|Photo by Freeimages.com/Derek Jones|
by The Daily Telegraph, February 22, 2016
Ischgl is at last finding a place on the UK market. Its super-slick lift system serves extensive intermediate slopes (spreading over the Swiss border to Samnaun) that are high and snow sure by Austrian standards. And its traditional Tirolean village has become one of the liveliest in the Alps, with a glitzy, urban feel – and a range of restaurant options.
Plenty of choice in the village
Most of the best restaurants in Ischgl are in hotels, but they offer a variety of styles. The one five-star hotel, the Trofana Royal, has celebrity chef Martin Sieberer working wonders in its warmly panelled Paznaunerstube , reckoned by some to be the best restaurant in Tirol. Sieberer’s local lamb dishes are the highlight.
In the hotel Yscla, the panelled Stüva’s dishes are described in brutally simple terms (beef, soya, pak choi, eggplant, for example), but the results produced by head chef Benjamin Parth are widely praised. Wine tastings are held in the cellar and there is a famously extensive cheeseboard.
For something completely different head to Lucy Wang, the satellite of an established Innsbruck institution. It opened in the hotel Christine in 2013 (there is a Majorca branch, too) and serves beautifully presented, innovative combinations of Japanese and French cuisine in modern surroundings with a soft, low-light ambience.
Where to stay
There are plenty of garni (b&b) hotels here. The four-star, central Dorfschmiede is an ideal base for exploring the resort’s restaurants, and is well placed for the lifts too. Inghams ( inghams.co.uk ) has packages from £849.
San Cassiano, Italy
Anyone who loves dramatic scenery should have the Sella Ronda on their shortlist. It’s an astonishing circuit of intermediate pistes set in the striking Dolomites, and linking the resorts of Arabba, Val Gardena, Canazei and Corvara. The last of these is in the Alta Badia region, which has built a reputation for fine food, and the heart of that reputation lies in the traditional village of San Cassiano with which Corvara shares its slopes.
A cluster of Michelin stars
For some years Norbert Niederkofler has been the doyen of the Alta Badia gourmet scene at the St Hubertus in the Rosa Alpina hotel, which has two Michelin stars. The six-course tasting menu may be a bit much but there are satisfying single dishes to be had, such as beef cheek with celery.
It is absolutely worth sampling some other places, in particular two that have Michelin stars. Just up the road in Armentarola is the one-star La Siriola , in the hotel Ciasa Salares, where Matteo Metullio creates innovative dishes – suckling pig cooked three ways, say. Ask to visit the chocolate room to taste from 40 different types on offer before matching the chocolate with wine or spirits in the adjacent tasting lounge. A bit further in the other direction, in the hotel La Perla in Corvara, is the one-star Stüa de Michil – enjoy exquisite dishes, such as roe deer loin in a pine-nut crust, in one of the intimate panelled rooms.
True foodies don’t need to leave Alta Badia even for lunch, since it offers countless good mountain restaurants. At the top of the gondola out of Corvara is Col Alt (below), where the food is superb, whether plain (speck and eggs) or fancy (duck leg confit).
Where to stay
The five-star Rosa Alpina is not only home to the area’s most ambitious restaurant, but also an exceptionally welcoming hotel that understands the appeal of eating out – so most guests stay b&b. Snow-Wise ( snow-wise.com ) has packages from £1,950.
Val d’Isère, France
Val d’Isère is arguably the complete French resort, with high, snow-sure slopes that suit everyone (not just experts who flock here for the famous off-piste routes) plus a stylish buzzing village with plenty of good restaurants. In general the mountain restaurants are not a highlight, but happily there are some notable exceptions.
A secluded star
Keep going along the valley road through Val and you arrive at the hamlet of Le Fornet, at the foot of the slopes around the Col de l’Iseran. In this unlikely spot is a rustic gem – L’Atelier d’Edmond , which gained its second Michelin star in 2015 thanks to Benoit Vidal’s satisfying dishes (above right), such as noisette of lamb with wild thyme. Many of Val’s other best places are in top hotels, such as one-star Table de l’Ours at the Barmes de l’Ours hotel. The restaurant is elegantly furnished and dishes include lamb, duck and pigeon served two ways including crystallised.
The more reasonably priced Grande Ourse , at the bottom of the nursery slopes, serves simpler fare such as roast organic chicken and raclette gratin in more rustic surroundings. You may have heard of the ever-popular Perdrix Blanche – another good-value option. It has been demolished recently to make way for a new building complex that includes a restaurant called the Fondue Factory serving traditional Savoyard specialities.
