Cafeteria Review: CERN Cafeteria, Geneva, Switzerland

Scientific Dining: Reviews of research institute cafeterias

The CERN Cafeteria, Geneva Switzerland

by Lois Malone

[This is an abbreviated version of the original review. The full text appears in AIR 2:4, July/August 1996.]

Autumn in New York!

April in Paris!

January in Geneva! The winter destination of choice for the high-energy physicist. Only the most discriminating mind can appreciate the delicate shadings of the gray skies, the nuances of a weather pattern that daily promises rain but delivers instead a damp so intense you can hear the moss grow. Day's end brings the spectacle of Geneva's night life: on the Rhone's Left Bank neon spells out the names of Switzerland's glorious national heroes: Patek-Philippe, Rolex, Piaget, Baume et Mercier, while along the avenues sounds the pounding, sensuous rhythm of doors being shut and bolted so the streets can be properly empty by 8:30.

In the face of all these distractions, the physicist seeks refuge among his peers—and inevitably finds himself at mealtimes jostling happily along amid thousands of colleagues, staff and miscellaneous hangers-on, at the Main Cafeteria at CERN [Centre Europeen des Recherches Nucleaires].

Such a Deal

This reviewer sampled the CERN cuisine on a recent Thursday at lunchtime. My overall impression is that this must be one of the best deals in lab food anywhere, and this in spite of the comparatively steep prices, which for the daily menu of entree plus two vegetables run from 7 to 11 Swiss francs depending on the choice of entree.

There is a wide choice of meal types: an ample salad bar, with breads available of the high European standard; two hot meal counters; and of course the prepared-sandwich case for the scientist on the go. Beverages include the usual juices, bottled water, coffee from do-it-yourself espresso machines, and taps from which the customer can serve him/herself several types of beer and a selection of wines including chianti, Cotes du Rhone, a Spanish rose, and for the white wine connoisseur, a Chasselas de Peissy. A dessert table that would do credit to a two-star hotel presents a bewildering array of pastries, but owing to the fact that I was sponging off someone who seemed disinclined to proceed beyond the cheese course, I was unable to sample any of them.

Figures 1 and 2

In the confusion of handling trays while surreptitiously scanning the crowd for Nobellists, my companion and I ended up with nearly identical meals: the veal, a tomato and Brussels sprouts for me, the veal, a tomato and noodles for him. What can be said about veal? Or, for that matter, noodles? Each of us got yogurt; I had a glass of the rather undistinguished chianti, and we adjourned later to one of the other two rooms for our excellent espressos—all for just under SFr 30.

Bearded Men: 3-D Yes, 2-D No

Looking about for photos of bearded men, I noted that, although the walls are devoid of photos of any kind, there seemed to be a disproportionate number of actual bearded men among the clientéle. I suggested that 1 in 6 men seemed to be bearded; my companion supported my hypothesis.

Overall, a high rating for this establishment. It may not be worth a special trip from Paris, but it's certainly worth the bus ride (SFr 2.30 round trip) from downtown Geneva.


Quality: 23e-i/1.5
Trendiness: 2.5
Bearded Men: 3

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