Since January 2018, the scent of oregano, thyme and rosemary has been wafting along rue du Rhône from the Marjolaine Restaurant, Philippe Chevrier’s latest business venture.
Le 49 Rhône (formerly Bavaria since 1912), is a legendary Geneva restaurant whose listed décor takes us back to the atmosphere of the great brasseries or trattorias of the early twentieth century.
It is in this majestic setting, adorned with old posters oak panelling and high ceilings, that Philippe Chevrier wanted to revive the restaurant by inspiring it with vibrant cuisine with a Mediterranean touch.
In 1912, Adolphe Neiger opened a brasserie specialising in selling German beer, which explains its name, the Bavaria. This popular establishment, decorated in a folk style evoking the Germanic “bierstube”, was to go on to experience a very special destiny. Indeed, the League of Nations, which was set up in Geneva in 1919, held its meetings at 65 rue du Rhône.
The Bavaria very soon became the “stamm” bar for delegates from all over the world. It was during this period that the Hungarian cartoonists, Derso and Kelen, drew the portraits of the celebrities of the diplomatic world who frequented the place. These drawings were to remain on the walls of the brasserie until 1982. In 1942, the owner decided to transform the décor with the architect Jean Falciola and the interior designer Louis Amiguet, by creating high oak panelling interspersed with mirrors, wood-panelled ceilings and restaurant furniture.
In 1982, when the Bavaria became the Relais de l’Entrecôte, all of this interior design was carefully maintained. During the second decade of the twenty-first century, a census of the canton’s old cafés and restaurants, conducted by the Heritage and Sites Office, identified the qualities of this décor. A classification decision was therefore made by the competent authorities which, although it was disputed right up to the Federal Court, ended in 2012.
So, exactly one century after its creation, the former brasserie was classified, thus becoming the first public establishment in the canton to benefit from this heritage protection measure. The recent refurbishment work has helped to preserve and highlight the interesting elements. Isabelle Brunier, historian, OPS, 10.3.2015