Almost hidden behind a wall of green, emulating the colours of the lake that it neighbours, Le Marina dots the scenic and serene walkway that runs alongside Lac Léman in Vevey.
Its location is quite iconic, by association. As you walk towards it from the centre of the town, you must first cross Chaplin looking out towards the magnificent Alps, visible on a clear day like today, in the distance. Then, there is the Alimentarium (the food museum) with its, now touristy, Fork. Protruding out of Lake Geneva. If you miss the restaurant, and that’s entirely possible considering the views are breathtaking, you’ll eventually come across Hotel du Lac, the residence that formed the basis and title of Anita Brookner’s Booker Prize-winning novel (and one that I had only recently finished in preparation of the trip).
There’s something quaint about this place; a small children’s garden on one side to keep the active ones at bay, the pebbled walkway and porch with a few tables that on most days would be perfect for lovers taking a break from walking hand in hand along the lake, but on this day welcomed mostly families out and about on a bright and sunny Swiss afternoon.
The service at Le Marina is efficient, and it’s not long before the order has been placed. I point this out to my friend – a local – comparing it to some of the more laid back experiences we had at restaurants in Zermatt and Lauterbrunnen. She shrugs and then almost hesitantly – because it is still Switzerland after all – suggests that maybe it’s like that in the Swiss-German regions. We are presently in the Swiss-French part of the country.
Le Marina is the type of place that attracts regulars. There’s a place to sit inside, but that’s not where the chirping of the birds will fill up those conversational silences. And then, weather permitting, why would anyone in their right mind want to miss out on taking in the cool breeze that glides over the blue waters and hits you with the kind of freshness that one often witnesses in adverts of soaps.
Crêpes, on a transparent plate, sprinkled with a hint of powdered sugar, containing a generous spread of Nutella, oozing out from the sides even before the slightest pressure is applied via a knife. They – the other one filled with the saltiness of Swiss cheese – contrast and photograph well with the chequered tablecloth background. Tempting in their looks, another round of the same is ordered even before the first bite is taken.
The drink – Spuma Nera – is something new and unique to me; full of flavours – myrtle leaf, orange zest, and rhubarb, I confirm later – that I’ve never had before, but glad that I’m having now. It’s not long before my son discovers it too, and having a few of his father’s genes grabs hold of the bottle claiming that hereon he is the rightful owner and thus no one else would have even a drop of what’s left. We’ll have another one of those then as well I guess.
As the conversation jingle-jangles between days that have gone by and plans for the last few remaining, I can hear the laughter of my kids in the background as they make the most of the park in sight. In the distance, barely visible, a group of young teenagers shout in merriment as their homemade boat sways on the water of the lake, for today – after almost a week of rains – it plays host to pedal-boats so colourful and bright that the sun’s rays bounce off them and hurt the eyes.
As we sit there eating in between sips of coffee and juice, a sudden realisation sets in; it seems that even after a decade of being together, my wife and I continue to have different tastes – not complaining about it – as she orders a cheese-cake for dessert. While I adore cheese to the extent that I wouldn’t mind being a mouse in my next life, provided I get an endless supply of this beautiful “invention”, a cheese-cake is something that I’ve never really enjoyed, ever, until now that is.
So gentle that it breaks off as I slide my fork a few inches off the pointy end of the triangle and so creamy that I wonder if I should convert into a cheese-cake eating being or simply cherish this memory and never eat cheese-cake again, to keep its sanctity alive. Oh! The dilemmas we face in life.
As we leave, little birds descend on to our table – almost like they would in a Disney movie – and nibble on the leftovers, chirping even louder, no longer afraid of our lingering presence. We sit there a while longer, satisfied; yet, I’m filled with a little sadness for food today has evoked one realisation after another – Yes! That’s how powerful it can be.
Le Marina is the kind of charming place I’d love to call my own. A comforting nook in a city I want to visit as often as possible. It’s not just about the food but the aura that the restaurant exudes which captivates me. The melancholy feeling transcends, partly because our Swiss vacation nears its end, and Switzerland had been nothing but a revelation for me.
I know I might never visit this place again, but you, yes you, the one reading this now, you can make Le Marina your own, for a little while at least, if you find yourself strolling by the lake, hand in hand or now, in this gem of a town in the Swiss Rivera, called Vevey.