How (and where) to eat fondue in Geneva

A few useful tips on eating one of the Swiss national dishes.

Switzerland produces a lot of cheese. Exports are about 62,000 tonnes per year, and internal consumption is also the highest in the world at over 21 kg per person. One of the ways that they achieve this remarkable figure is by making and eating fondue, perhaps the dish of Geneva that is reminiscent of the 1970's for many. Based on cheese mixed with wine and melted in a pot, into which you dip pieces of bread, fondue was intensely promoted by the Swiss Cheese Union, from the 1930s right up until the 1980s, specifically to increase cheese consumption.

There are some regional differences. In northern Switzerland, cheese is melted in a pot with white wine, and consumed by using a long stick to dip pieces of bread in the cheese. Should you lose your bread in the fondue, your companions may request that you sing or take a shot of Kirsch, possibly both.

There are several recommendations, often vigorously enforced by restaurant staff. The most important of these is not to drink water during the meal, but only white wine. And remember to constantly stir the cheese. At the end, when it's all gone, you'll find a layer of solid well-cooked cheese at the bottom, called la religieuse. It's the best bit, but the Swiss don't fight over it. After all, fondue is a symbol of their national unity.

In the French regions of Switzerland, they eat raclette, which is a soft cheese melted over potatoes, served with meat slices that are either grilled at the table or presented as cold cured beef slices and pickles. A final version is fondue chinoise. This is very similar to the Japanese dish shabu-shabu. A pot of boiling broth is placed in the centre of the table, and each diner selects a piece of meat to cook in the pot, eating with a variety of special sauces.

However you like your fondue, it is best consumed in the winter, with a large group of friends and plenty of white wine.

swiss-image.ch/Andrea Badrutt

Here are a couple of the best places to feast on fondue in Geneva...

Cafe du Soleil

A cosy and traditional bistro that serves fondue made with cheese from the village of Roche in the extreme northern district of Gruyère. Also serves Malakoof, a delicious local fried cheese dish.

Place du Petit-Saconnex 6, 1209 Geneva, www.cafedusoleil.ch

La Buvette des Bains

Situated in a converted public bathhouse that dates back to the 1930's this quirky restaurant serves up bubbling fondues to diners on long communal tables.

30 quai du Mont Blanc, 1202, Geneva, www.buvettedesbains.ch