Neuchâtel’s Produits du Terroir at the Hôtel Palafitte

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La Table de Palafitte, and its outdoor lakeside bar and terrace

In the French-speaking city of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, you can find the only hotel in Europe built on stilts — the five-star Hotel Palafitte. Situated on the shores of Lac de Neuchâtel, the largest lake contained entirely within Switzerland, this luxury hotel’s restaurant, La Table de Palafitte, underwent a complete renovation in recent years. A new chef, David Sauvignet, also arrived in 2015. With an emphasis on local market produce and regional food products, I gladly accepted an invitation to dine at this restaurant, which has earned 14 out of 20 points from Gault & Millau.

I arrived for dinner at La Table de Palafitte last week, with the strategy of selecting dishes featuring produits du terroir (local products) from the canton of Neuchâtel. The interior of the restaurant has a modern and sophisticated interior with yellow hues, earth tones and a lattice of wooden beams across the ceiling. Since it was a beautiful summer evening, the hostess led my husband and me to a lovely table out on the terrace, which offered a spectacular view of the Alps in the distance across the lake. Nearly all the tables were filled outside that night with couples and groups of families and friends.

Le Bar at the Hotel Palafitte

While we bypassed the bar on the way to the restaurant, I thought it looked like a great place to grab a cocktail or glass of wine or beer after work.

I did not see it on display, but the bar has an absinthe fountain, should you desire to try this notorious alcoholic beverage from the nearby Val-de-Travers. According to the bar menu, it stocks three different local absinthes: Bovet, Larusée and Kübler. In May 2016, the cocktail of the month was the Sainte bleue, made with Larusée absinthe, lemon and pineapple.

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The bar at the Hotel Palafitte

The bar has indoor and outdoor seating, and you can order from the bar menu starting from 11:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. The bar menu includes dishes that also highlight regional products, like the Bleuchâtel burger, made with a local blue cheese (CHF 36), or a sandwich wrap made with féra fumée, a smoked lake fish (CHF 28).

La Terrasse at the Hotel Palafitte

For our wine, my husband and I selected a glass of 2014 Libertin, a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Vins Keller, and a glass of 2015 Pinot Gris from Château d’Auvernier, respectively. I am not usually a fan of Swiss red wines, nor am I a wine connoisseur, but we both liked the Libertin. I also enjoyed my glass of Pinot Gris, which earned a Selection Or (gold selection) from the canton of Neuchâtel in 2016. We each stuck to one glass of wine throughout our meal, but if you would prefer, the restaurant has a special offer of three wines from the region for CHF 29.

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La Terrasse at Le Table de Palafitte

Almost immediately, our server brought us a delightful amuse-bouche — non-alcoholic shots of a lightly sweet watermelon purée and a savory biscuit topped with whipped goat cheese. I found it a nice combination for a warm summer evening outside.

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Our amuse-bouche: puréed watermelon shots and savory biscuits topped with whipped goat cheese

For my first course, I selected the tarte tatin layered with fresh tomatoes, (more) goat cheese and jambon de Vaumarcus (CHF 24). Surrounded by arugula and a basil vinaigrette, the pastry had the texture of toasted bread with a slightly sweet taste to it, which paired well with the savory ham and cheese. The special Spanish-style raw ham comes from the Swiss village of Vaumarcus. You can often find this product at Aux Gourmets in Neuchâtel. I loved this dish — it was fresh and colorful, and would definitely order it again!

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Tarte tatin à la tomate, chèvre frais et jambon de Vaumarcus, vinaigrette au basilic

Following my first course, I had Quenelle de brochet du lac with an émulsion de crustacés (local pike quenelle with a crayfish emulsion, CHF 38). Made with ground pike and typically mixed with eggs and cream, I had been wanting to try quenelle, a French fish cake, for several years. Pike is a local lake fish that can be found in Lake Neuchâtel.

The waitress arrived and provided a small bowl of rice to my left, an empty plate in the center, and a steaming pot of quenelle in a brownish-red sauce to my right. I placed some rice on my plate, scooped some of the fish cake and a generous portion of sauce over it. At home, I would rarely have the time or patience to make such a dish, so I relished the opportunity to finally taste it. I really liked the delicate flavor of the fish in the quenelle along with the rich flavor of the velvety crayfish sauce.

To finish up this exceptional dinner featuring produits du terroir, I ordered a smooth and creamy dessert laced with absinthe and topped with a delicate cylinder of shaved chocolate (CHF 12). It had a light green hue, as this highly alcoholic beverage is nicknamed la fée verte (the green fairy). I thought the dessert was delicious, but I personally thought it could have had an even stronger kick of the absinthe flavor (my husband thought it was perfect, however).

Overall, we had excellent service at this restaurant, with friendly and attentive waitstaff, making it one of our best experiences in Switzerland so far.

That night on the terrace at La Table de Palafitte, everyone was taking photographs. The Alps, visible in the distance, had taken on a peach and rose-colored glow as the sun began to set over the horizon. At this lakeside location with a stunning view, I had a wonderful meal that celebrated some of Neuchâtel’s local food and wine.

la fée verte" (the green fairy)

A big thank you to La Table de Palafitte for a special evening! 

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