Down an alley off the main commercial street in the quiet town of Châtel-Saint-Denis, you will find a cozy table d’hôtes known as Laure’s Kitchen. Opened in the summer of 2017 by Laure Niquille, who grew up in the nearby district of Gruyère, this home-based restaurant offers fixed menus at specific times. This can include lunchtime meals (Le Midi du Lundi), afternoon teas, Indian buffets and Swiss-style tapas, among others. Along with her scheduled events, she can also organize meals for private or corporate clients, on request and according to her availability. All her meals feature homemade dishes, with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.
I recently visited Laure’s Kitchen to attend a Saturday brunch (CHF 30 per person, reservations required). For all her culinary events, Laure graciously invites you to enjoy some of her favorite dishes. Her cooking has multiple influences — growing up in rural Switzerland, travels abroad, living in London and more.
A Passion for Cooking and Research
Remarkably, other than a few one-time cooking classes, Laure’s professional background does not include any formal culinary training. Instead, she holds a master’s degree in archaeology and ethnography from the University of Neuchâtel. She has also earned language teaching certifications for both English and French. Along with her passion for learning about other cultures, however, she has always loved cooking. Today, she uses her research skills to understand different culinary techniques and the history behind recipes from Switzerland and elsewhere.
Coming from a large Swiss family that has always cooked together, she started learning at an early age from her mother and grandmothers, one of which was a home economics teacher. Her maternal grandmother, who was a farmer and is now in her 90s, still prepares the traditional dishes for La Bénichon — the annual fall feast in the canton of Fribourg.
It is this spirit of home cooking and sharing food with others that Laure brings to her table d’hôtes. Located in the lower ground floor of her home and certified by the local authorities, her table d’hôtes gives Laure greater flexibility in managing her work-life balance, and in large part, caring for her two school-aged children.
In addition to her onsite meals, Laure also does offsite catering for special events, such as weddings, birthday parties and gallery openings. She will often take a new approach to classic Swiss dishes and ingredients. For one of her “Tapas de la Bénichon,” for example, she made a panna cotta au safran, in reference to the use of this spice in the Cuchaule bread served during this meal. She served it with Poire à botzi (pear) preserves, another typical component of La Bénichon.
Finally, Laure prepares food products, such as biscuits and granola, for retail outlets, such as:
- Boucherie Blanc and Naturellement Vrac in Châtel-St-Denis,
- Boutique Hérisson in Bulle, and
- Le Petit Marché Bio in Echarlens.
In December 2018, the weekly Swiss-French newspaper, Terre & Nature, published an article about Laure’s homemade stollen. Her version of this yeasted bread with raisins and candied citrus peel uses homemade almond paste. She also wraps a thin layer of dough around the outside of the stollen before baking. The article greatly increased her workload, as many people started requesting her homemade stollen for Christmas.
Saturday Brunch at Laure’s Kitchen
Situated about 15 minutes by car from Vevey and about a 7-minute walk from the train station in Châtel-St-Denis, I arrived early for Saturday brunch at Laure’s Kitchen. I entered the front door and went down the stairs into the lowest level of her family’s home. After receiving a warm greeting from Laure, she gave me a quick tour of the space. Her table d’hôtes has two bright rooms. The larger room has a massive chalkboard across the wall, where she writes out the beverage options, including wines from La Cave des Lauriers in Cressier.
The second and smaller room, where I sat for the brunch, had three tables, one of which held the buffet portion of the meal. Laure had baked four types of bread: Cuchaule, Tresse (Zopf), Irish Soda Bread and a no-knead bread, which she served with her homemade jam. Next to the bread were some regional cheeses from Fribourg, like Gruyère and Délice de Rougemont, a wonderful soft cheese made with raw cow’s milk. The buffet also included a savory terrine de campagne made with dried apricots and pistachios, topped with bacon. This was accompanied by zucchini pickles and fig chutney.
Following this hearty buffet, our leisurely brunch continued with three savory and three sweet dishes served one by one — nicely presented and all delicious, creative and handmade.
- Verrine with doucette, roasted sweet potatoes, pecans and dried cranberries
- Frittata with spinach and mushrooms
- Roasted feta with sun-dried tomato, lemon and parsley vinaigrette
- Cold raspberry soup with blood orange juice and vanilla
- Lemon poppyseed pancake with maple syrup
- Mini-smoothie bowl with mango, kiwi, pumpkin seeds and coconut
Each dish prepared by Laure represents a lot of careful and deliberate planning in order to prioritize local, seasonal and organic ingredients. I particularly enjoy the way she revisits old Swiss recipes and reinvents them in new, innovative ways. At the same time, she shares dishes from beyond Switzerland, thoughtfully researched and practiced. In this small Swiss town, Laure’s Kitchen provides an authentic culinary experience in a comfortable atmosphere that feels like home.
Laure’s Kitchen, Châtel-St-Denis, Switzerland, +41 (0)78 953 32 28, firstname.lastname@example.org