There’s been a changing of the guard at the Vitznauerhof: Hotelier Raphael Herzog has taken up the baton on the shores of Lake Lucerne. He and his innovative gourmet chef Jeroen Achtien spoil their guests with stupendous service, watermelons, and fermented vegetables. Come again?
After professional stints at the Arosa Kulm, Capra Saas-Fee and on Ibiza, among others, the 34-year young luxury hotelier Raphael Herzog has landed just in time for the 2018 summer season at this 4-star superior Art Nouveau hotel in Vitznau.
Here he holds sway over 53 rooms and suites – each one with a unique view of Lake Lucerne and the Bürgenstock mountain as well as the world-famous Rigi mountain vista.
We’ve posted here the perfect hiking guide with view of the Rigi and the mountain ridge trail.
Once you have had your fill of hiking, you are sure to be famished and will be looking for something edible.
Fortunately, you will not have to search for long: The Vitznauerhof’s eye-catching Panorama Terrace garden restaurant signals even at a distance that something fine is sizzling on the ring grill here.
In what is undoubtedly the most beautiful garden restaurant on the lake, the pitmaster serves Mediterranean fare straight from his circular fire pit.
Like to do things with style? You can tie up your yacht right there on the hotel’s private boat dock and enjoy the view.
Preferably around sunset…
It’s the longest-lasting one on Lake Lucerne,
as hotel director Herzog fondly points out: from no other garden terrace on Lake Lucerne can you enjoy the sun setting as long as from here.
Except perhaps from a little island sitting in front of the hotel’s Sens gourmet restaurant?
Here the open-minded gourmand can dine not only with an unobstructed 360-degree view, but also while fathoming all kinds of flavors!
It is because in the kitchen reigns someone who, since his time on the high seas, doesn’t miss a trick…
Gourmet Sens Restaurant by Jeroen Tamme Achtien, aka «J8»
Before the Flying Dutchman made landfall at the Vitznauerhof, the 30-year old was responsible for realizing the «Taste of De Librije» gourmet menu for the Holland America cruise line.
As «Flying Chef» for the renowned cruise line he shipped out regularly. He spent most of his time in the galley, of course.
As if that wasn’t enough, Achtien was also sous-chef to star chef Boer in «De Librije» until he even took over the kitchen and published books about the Librije cuisine.
Those in the know will tell you that «De Librije» is the stylish gourmet restaurant of 3-star chef Jonnie Boer in Zwolle, about 100 Km northeast of Amsterdam.
The ambitious chef de cuisine now takes his guests on a daring culinary voyage on the shore of Lake Lucerne in his Sens Restaurant with its 16 Gault Millau points. Daring, because the innovative Dutchman indulges his experimenter’s joy with fermented vegetables, one of the oldest preservation methods.
Right in the middle of the restaurant Achtien works meticulously with shaved vegetables that he lets marinade for weeks in their own juices with a pinch of crystal salt. The probiotic foodstuffs produced in this way with their natural enzymes, vitamins, and active lactic acid bacteria promote a healthy gut flora. Because the vegetables are not heated, they retain all their nutrients.
When J8 isn’t busy with fermenting, he’s dehydrating. So, for example, he will draw all the water from a watermelon. That’s how he is left with plain melon.
What does he do to it? Sorry, it’s classified. Top secret!
In any event, he rehydrates the melon and — surprise, surprise! — he winds up not with a watermelon again but a beef tartare!
Well, ok — it does not come from a steer, but from said watermelon, yet it tastes like the best beef tartare ever!
And the egg yolk that tops it is nothing of the sort; while it is definitely yellow, it is made of pickled vegetable, piccalilli style! I kid you not!
If restaurant manager Sven Renner hadn’t clued us in to the actual nature of things, at this point I would be describing for you the best beef tartare on Lake Lucerne…
The «fruit-vegetable tartare» naturally is not served alone. Depending on how hungry you are, it comes with a whole series of varied courses.
