For 2018, the New York Times included the Vierwaldstättersee (aka, Lake Lucerne) among its list of 52 places to visit. One of the newspaper’s reasons for this choice was the Bürgenstock Resort, perched high above and across the lake from the city of Luzern. After a $550-million renovation and expansion, the resort officially reopened in September 2017. You may have already seen a photo of its famous infinity pool, located at one of its two spas, because it offers such breathtaking views.
The Bürgenstock Resort was purchased by investors from Qatar in 2008, but its history goes back to the late 19th century. It all started when Franz Josef Bucher and Josef Durrer purchased the land on the Bürgenberg ridge in 1871 to build a new hotel complex. This picturesque location became home to several of their projects, such as the Grand Hotel (1873); the Palace Hotel (1903); the Bürgenstock Funicular (1888); the Felsenweg (1905), a cliffside path; and the Hammetschwand Lift (1905), the latter of which is known as the highest exterior elevator in Europe. Today, the resort offers four hotels, as well as residential suites and villas spread over 60 hectares (about 150 acres).
With seven restaurants and three bars and lounges, this luxury resort caters to all tastes — including a cozy eatery serving authentic Swiss cuisine, Taverne 1879. I recently had lunch at this restaurant, as a guest of the hotel. Unlike all the other places to eat at the resort, it does not have a dress code. You can arrive at the restaurant in your hiking boots like I did — on a windy and rainy spring day.
Arriving at the Bürgenstock Resort
To reach the resort, one of the most memorable ways to get there starts in the city of Luzern. You can take a shuttle boat from the pier across from the main train station. I boarded the boat and enjoyed the view, somewhat limited because of the clouds, as we glided across the lake.
After about 30 minutes on the boat, we boarded the Bürgenstock Funicular, originally constructed by the founders of the resort, and ascended the ridge. A few cows grazed in the spring green pastures adjacent to the tracks as we climbed the hillside. The view across the lake became more and more dramatic as we reached the top.
Lunch at Taverne 1879
About a 5-minute walk from the top of the funicular, you will see a chapel where Audrey Hepburn married Mel Ferrer in 1954. Across the street from the chapel is the Taverne 1879 Restaurant — a welcome refuge from the cold, wet weather that day. This property also houses the smallest of the resort’s four hotels, with only 12 rooms. Its name comes from the date it originally opened.
The dining room of the well-appointed restaurant has a casual atmosphere. Three large cow bells adorn one of the walls. The comfortable pillows on the benches have deer and edelweiss patterns on them. It feels like an upscale mountain restaurant — a place where you can relax and enjoy a comforting meal of traditional Swiss dishes with family and friends.
The menu at Taverne 1879 features well-known Swiss dishes, like Älplermagronen (CHF 28) — a macaroni & cheese dish with potatoes, fried onions and applesauce), and an “Olma” veal bratwurst with onion sauce and French fries (CHF 24). At the same time, I was pleasantly surprised to see the menu included some dishes lesser-known outside the canton of Nidwalden, where the resort is located. I debated between two main courses: the Nidwaldner Kalbgeschnetzeltes (CHF 40) with rösti — similar to the classic sliced veal dish from Zürich, but instead topped with fresh sliced grapes and diced apple, or the Hacktätschli nach Grossmutters Rezept (CHF 38), meatballs with porcini mushrooms in a Pinot Noir sauce with mashed potatoes and vegetables.
I decided on the Nidwalden version of Kalbgeschnetzeltes. The sweet and savory combination of the tender veal with the crisp potato rösti with the surprising addition of the fresh fruit on top was very satisfying. This is a dish I would like to try recreating at home for my family.
To accompany our dishes, we had an apple cider called Migi Moscht — both a filtered and non-filtered version, made by Getränke Lussi. This local brewery in nearby Stans has also developed a special beer just for the Bürgenstock. Mike Wehrle, culinary director at the resort, wanted an unfiltered beer with a little more carbonation and a slight bitterness, and so he worked with the brewers to create the Bürgenbräu. A fuller-bodied lager, this beer has a smooth taste that would be very refreshing on the terrace of the Taverne 1879 after a long hike.
The menu at the Taverne 1879 also has a large section of cheese you can order from its own humidor, a small temperature-controlled space next to the dining room of the restaurant. You will also find typically Swiss cheese dishes like raclette and fondue, including some high-end fondue add-ins like champagne (CHF 55) or truffles (CHF 65). For some of these dishes, the resort works with local farmers and cheesemakers, two of whom I met during my visit.
Misli Sepp, whose name appears on the menu, came to show me some of the cheeses in the humidor. His family has been farming in this same area of Switzerland for 13 generations. He supplies the restaurant with trockenfleish, an air-dried beef, and milk for making cheese. We tried several different cheeses with him, including two developed specifically for the resort: the Bürgenstöckler, a hard cheese similar to a Gruyère produced from local cow’s milk, and the 5 Stern (“5 stars” in German, alluding to the resort’s rating for two of its four hotels). This slightly milder hard cheese, also made with cow’s milk, was developed to appeal to the diverse preferences of the resort’s international clientele.
The cheese humidor also had Sbrinz AOP cheese, a very hard cheese from central Switzerland that resembles parmesan. After lunch at the Taverne 1879, I visited a local cheesemaker named Sepp Bircher, whose farm is also situated just below the resort, a little further down the road from Misli Sepp.
Mr. Bircher makes Sbrinz cheese throughout the year using raw, full-fat cow’s milk. It stays in a salt brine for about two weeks, before moving to a storage room with high humidity, which causes the fat and water to seep out of the cheese. Finally, the cheese ages for a period of at least 16 months.
By having the Taverne 1879 Restaurant and working with local farmers and producers, the Bürgenstock Resort continues to maintain connections with its Swiss roots. When you visit the resort, I recommend taking a hike along the many walking paths nearby, such as the Felsenweg Bürgenstock. Afterwards, you can sit outside on the terrace at the Taverne 1879, weather permitting, or inside at a cozy table in the dining room to enjoy an authentically Swiss meal or a beer and some locally-made cheese. Then, you can either have dessert at the restaurant or wander up to the shopping area of the resort and pick up a decadent champagne truffle, for example, from the Swiss Chocolate Chalet.
Taverne 1879 Restaurant, Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort, Bürgenstock 24, 6363 Obbürgen, +41 (0)41 612 64 12
Please note: I had lunch at the Taverne 1879 Restaurant as a guest of the Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are purely my own.