When entering Restaurant Olivo at Grand Casino in Lucerne, one feels the instant need to open all senses and just take in the beauty of the room. Inspired by French Renaissance the building was raised in 1882 in Neo-Baroque style. Situated on the lake it was rightly enjoyed as a place of wellness 135 years ago.
I was invited here for lunch the other day. Although I`ve dined here a few times before, it`s a place I always look forward to re-visiting. First and foremost for the food but also for the terrace-view overlooking Vierwaldstättersee and Mount Pilatus.
How to get here
It`s a lovely walk along the see-promenade to get to this gem, but if it rains I`ll opt for parking my car in the Grand Casino parking house.
As mentioned earlier, I`ve eaten at Restaurant Olivo before and know the quality of the dinners. But I didn`t know that you could get such a fancy lunch menu for right around 30 francs*.
The menu I was served started with a fresh tomato soup. It was really rich in taste and appetizing for the eyes with the orange-red color. Then there was a choice of vegetarian, meat or fish main course. I went with fish and got served a fried sea bream fillet on saffron-rice and vegetables with an air-light saffron-sauce. It was delicious. The meal was rounded of with dessert and coffee.
Restaurant Olivo has a very special dessert with Brie de Meaux and olive oil ice cream. It`s a peoples favorite. At one time it was taken off the menu, but the guests kept requesting it so it was dealt back in. Now it`s a regular, which means it stays on the menu although the card changes with the seasons throughout the year.
15 Gault Millau points
Chef Hugues Blanchard and his team serve the guests a Mediterranean cuisine, which have earned the restaurant 15 Gault Millau points.
“You have to respect the product”, he says when sitting down at our table for a chat.
“Being a chef is not an easy job” he continues, “we get judged two times a day by our guests so it`s important to work with the products and present them right. We get instant feedback”.
At only 25 Chef Blanchard worked as sous-chef in Chateau Gütsch in Lucerne. “That was too young for me to be sous-chef” he admits, “a super experience of course, but I had not seen enough other restaurants. Being in charge of a kitchen staff off 20 people when you are only 25 years old is not an easy task.”
Chef Blanchard’s favorite thing to prepare is fish and seafood.
“My first job after Hotel Management School was in Nice where I was assigned the fish-station, and I really liked it.”
I asked him if he is familiar with the Nordic cuisine.
“No, not really, but it has exploded in popularity. Ten years ago it was the Spanish cuisine and now it`s the Nordic”
But lets return to the Mediterranean cuisine served at Restaurant Olivo and the secret of the olive oil ice cream.
“There is no secret” Chef Blanchard insists, “just don`t use a strong tasting olive oil and watch the balance between sugar and fat in the cream. I can give you the recipe – see, no secret. I will share everything – it comes from the heart.”
A fun fact, and perhaps also a reason behind the composition of this ice cream and cheese dessert, is that Hugues Blanchard was born in the exact area where they produce Brie de Meaux.
The menu card this fall season
The fall season is definitely here and with that a new food parade at Restaurant Olivo. The Brie de Meaux and olive oil ice cream is of course present but now with a touch of fall-truffle. Chef Blanchard bids his guests a small change or a challenge if you like. I bet it`s a taste-hit.
There are so many winning dishes on the menu this fall like fried venison fillet with glazed apples, pear tarte-tatin and fig jus, or how about monkfish with broccoli-mousse, baby leaf spinach and lemongrass scented shellfish-cream, or how about langoustine (Norway lobster) with tomato-sorbet and basil oil?
I can`t decide upon a favorite but with a little bit of luck I`ll get to dine here again soon.
* The daily menu prices will range between 20-30 francs. Dessert is extra.