Pick your spot on the slopes
Val d’Isère’s La Folie Douce is best on a sunny day when diners take advantage of the large terrace – the interior gets cramped in bad weather. The adjoining dairy-themed restaurant La Fruitière serves wholesome food made from local produce, and the tender, spicy beef stew is warming on a cold day.
On the lower slopes of Le Fornet is the more traditional Edelweiss , a small stone-and-wood chalet serving locally inspired dishes such as duck breast with mushroom sauce. The best tables here are in the cosy wood-built back room or the plate-glass conservatory.
Lunch above the linked resort of Tignes is also an attractive plan. The Panoramic at the top of the main Grande Motte lift station is the best of the bunch and is run by Jean-Michel Bouvier, the chef of the five-star Suites de Nevada hotel in Tignes Val Claret. Diners relax in sheepskin-covered chairs while tucking into the restaurant’s speciality – spit-roasted meats.
Where to stay
The three-star Kandahar is a sensibly priced and smartly styled family run hotel in a prime position right on the main street, a five-minute walk from the lifts. There is a hammam and sauna, and downstairs the affordable Taverne d’Alsace restaurant serves local specialities.Alpine Answers ( alpineanswers.co.uk ) has packages from £910.
Aspen Colorado, USA
Aspen is a charming restored mining town that has terrain to suit every standard spread across four separate mountains – Aspen Mountain, above the town; Buttermilk, three miles from town; Highlands, a 10-minute trip by shuttle bus, and Snowmass, 20 minutes away by bus. It also has an exceptional range of good restaurants.
Sit-down mountain options
Although the Aspen Mountain ski area has adequate restaurants, macho Highlands is the place to go for exceptional cuisine. Austrian chef Andreas Fischbacher first brought a bit of Alpine style to a cosy former ski patrol hut in 2002, and his bistro, Cloud Nine (above), still offers a satisfying, daily changing two-course menu, which might include rich elk stroganoff, for example. Go for the first sitting to avoid getting mixed up in the partying and champagne spraying as the afternoon wears on.
Unusually for North America, Snowmass has a choice of three sit-down restaurants. The casual Sam’s Smokehouse and cosy Lynn Britt Cabin are edged out by the long-established Gwyn’s , which features dishes such as tasty elk medallions or fresh fish. There’s also an extensive wine list.
An international urban selection
One of the attractions of most North American resorts is the variety of food on offer in the village restaurants. Aspen leads the field and is a match for many cities, with Japanese, French, Asian fusion, Korean, Italian – you name it. But heck, why not go American? Justice Snow’s does dishes including New York strip steak, slow-roasted lamb shank and porcini-dusted salmon, in the shabby-chic setting of the historic Wheeler Opera House.
Where to stay
In the States even b&b is rare, so visitors can enjoy Aspen’s restaurants in the evening. The three-star Limelight includes buffet breakfast, and offers free shuttles to the mountains, and as well as free Inside Tracks guiding. Skiworld ( skiworld.co.uk ) has packages from £1,299.
Kitzbühel is a picturesque medieval town sitting in a valley. It’s largely traffic-free with a mainline station in resort and lively in the evening. Its extensive, mainly intermediate slopes are equally appealing, even if the snow would benefit if the resort was at a higher altitude. For many visitors a key part of the resort’s appeal is Kitzbühel’s numerous, welcoming mountain restaurants.
Some of the best restaurants are away from the centre of Kitzbühel, such as the Kupferstube in the hotel Tennerhof, north in Griesenauweg, and the Schwedenkapell, west towards Kirchberg. But the chef from the latter has taken over the ancient Neuwirt in the Schwarzer Adler hotel in the centre of the resort, where he produces what he calls “new creations of Austrian specialities”.
A wide choice at altitude
There are almost 40 mountain restaurants, the majority traditional in style and offering table service. The definitive Kitzbühel hut – Panorama Alm – is high up on the slopes of Jochberg. Inside, it’s full of Alpine character; outside, the lively covered circular bar is the focus of the terrace. The restaurant serves satisfying steaks, chicken and ribs – and there’s a barbecue station in good weather.
Bärenbadalm is unusual in being an Austrian restaurant not sited to give a great view from the terrace, and having a stylish modern interior. A sofa in front of the open fire is the obvious initial target on a cold day. Succulent fillet steak from the Jochberger Angus beasts that graze the slopes in summer is a speciality.
