The best restaurants in the Alps

Much has been written on the best restaurants in the Alps – after all there is nothing more deserving than a full on gastro blow out after taking the mountain airs. A six or seven course extravaganza comes (almost) guilt free after a hard day’s skiing or hiking so why not indulge yourself the next time you go on a ski holiday. The list below of the best mountain restaurants in the Alps has been part put together from firsthand experience (lucky duck that I am) and part through our 20+ years of experience as a leading specialist ski holiday agency and tailor-made tour operator.

We have been booking luxury ski holidays for discerning clients since the early 1990’s and have come to appreciate that a superb mountain dinner or lunch is every bit a part of a fantastic ski holiday as the hotel or chalet in which our guests stay or the resort in which they ski. In fact we might go as far as saying that an entire ski holiday can (and perhaps should) be planned purely around our clients’ gastronomic needs and desires. If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach then he will love, love, love to eat in these great restaurants.

The best restaurants in the Alps – Zermatt

Zermatt is a majestic Swiss ski resort with great skiing, a wonderful resort atmosphere, superb restaurants both on and off the mountain and all of this topped off by the ever present iconic peak of the Matterhorn. What a ski resort! There are over 100 restaurants in Zermatt and no less than 17 of these have been awarded GaultMillau points making it the most enriched ski resort in the Alps when it comes to fine dining. The restaurant at the Hotel Omnia has one Michelin star as does the Capri (at the Mont Cervin Palace Hotel), the After Seven (at the Backstage Hotel) and the Corbeau d’Or (at the Mirabeau Alpine Residence). In 2015 the Prato Borni at the 5 star Zermatterhof Hotel was awarded 14 GaultMillau points, firmly adding it to the list of the culinary highlights in Zermatt.

There are of course some amazing mountain restaurants in Zermatt with Chez Vrony and Franz & Heidi’s Findlerhof restaurant being the most revered and talked about mountain restaurants in the world, let alone the Alps.

Best restaurants in the Alps - Franz and Heidi Schwery's Findlerhof
Best restaurants in the Alps – Franz and Heidi Schwery’s Findlerhof

The best retaurants in the Alps – The Hotel Rosengarten, Kirchberg, Tirol

Simon Taxacher is the proprietor and head chef of the exceptional Relais & Chateaux Hotel Restaurant Spa Rosengarten. The hotel’s restaurant has no less than 19 GaultMillau points and 4 toques putting it amongst the very highest echelons of global culinary excellence. The hotel, which has 26 rooms, restaurant and its spa are all unashamedly modern in decor and style with an extremely fine quality of finish in all departments – as you might expect from an exacting man like Taxacher. This is not your traditional Tirol experience and the modernity of the decor might seem a little out of place when you consider that ancient and traditional Kitzbuhel is just over the hill. However, the uncluttered muted decor of the Rosengarten I suspect has been designed so that the quality of the food coming from Taxacher’s kitchen does all the talking.

The best restaurant in the Alps - Simon Taxacher's Hotel Restaurant Spa Rosengarten
The best restaurant in the Alps – Simon Taxacher’s Hotel Restaurant Spa Rosengarten

The best restaurants in the Alps – La Bouitte, Three Valleys

Just up the road from St Martin de Belleville you will find the converted old Savoyarde farm building that is now the extraordinary restaurant, La Bouitte. Recently awarded its third Michelin star this father and son double act surely has secured its place as one of the finest restaurants in the Alps. Rene and Maxime Meilleur have over the years built their reputation for creating wonderful cuisine, often using local ingredients of their local mountains in the Three Valleys, France. In stark contrast to the Rosengarten the style of La Bouitte is homely, traditional and cosseting. The atmosphere is relaxed (dining in ski boots is perfectly acceptable) and the essence of the old chalet building with its large open fireplace and stone walls create a welcoming mountain atmosphere. We recommend a stay in nearby St Martin de Belleville in the Chalet Abode which carries on the theme of fine dining and a professional yet relaxed atmosphere.

Best restaurants in the Alps - 3 Michelin stars at La Bouitte
The best restaurants in the Alps – 3 Michelin stars at La Bouitte (Rene and Maxime Meilleur)
Best restaurants in the Alps - La Bouitte
The best restaurants in the Alps – the dining room at La Bouitte

The best restaurants in the Alps – Alta Badia and San Cassiano, Italy

The third generation of the Pizzinini family has done much to develop this corner of the Italian Dolomites into a culinary hot spot. As owners and managers of the excellent Hotel Rosa Alpina they had a vision to put their little ski resort of San Cassiano on the gastro map. In 1996 they were joined by Norbert Niederkofler, now their head chef, who shared their vision and together they created not only the St Hubertus restaurant (with 2 Michelin stars and 19 GaultMillau points) but also the whole on-mountain dine around experience. Guests staying at the hotel can now explore the Alta Badia and Sella Ronda ski domains and also eat at any number of mountain restaurants that serve Michelin chef inspired signature dishes.

