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National museum celebrates the grand hotel

The golden age of the grand hotel has been brought back to life in the Swiss national museum in Zurich with the opening of the Salon Rouge - a reconstruction of a late 19th century hotel dining room which can be hired for private functions

It is a room where guests can sip cocktails under a crystal chandelier and dine at antique tables with porcelain and silverware dating back to the Belle Époque. A 1925 Steinway - automatically and discreetly - plays Gershwin numbers in the background. The walls are lined with display cabinets containing period items.

These include a picnic hamper, probably used by well-to-do English visitors for excursions to the Bernese Oberland from such bases as the Grand Hotel Victoria-Jungfrau in Interlaken. Today the Victoria-Jungfrau is flourishing after extensive modernisation which respected the integrity of the original early 1860s architecture and interior design.

The furniture, silverware and porcelain in the Salon Rouge are all on loan from the hotel, as part of a pioneering joint-venture initiated by the national museum. A third "partner" is an outside catering firm which provides food to match the room's ambience.

"We have a Salon Rouge in the heart of the Victoria-Jungfrau," says the hotel's director, Emanuel Berger, "and it's probably the only room not to have been touched by all the refurbishing and redecoration works. It is still a very charming and elegant room."

So is its "new" cousin, which museum officials hope will encourage dining guests not just to eat and drink, but to make tours of the rest of the building.

by Richard Dawson

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