An African lodge on the shores of Lake Geneva? Incongruous as it may seem, the combination works curiously well. Re-designed in 2003 by Jacques Garcia, whose portfolio includes Paris's Hotel Costes and Miami's new Hotel Victor, La Réserve takes inspiration from colonial Southern Africa.
Although lacking genuine bestial presence, animal topiary is dotted throughout the surrounding park, a lifelike elephant sculpture stands majestically in the lobby and candy-coloured fibreglass birds perch under lampshades.
In the cavernous white leather-clad spa, lamps resembling jellyfish seem to float ethereally in mid-air, and improbably stylish leopard-print upholstery appears throughout the building. While this might sound a little pretentious, the ambience is playful.
The international theme continues with a tent-effect French restaurant, Le Loti, the polished 1930s-style Chinese restaurant Tsé-Fung, and the staff, who hail from as far afield as Lebanon and Australia.
After a day spent exploring a glacier in the Vaudoise Alps, we were glad to return to the warmth of the hotel, with its log fire and cosy leather-upholstered library. And our ice-induced bruised rumps and chilled hands were grateful for the sauna and Balinese massages that followed. The hotel is also ideal as a summer retreat, offering both lake swimming and water-sports.
Despite its jet-set appeal, families are equally welcome, with treehouses in the park and a crèche. The hotel is due to open a collection of smart apartments in Paris late next year, adding to its villas in La Ramatuelle, on the St Tropez peninsula in France.
La Réserve Geneva Hotel & Spa, 301 Route de Lausanne, Bellevue, Geneva, Switzerland (00 41 22 959 5959; www.lareserve.ch). The hotel is set just outside the city, in 10 acres of manicured parkland on the banks of Lake Geneva.
Time from international airport: it is a handy 10 minute-drive from Geneva Cointrin airport. The nearest train station is Tuileries/Bellevue.
With a pillow and bed sheet menu (alpaca blanket or buckwheat pillow, anyone?), there is something to suit the fussiest of guests. The black granite and marble mosaic bathrooms have underfloor heating and most suites have a Jacuzzi.
The 80 rooms and 17 suites - most of which offer lake and Alpine views - have large windows and cosy, contemporary interiors with dark wood flooring and rich colours.
During the summer, a polished Venetian motoscafo will whisk you to Geneva city centre, and helicopter transfers can be arranged to nearby ski resorts for cash-rich, time-poor winter thrill-seekers.
Freebies: retail-size La Réserve toiletries, soft drinks, apples, biscuits, macaroons and newspapers. A bottle of champagne in the suites. Free internet in the library.
Keeping in touch: Flatscreen televisions, DVD players, direct-dial telephones with personalised voicemail, WiFi throughout the hotel (Sf20/£9 per day).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start at Sf420 (£185), room only.
I'm not paying that: Hotel Kipling (00 41 22 544 4040; www.manotel.com/kipling) in Geneva city centre is another contemporary interpretation of a colonial lodge. Doubles start at Sf190 (£85), including breakfast.Reuse content