerated French chef by offering his renowned, tapas-style dishes that once turned the culinary world on its head. The flavours are classic, the presentation deliberate with a hint of modern reinvention, and signature dishes such as Caviar Jelly and Beef Rossini are offered alongside some few new ones developed specially for The Woodward. Open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, the restaurant shares the intense black-and-red colour scheme and counter seating that is common to the other L’Ateliers.
But if one prefers something quieter—well, room service is always an option. And indeed, with the space for a proper dining table afforded by a suite, and with the glorious view, it is a perfectly sensible option at The Woodward—one that takes advantage of some of its best qualities.