Dining in a Pool at Lausanne’s “Grande Table”

“Abstenir de chaussures à talons.” My recent dinner invitation to La Grande Table des Lausannois 2016 included specific instructions to not wear high heels. The reason? The location for this extraordinary meal, organized by six restaurateurs from Lausanne — an empty swimming pool!

lausanna a table - empty swimming pool
Before we sat down to dinner, in an empty swimming pool at Piscine des Mon-Repos

La Grande Table des Lausannois, one of the many foodie events organized with support from Lausanne à Table, hosted its 5th annual event on Thursday, July 7, 2016. Each year, the team chooses a different location to hold the event. These unusual venues are often closed to the public or dedicated to a use not typically associated with fine dining. In previous years, an orangerie, a former SBB hall, a firehouse and a former chocolate factory all served as the sites for this event. The association offers a limited number of spots — you have to get your ticket early before the event sells out!

Along with unique locations each year, these dinners involve chefs working in Lausanne. They might otherwise be considered competitors. For this event, however, they join together to plan and prepare this special meal. With a sense of humor, and an exceptional amount of skill, these chefs deliver an exciting meal as a team.

The Grande Table in a Swimming Pool

That evening — wearing my flat sandals with rubber soles — I descended the stairs from the metro station and found the Piscine de Mon-Repos with a beautiful view of the mountains across the Lac Léman. I had been to this location only once before, for an art exhibition designed to help introduce a new planned museum complex for the city. Last time, I saw white spinning art installations out on the lawn. This time, the same lawn was used to host an outdoor apéritif, as well as dessert at the conclusion of the meal, for La Grande Table des Lausannois.

lausanne a table aperitif
Guests enjoying the apéritif on the lawn of the Piscine de Mon Repos

During the outdoor apéritif, I tried to eat as many of the passed appetizers as possible! I had nettle soup, grilled octopus with potatoes, veal tartare served on a crispy black curry cracker and a savory soy-based panna cotta with ginger and carrots. Everything I tried was delicious! I paired these starters with Chasselas from the Ville de Lausanne and La Blanche beer from Brasserie artisinale du Jorat.

After I filled up on appetizers, the chefs and servers — dressed sort of like lifeguards, with t-shirts from Lausanne’s “Service des Sports,” and in some cases, flip-flops and whistles around their necks — told us to take our seats. We entered the building and walked down the stairs into a bright blue pool equipped with long tables and white plastic chairs.

The atmosphere throughout the event was casual and fun. Once seated, my fellow tablemates and I started to feel water sprayed at us, from an unknown location. Not long after, I started noticing people nearby carrying water pistols and spray bottles. We were in a pool, so people took advantage of it! Plus, it was quite warm inside the building, so I didn’t mind a spritz or two of cool water. A few times, I recognized Beach Boys tunes playing in the background.

lausanne a table - dinner in progress
Dinner in progress… Inside a swimming pool!?

The Grande Table Meal

Even though the event has a casual and playful atmosphere, the food being served to us inside the pool didn’t resemble anything you would find at a poolside snack bar!

After the appetizers, came five separate and distinct dinner courses. The waitstaff served us dishes of omble chevalier with fromage blanc, stuffed pasta shells, duck with cherry tomatoes and chanterelles and a millefeuille made of cheese. My only suggestion for next year would be to consider serving smaller portions for the dinner. I wanted to eat my entire serving of several dishes, but I just couldn’t finish everything. I felt awful having to send back uneaten food to the kitchen!

lausanne a table mille feuille
A savory millefeuille made of layered cheeses

After all the savory dishes, however, I still had room for dessert — as always. We retreated outside to cooler temperatures and dark skies — as well as honking car horns in celebration of France’s Euro 2016 semi-final victory. I had to catch the last train of the night back home. So, I quickly grabbed a Sucette glacée croquante, an ice cream lollipop with a crunchy white chocolate shell, before departing. Even though I felt extremely full, I was sorry to miss the final dessert course of mignardises. These included macarons, financiers and tartelettes à la raisinée.

“Lausanne always has been kind of cool and cutting edge, right?” A friend wrote that to me in response to an email where I mentioned my plans to dine in a swimming pool. Overall, I had a great evening in this city, at an event that must be attended on an empty stomach! La Grande Table des Lausannois offers delicious food that’s artfully prepared in intriguing locations. You might not normally have access to these sites — at least for this year, unless you’re swimming.

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Updated: December 29, 2022

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