Where to stay
The four-star hotel Zur Tenne has a convenient central position within walking distance of the main gondola and some excellent restaurants – as well as one of its own. Crystal Ski ( crystalski.co.uk ) has packages from £1,184.
A traditional traffic-free village with extensive slopes blessed by knockout views of Mont Blanc, swanky Megève may lack the altitude of some of its neighbours, but when Mont Blanc generates snow, the wooded slopes are pleasingly deserted as the Parisians head for the spas. The village has some gems, but what really marks out this resort is the number of good quality mountain restaurants.
Spend or save
Megève has some first-class mountain restaurants, but it also has some less expensive places – so visitors can choose when to splurge and when to go easy. For a blowout, Les Mandarines is a fine old chalet near the top of Mont d’Arbois serving dishes such as juicy tenderloin in pepper sauce.
Le Forestier , on the back of Rochebrune, is more modest, with a cosy interior warmed by a wood-burning stove. The food is simple but satisfying, from local sausage to juicy grills, and the plat du jour is always interesting – duck pot au feu, for example.
A couple of miles outside Megève is a cluster of upscale places, including Flocons de Sel (above), one of the truly great restaurants in the Alps. Despite its three Michelin stars, the usually complex cooking isn’t overwhelming, with dishes such as succulent beef gently fried then finished over an open fire.
Back in the village
In and around Megève, and above it near the Mont d’Arbois lift base, are many chic hotels with gourmet restaurants, and prices to match. Le Sommet at the M de Megève is worth catching before it gets a star and its prices escalate. And Flocons de Sel runs a bargain offshoot, Flocons Village , serving top quality but simpler, more traditional fare – bavette in red wine sauce for example and irresistible desserts including lemon meringue pie.
Where to stay
A short walk from both main lifts, the three-star Au Coin du Feu has its own highly-regarded restaurant, Saint Nicolas, in the basement serving refined home-made food such as wild boar stew. Stanford Skiing ( stanfordskiing.co.uk ) has packages including transfers but excluding flights from £725.
St Moritz, Switzerland
Glitzy St Moritz is not so much a village as a pair of towns – Bad on the valley floor, by the lake, and Dorf, at the foot of Corviglia, one of the two main mountains. The other is the higher, north-facing Corvatsch. The surrounding Engadin valley is beautiful and the terrain is satisfyingly varied. There are five Michelin-starred restaurants in the valley and plenty of other options.
An outpost of the five-star Badrutt’s Palace hotel, Chesa Veglia is a beautifully restored, atmospheric old farmhouse with several dining options. The Patrizier Stuben is the gourmet restaurant, serving rich dishes such as veal mignons with Brie sauce and truffles.
Of the two top out-of-town restaurants, Bumanns Chesa Pirani down the valley in La Punt is arguably the better – a lovingly refurbished 18th-century house with panelled rooms. The Bumanns have been here for 20 years, earning two Michelin stars.
An established favourite, the saffron menu includes the fiendishly expensive ingredient in every course, such as lobster saffron pasta. At the older, charming Talvo at Champfer , top chef Martin Dalsass is now bringing a Mediterranean touch with dishes such as guinea fowl with lemon crust.
La Marmite at the main lift junction on Corviglia is a popular gourmet restaurant specialising in caviar and truffle dishes, but the pick of the bunch is El Paradiso at the extreme southern end of the slopes, where the restaurant’s tiered terrace has one of the Alps great valley views. There are fancier dishes, but the rotisserie chicken is outstanding.
Where to stay
The cool four-star Nira Alpina hotel in Surlej, at the foot of Corvatsch, is a drive from St Moritz, but some of the best places to eat are also out of town and this hotel has several good restaurants and a high-quality bakery. Ski Independence ( ski-i.com ) has packages from £1,320.
Val Thorens, France
The highest resort in the Alps can look down on not-quite-so-high rivals in more ways than one these days. As well as snow-sure slopes and access to the huge Trois Vallées ski area, it now also offers an ever-growing number of five-star hotels and residences – and troop of top chefs to match.
A gourmet heritage
Once upon a time, a young chef set up shop down the valley below Val Thorens . Almost 40 years later, in 2014, La Bouitte – with son Maxime now cooking alongside father René Meilleur – became the first restaurant in Savoie to be awarded a third Michelin star. It’s a 25-minute drive from the resort, but worth it for dishes such as lamb saddle with aubergine and capers.
There are plenty of other gourmet restaurants in Val Thorens, including the two Michelin-starred Jean Suplice and one-starred L’Epicurien, both of whose chefs create modern twists on traditional dishes.
