Fondue is among the most popular Swiss trademarks. It is actually a melted cheese dish served in a communal pot (caquelon) over a portable stove (réchaud) heated usually with a candle. Fondue is eaten by dipping bread into the cheese using long forks (sometimes the bread is first dipped into wine). It is not an actual traditional dish but it was reinvented and promoted as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union in the 1930s and was popularised in Europe and North America the following decades. Nowadays the term fondue has been generalised to other dishes in which food is dipped into a communal pot of liquid (for example chocolate fondue or meat fondue).
According to Wikipedia “the earliest known recipe for the modern form of cheese fondue comes from a 1699 book published in Zurich, under the name “Käss mit Wein zu kochen” (to cook cheese with wine). It calls for grated or cut-up cheese to be melted with wine, and for bread to be dipped in it.” Afterward and until the 1930s there were various recipes around Switzerland that combine various cheeses, eggs, and wine that were called fondue, but the fondue as we know it today was introduced as we mentioned by the Swiss Cheese Union as a way of increasing cheese consumption. They also created pseudo-regional recipes as part of an effort to strengthen the Swiss identity and acceptance of the various ethnic groups that make up Switzerland. In this way, fondue has become a symbol of Swiss unity.
There are many places all over Switzerland to taste excellent cheese fondue but the Swiss city with the biggest number of restaurants that serve perfect fondue is Geneva. Therefore we could call it the “fondue capital” of Switzerland. In Geneva, fondue is made half-half (moitié–moitié) with Gruyère and Fribourg Vacherin cheese. From the many places, we will choose four to present in our article, which in our opinion could be ranked among the best in the world.
Café du Soleil (Pl. du Petit-Saconnex 6, 1209 Genève): This wonderful café is considered by many to serve the best fondue in the world. With a history that starts 400 years ago (the church of Petit-Saconnex which is near the café was built later), this place serves a great fondue made with cheese from La Roche village. It is very popular among locals and has a friendly atmosphere.
Buvette Bains des Pâquis (Quai du Mont-Blanc 30, 1201 Genève): This restaurant was a former public baths building and is located on an artificial peninsula called Bains des Paquis. It serves a variety of fondues, including one made from Vacherin cheese and crémant (sparkling wine), which is a very delicate fondue variation. Apart from the fine food the place offers a unique view of Lake Geneva and Jet d’Eau and is the perfect place to hang out on a sunny day.
Edelweiss Hotel (Pl. de la Navigation 2 bis, 1201 Genève): The restaurant of this central hotel in Geneva, mighty be a little touristy but offers a pure alpine experience and genuine traditional ambiance, along with a perfect fondue. Also at this restaurant, you could also taste other excellent Swiss dishes such as roesti/rosti (fried potatoes galette) and dried beef from Valais.
Le Gruyerien (Rue de Chêne-Bougeries 2, 1224 Chêne-Bougeries & Bd de Saint-Georges 65, 1205 Genève): If you want to try something different from the original Geneva’s fondue, this is the place you should visit. Apart from the moitié–moitié fondue, they also serve “bolets ou tomates”, which is a tomato fondue served with boiled potatoes rather than bread. Both their locations are easily accessible and have a welcoming atmosphere.
Geneva is a cosmopolitan city whose small size contradicts its wealth and importance on the world stage. It is the centre of the French-speaking part of Switzerland and a dynamic centre of business and commerce. But also it is a very interesting culinary destination and the fondue experience is only one aspect of the gastronomic delights that has to offer.
Read also our article: 8 things to do if you’re visiting Geneva for the first time…
*[Photo at the top by marcelkessler from Pixabay]