Before the age of 30 I was very much of the opinion that lunch on the mountain was for wimps. What was the point of queuing at a crowded cafeteria and then eating expensive, luke-warm spaghetti bolognaise (of dubious quality) when one could be out on the mountain skiing instead. Between the ages of 30 and 40 – the off-piste years – my attitude towards lunch began to change a little. Skiing with a rucksack now meant that a baguette sandwich could be made up in the morning and then squeezed in the backpack somewhere amongst the safety kit. Serious amounts of food joy were to be found after a hard morning of touring and back country skiing. After finding a sunny rock to sit on nothing quite hits the spot like one of those baguettes – when you are tired and seriously hungry the simple pleasure of French bread, Parma ham and conichon is very hard to beat. The years immediately following my 40th birthday saw a genuine ‘sea change’ in the way that I looked at enjoying a ski holiday. Sure, I still enjoy challenging myself on the mountain and am quite prepared to hike for my thrills but I have learned to appreciate the other side of a ski holiday – the dining!
The restaurants mentioned below are not necessarily the best in the Alps (there are plenty of guide books and articles on those). Instead these are simply the eateries that have given me the most pleasure over the last decade or so.
La Bouitte, Hameau de St Marcel (3 Valleys), France. Much has been written about this extraordinary restaurant over the years but then again how many 2 star Michelin restaurants can there be in the World where guests dine in their ski boots? This is the kind of place where a lunch becomes an event. There is absolutely no rush – the staff there if you need them but otherwise seemingly not there at all. As a result lunch here will last several hours – every mouthful of delicious food and wine can be savoured to the max. True, a meal here doesn’t necessarily come cheap but when a distinctly average plate of chicken and chips in Courchevel 1850 (less than a hour’s ski away) costs pretty much the same you can start to appreciate the true value of La Bouitte.
La Marmite, St Moritz, Switzerland. This has been a long standing favourite with the glitzy and glamorous holiday set of St Moritz. With commanding South facing views the main terrace and the large windowed dining room seem literally to be filled with sparkling mountain light on a sunny day (probably helped by the reflections from all the diamonds on display!). The meal to enjoy here is tagliatelle with truffles and truffle oil. It’s not the most expensive on the menu but it is one of their signature dishes – and boy! The memory of that delicious heady flavour will be with you for life. La Marmite is voted as one of the ‘The World’s Ten Best Mountain Restaurants’ by The Telegraph.
La Perla Hotel, Corvara (Dolomites), Austria. The Dolomites and in particular the Sella Ronda ski area must have more fantastic restaurants per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. The region is literally stuffed with truly great mountain dining – San Cassiano, a small village just over the hill from Corvara, has three separate Michelin starred restaurants on its own! The Hotel La Perla in Corvara is one of those romantic hotels you stay in when you have left the children back home with their grandparents. The main hotel dining rooms (shown below) are actually a series of interconnected small and very cosy, wood panelled rooms. The atmosphere is intimate and charming. There is also a Michelin starred a la carte dining room which is decorated and furnished in much the same theme, although is more discreet and formal. Definitely the hotel and the food should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Chez Vrony, Zermatt, Switzerland. This majestic archetypal Swiss resort is without doubt the fine foodie capital of the Alps. Between Cervinia, on the Italian side of the boarder, and Zermatt on the Swiss side there are at least 10 World class eateries to choose from. Franz & Heidi’s, Zum See, Stafelalp and Furri are all delightful but my personal favourite is Chez Vrony. When you are relaxing on one of their sheep skin clad recliners, cool drink in hand and enjoying the fantastic views of the iconic Matterhorn then you know you are in one of the World’s special places.
Chez Merie, Le Miroir (Ste Foy Tarentaise), France. I was lucky enough to eat here last March when I was on a boys’ ski trip in the area. I must admit that we felt slightly incongruous as a group of three men in their mid forties when all the other diners that night were lovey-dovey couples but it was a privilege to eat here none the less. Drinks are enjoyed before dinner on the squishy shaby-chic sofas around the roaring open fire and then one goes through to the main dining room to eat. It’s all wooden beams and low ceilings and the atmosphere is cosy and cosseting. Steaks are the mainstay of the menu and these are simply seared on long iron spits and forks which are set up over the open fire place. Washed down with some good claret these steaks are simple but utterly delicious.
Hotel Weisses, Bergun (St Moritz). Accessed via the 6kms Preda to Bergun toboggan run. At approximately 7pm take the 30 minute train ride from St Moritz to Preda where you and your friends/family can hire old fashioned wooden toboggans from the railway station toboggan store. The run starts directly from the train station at Preda and over the course of 4 miles descends 400 vertical metres through the beautiful forests of the Albula Valley. The gradient of the toboggan run varies over the course of the four mile ride and in some sections it can get truly challenging – expect a spill or two. However, the knack to steering an old style toboggan is soon learnt and crashes should be kept to a minimum. Check out this YouTube footage.
The toboggan trail takes you eventually down to the charming mountain village of Bergun where, in the centre, you’ll find the Hotel Weisses. The dining room is warm, wood panelled and totally Swiss mountain authentic – the cheese fondues are delicious. After dinner simply take the train from Bergun back to St Moritz where you can drop off your toboggan at the station there. The Preda to Bergun moonlit toboggan run followed by dinner at the Hotel Weisses is a truly fantastic experience.
These days I view the quality of the dining on my holiday as being as important as the quality of the skiing. Of course these long lunches mean that I get less turns on the hill than before. However, if I can enjoy my skiing AND dine well then surely this is the same thing as having my cake and eating it. And that doesn’t sound so bad at all.
If you like to dine well in your chalet then check out this selection of chalets where the cooking will be superb.
To discuss any of the restaurants above or how to book a holiday in any of the resorts please do not hesitate to call me. T: 020 7801 1080.