Good options on the hill
Val Thorens was the second French resort after Val d’Isère to open a La Folie Douce/Fruitière mountain restaurant. Set just above the village, it serves wholesome food rich in local ingredients. But the best restaurant in Val Thorens is a bit more remote; Chalet de la Marine is a welcoming woody chalet with a fine view from the terrace. There are hearty meat options including lamb shoulder confit as well as lighter dishes such as grilled scallops with black truffle shavings.
La Bouitte also has a mountaintop outpost above next-door Les Menuires. Optimistically named Le Bouche à Oreille (“word of mouth”), it serves delicious spit-roasted meats.
Where to stay
The five-star Koh-I Nor apartments offer flexible dining options – guests can choose to eat in the apartment, the next-door hotel’s gourmet restaurants Le Diamand Noir or La Cave, or go out in town. Ski Collection ( skicollection.co.uk ) offers a self-catering apartment sleeping two for £575 excluding flights.
Courmayeur’s modest 40km of pistes offer relaxed intermediate cruising and plenty of opportunities for long lunches on sunny terraces on the mountain, followed by leisurely exploration of the charming old village. Those hungry for extensive mileage should go elsewhere, but there are off-piste adventures to be had on the slopes of Mont Blanc, accessed by the new for 2015/16 Monte Bianco Skyway rotating cable car.
Plan Checrouit and beyond
For most Courmayeur visitors, life revolves around the jumbo cable car that crosses the valley from the village up to Plan Checrouit at 1,700m. Near the top of the cable car station there is a cluster of small restaurants, of which the best is La Chaumière (above), a gourmet restaurant set in a wood-and-stone hut with a terrace downstairs. Typical Aosta Valley cuisine includes chestnut gnocchi and a chocolate cake that comes with génépi sauce. A short walk away is Chiecco , a tiny stone chalet that’s sometimes buried in snow. Run by the irrepressible Anna, the hearty wild boar ragù and creamy tiramisu are the high points here.
Enjoy la passeggiata
It’s worth venturing to Morgex 10km away to the Michelin-starred Café Quinson for seasonal, regional dishes and homemade pasta, but there is really no need to leave the village – the civilised bars dotted along its pedestrian main street, however, may mean slow progress to dinner.
The central Cadran Solaire is a rough-stone vault with a welcoming ambience. The food is traditionally Italian – wild boar with gnocchi or steak in cream sauce.
Where to stay
Centrally placed in the village is the three-star Maison St Jean, a small hotel with a pool, a short walk from the cable car. It has its own à la carte restaurant and a notable cellar. Momentum Ski ( momentumski.com ) has packages from £598.
Few resorts offer quite the same distinctive blend of scenic drama, village charm, varied and extensive slopes and mountain restaurants as Zermatt . The resort website lists no less than 54 restaurants, and few of them will disappoint.
Make a beeline for Findeln
Tucked away in the hamlet of Findeln, between the Rothorn and Gornergrat sectors, with the perfect view of the Matterhorn, there are several good restaurants. The best is Chez Vrony , with its lively terrace and welcoming woody interior spread over three floors. The classic dishes are made using locally sourced organic ingredients such as simple dried beef, Alpine cheese and homemade sausage. There are also fancier dishes including shredded Valais veal in a herb cream sauce with mushrooms, dried apricots and rösti. Alternatives at Findeln are the traditional cuisine of the Adler Hitta and Franz & Heidi’s Findlerhof.
Enjoy the home run
The best way to take advantage of Zermatt’s varied terrain and eateries is to hit the slopes hard during the morning and then settle down to a hearty late lunch with views of the Matterhorn. The terrace of the Hotel Schwarzee on the mountain at the top of the new Hirli six-man lift offers both, with dishes including lamb fillet with garlic. The run back to town has some tempting places to stop for drinks and pastries such as Zum See in the hamlet of the same name, and Blatten. Both also serve homemade pasta and meat dishes.
Zermatt has very a wide choice of evening options, from the cosy and traditional to those with cutting-edge design and cuisine. In the second category is the one Michelin-starred After Seven , in the Backstage hotel designed by Zermatt architect Heinz Julen. The dishes on award-winning chef Ivo Adam’s four-course menus are listed simply, thus: caviar, trout, duck, apricot.
Where to stay
The four-star Daniela is a small, intimate hotel set just across the river from the centre, with use of the spa at its sister hotel Julen a few metres away. Inghams ( inghams.co.uk ) has packages from £549.
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