But you’d never know what from the menu, because it has only these three lines on it:
- 4 courses 115 CHF
- 6 courses 155 CHF
- 8 courses 185 CHF
Ok, actually there’s more: «All prices include 7.7% VAT» it also says there. That’s two more lines.
But that’s really all they wrote!
I opt for the 6-course menu, because I want to have something to write about, don’t you know…
… with the appetizers and such totted up in addition on the bill.
The Restaurant Sens gourmet surprise by «J8»
Restaurant Sens is located just next to the hotel in a park right on the lakeshore.
The location could not be any more spectacular…
No need to spend a lot of time poring over the menu for once. Fine with us!
But if you like to sit down to dinner at eight, take my advice and order only 4 or 6 courses, because the many main dishes and intermediate courses take a certain amount of time. Even if you’re not photographing them…
The optimum way is show up about six for a colorful aperitif in the Sens lounge and, as the spirit moves you, go for that first appetizer.
But as the sun goes down, it is high time to change over to the restaurant terrace or the little island…
What comes next only hardcore romantics and aficionados of cultivated dining will be able to bear.
And lovers of shaved, smoked heart of beef.
Consider yourself warned!
If that sounds like too much for you, better stop reading here. I don’t want anyone coming back at me with complaints of some kind…
But let’s get to the heart of the matter at last: here is where I spill the secret of our surprise menu
- Caramelized butter (beurre noisette) tempts even before the action really starts
- Scallops on their shell and salt
- Fingerling with sun flower greens, topped with freshly shaved, smoked heart of beef
- «False» beef tartare from dehydrated watermelon and “faux” egg yolk from fermented vegetables (piccallilli)
- Marinated lobster pickled for three hour in kombucha and served with mole (spicy chocolate-tinged Mexican sauce )
- Monkfish and sauerkraut, perhaps the most famous fermented vegetable of all
- Dove and beetroot tartare, beet ends and beets, cooked 12 hours on the fire pit
- Cheese plate: Taleggio with dill and potatoes in buttermilk
- Dessert: «Faux banana» of banana mousse with rum espuma, Felchlin chocolate with basil
- Grapefruit with mascarpone and iced grapefruit shavings
Say, didn’t I order just 6 courses?
Oomph, what a feast!
Still up for a night cap? Treat yourself to one before withdrawing to a splendid chamber in the fairy tale castle.
But you won’t be feeling stuffed at all, because all the dishes weigh lightly on the stomach. Must be the probiotic effect?
And so, to all a good night!
The day after – the hotel
Oh, yes, almost forgot: there is still the hotel!
Or maybe it’s an enchanted palace. Anyway, that is the feeling one gets on waking and that first squint or two out the window…
The view is simply stunning!
A hiking we will go…
Fresh from the opulent breakfast buffet, it’s time to lace up the hiking boots and go for a ride on the Rigibahn. The cog railway will take you straight up to the Rigi Kulm that is visible from everywhere.
From there, or also from Rigi Kaltbad, the adventurous ridge trail will take you to a small cable car. And that will deposit you gently practically right next to the hotel. It was a perfectly lovely little hike!
Here are our hiking tips.
The less venturesome can enjoy the lake or the slightly warmer whirlpool bath of the small but fine Vitznauerhof Spa. At around 900 square meters, mind and body in the sauna and steam bath find perfect relaxation from all that they have absorbed in this little paradise.
Naturally, there is always a Lake Lucern boat ride. For pure enchantment, every time.
Our thanks go to…
Sincere thanks to Hotel director Raphael Herzog for the generous invitation!
A great big thank you also to gourmet chef Jeroen Achtien and restaurant manager Sven Renner for a wonderful evening full of surprises «in the Lake Lucerne».
You do have a restaurant island, so I guess it’s ok to say «in the Lake Lucerne» ;-)
Make your reservations here for Restaurant Sens.