Les Trois Rois, Basel
Les Trois Rois is the grande dame in Basel and the only luxury hotel in this charming city. First described in 1681 as a coaching inn, the hotel is one of the oldest in Switzerland and boasts an enviable position on the banks of the Rhine with views across the river and Mittlerebrücke (once the only bridge across the Rhine between Lake Constance and open sea) to Basel Kleinstadt. The current Belle Epoque building was built in 1844 and is beautiful inside and out. Since 2006, the hotel has operated under its current name (translates as The Three Kings though from time to time it has gone by the name of Die Drei Könige as befits the complex language environment of Basel) and is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World collection. As you would expect, service is exemplary and the style fitting for a hotel of such calibre - this is more of a Savoy or Ritz than a W or Andaz! Unsurprisingly, the hotel has hosted a number of famous names over the years, including Pablo Picasso, the current Queen Elizabeth and Napoleon Bonaparte.
Having sampled the wonderful champagne brunch last New Year break, we were delighted to have the chance to return overnight.
We were wowed by the dining options at Les Trois Rois, so unusually for a D2T review, have split the dining section into multiple parts.
Breakfast, served in the Brasserie, offers a pretty typical breakfast buffet plus a couple of expensive dishes to order, such as scrambled egg with caviar (40 CHF). Mrs D2T was tempted to order the omelette with black truffle for 30 CHF, but after discovering that it was made with preserved not fresh truffle (it being April) decided to stick to a standard mushroom omelette. Both Mr D2T's poached eggs and Mrs D2T's omelette were perfectly cooked - still soft in the middle but not over runny. The fruit selection was limited but ripe and there was a wide range of fruit juice on offer. The bakery provided the highlight of the spread, with fresh crusty bread and pastries available, as well as some of the best gluten-free bread Mr D2T has had - it must be baked in house. Smoked salmon, charcuterie, a range of cheese and salad items were all high quality and there was champagne available for those looking for an indulgent or celebratory start to the day. Service was ok but, to be honest, we expected it to be a little more attentive.
Dining (Cheval Blanc)
The Cheval Blanc is the hotel's gourmet restaurant, boasting 2 Michelin starts and just 10 tables. We ate lunch here (good value at 110 CHF for 4 courses) and thought it was the best meal we have ever eaten. Service was superb, presentation sublime and the food delicious. The meal started with three amuses bouche (mushroom three ways - wonderful and earthy; razor clam ragout and delightful beetroot macaroon) and followed with our starters (white asparagus with tender grilled king prawn for Mrs D2T and beautiful cured king fish for Mr D2T). The mains of pigeon and sole were exceptionally cooked and provided a generous portion. The cheese trolley was awesome, with a wide range of cow, goat and sheep's cheese. Our pre-dessert looked like an innocent jelly but burst with fresh passionfruit upon eating. The dessert of fresh raspberries with gold leaf was the perfect end to a wonderful lunch. Although the food is priced as you would expect for Michelin-starred fare in Switzerland, the experience felt good value and we will be back.
Afterwards, Peter Knobl the Chef came out to greet each table in turn and seek their feedback. We ran out of superlatives.
Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted and check-in was friendly and efficient. We were provided with complimentary tickets for Basel public transport, multiple vouchers for the hotel's WLAN and Mrs D2T was given a beautiful red rose as a welcome. A lovely member of staff then showed us to our room (via concierge to collect the real key - no magnetic key cards here). We were delighted to be upgraded to a Rhine-view room with a balcony complete with a seating area for two with wonderful views of the turbulent river below. Unfortunately, it rained throughout our 1-night stay, so we were unable to use this feature; however, it would be the perfect spot to while away the hours watching the life on the river or enjoying a light breakfast or dinner.
The room itself was traditional with some modern touches, such as the LCD control screen for air-con, bathroom underfloor heating and blinds. A nice touch was the complimentary minibar (with water, beer, juice, crisps and Coke) and the welcome pears and mini home-made cakes. We were also impressed by the thoughtfulness of the hotel - a vase was sitting ready for the single rose stem received at check-in.
Although the shower was over-bath (regular readers will know we are not fans of this) it had great water pressure and the bathroom itself was well appointed complete with washlet style toilet. Our one disappointment was the bed, which though generously proportioned, was 2 singles pushed together, not a King.
Sunday brunch at Les Trois Rois is somewhat of an institution in Basel. As mentioned in the introduction, our first visit to the hotel was for their New Year's Day brunch, which at 129 CHF per person including half a bottle of champagne, was great value by local standards. On arrival at the hotel, we were invited to store our coats and shown to our table for 2 in a beautifully decorated Salle Belle Époque with views over the Rhine. Whether there had been a ball the night before, or the decorations were simply seasonal, we loved the tasteful black and white balloons covering the ceiling.
Our waitress first offered us coffee, which seemed somewhat strange and we declined and asked for water to go with our bubbles, which were served in Hollywood coupes. We then made our way to the extensive buffet, offering a huge variety of tasty salads, smoked fish, charcuterie, bakery items and hot lunchtime meals, including roast beef and baked salmon. We were initially disappointed as there wasn't a single hot dish that didn't contain dairy. However, the chef amazed us by cooking us fresh chicken, fish, vegetables and spaetzle, just for us. This was served in the copper saucepan at our table and was delicious. For dessert, there was a large choice of small cakes and tarts, although we stuck with some dried fruit and wonderful sticky home-made marshmallows, which tasted just like lemon meringue pie.
The hotel has a small but reasonably equipped gym with great views whilst you work out - two treadmills, a cross trainer, bike, kinesis system and some free weights will provide enough choice for most work-outs. Equipment from Technogym means that it is high quality and easy to use (the TVs with games help to prevent boredom too) although the treadmills were not top-of-the-range professional quality, rather very good at-home standard. We didn't partake, but the hotel can also organise massages or beauty treatments.
The lobby lounge provides a delightful space for afternoon tea (65 CHF or 79 CHF to include a glass of champagne). There is also a cigar lounge and bar for evening time. As the hotel is situated in the heart of Basel, on the banks of the Rhine, you are just a short walk away from a whole host of cultural and shopping opportunities - we recommend strolling through the pretty Marktplatz and up the chocolate-box Spalenberg, lined with its 14th Centrury houses.
The highlight was certainly lunch at Le Cheval Blanc but overall this is a superb hotel and the price reflects the very high standards not only of service but in the fabric and equipment too. Les Trois Rois successfully blends the best of its considerable heritage with all the comforts that modern technology can provide. The wi-fi is faster than almost any other hotel we have experienced. The key fobs seem quaintly old-fashioned but make no mistake, those door locks are electronic and highly secure. Little touches like the rose at check-in (and the satisfied look on the face of the check-in clerk when we discovered the waiting vase in our room) and the gift of a small jar of their home-made strawberry and rhubarb jam at check-out tell you that they go to a lot of trouble to think of ways to please. All of which could feel gimmicky if it wasn't just additional to extremely professional and gracious service delivery. The in-room entertainment system is B&O, the air-con may be hidden behind a 19th century patterned grill but the control is state of the art touch sensitive. I could go on but you get the picture. It has to be said that Switzerland is an expensive destination and there is also an element of managing both demand and the mix of guests by keeping prices high. It does feel genuinely exclusive. So, my thanks to the whole team at Les Trois Rois, we'll be back when we have saved up enough. Save us a place for New Year brunch, oh and there's our anniversary........