Best restaurants in the Alps - Rosa Alpina Pizzinini family and Niederkofler
The best restaurants in the Alps – Norbert Niederkofler and Mr & Mrs Pizzinini of the Hotel Rosa Alpina
Best restaurants in the Alps - the Hotel Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano
The best restaurants in the Alps. The lounge at the Hotel Rosa Alpina, San Cassiano, in the Alta Badia region of the Italian Dolomites
Best restaurants in the Alps - one of the bedrooms at the Hotel Rosa Alpina
The best restaurants in the Alps – one of the bedrooms at the Hotel Rosa Alpina
St Hubertus, San Cassiano, one of the best restaurants in the Alps
St Hubertus, San Cassiano, one of the best restaurants in the Alps

Apart from the fine mountain restaurants in the Alta Badia ski region and the wonderful St Hubertus at the Hotel Alpina there is also La Stua de Michel (in nearby Corvara) and La Siriola (also in San Cassiano) which both have 1 Michelin star. The romantic and traditional Hotel La Perla, Corvara, also has a fine dining restaurant that until recently had a Michelin star. Arguably the Alta Badia ski area with its resorts of Corvara and San Cassiano is the premier fine dining destination in the Alps (sorry Zermatt – for me the Dolomites just edge it).

The best restaurants in the Alps – Courchevel 1850, Three Valleys

Love it or loathe it we cannot omit Courchevel 1850 – no blog post on fine dining the Alps would be complete without a mention of this chic Three Valleys resort. Although originally conceived soon after WWII as a ‘ski resort for the people’ by the mid 1980’s Courchevel 1850 (the uppermost of the 5 Courchevel villages) had secured its place as a ski resort for the rich and famous. The Hotel Les Airelles, with its connections to St Tropez, and the Melezin were two famous luxury hotels that put 1850 as the destination of choice for those that had serious spending power. The influx of the Russian market some 20 years later spawned the development of much of the luxury hotel market so that now there are 20 – 30 truly luxurious hotel properties, and of course any number of luxury chalets in Courchevel 1850.

Best restaurants in the Alps - Hotel Chabichou
Best restaurants in the Alps – Hotel Chabichou, Courchevel 1850

The restaurant at the Hotel Kilimandjaro has two Michelin stars as does the fine dining restaurant at the Hotel Chabichou (see photo above). Also with 2 Michelin stars in Courchevel 1850 are the Pierre Gagnaire (at the Hotel Les Airelles), restaurant Le 1947  and also Le Kintessence. There are a further two restaurants with 1 Michelin star including the very good Azimut down in pretty Courchevel Le Praz. If it’s fine dining in the Alps that you are after then you could eat at no fewer than 7 different Michelin starred restaurants in Courchevel – enough to keep any gourmand happy.

The best restaurants in the Alps – Megeve and Verbier

The other key resorts for a top quality mountain meal are Megeve in France and Verbier in Switzerland. Megeve is a charming ‘old school’ style resort with cobbled streets, horse drawn sleighs, top brand shopping and oozes style and glamour. Verbier has in recent years been slightly mobbed by hedge funders and high earning other banking professionals so has taken on a more fast paced and lively apres ski scene in recent years. The new kid on the block regards accommodation is the W Hotel which gives you some idea of the clientele now heading to this famous Swiss resort. There are three restaurants in Verbier with one Michelin star including the renowned Chalet d’Adrien and there are two restaurants in Megeve, each with one star (the Alpaga Hotel and the restaurant 1920).

Although we are not saying that this is the definitive list of the best restaurants in the Alps I think it’s fair to say that we have covered the most important culinary orientated ski resorts in Europe plus also introduced some of the very interesting individual restaurants such as the Rosengarten and La Bouitte.

We would be delighted to advise you further on any restaurants listed and would equally be delighted to hear about any of your own favourites – if you are happy to share them.

 

 

 

 

Dolomites – A gastronomic delight

Although I have been involved in the ski holiday business for over two decades I am ashamed to say that until last December I had never skied in the Italian Dolomites. Of course over the years I had heard of, and read, many reports all describing the charm of the Sella Ronda and surrounding ski areas. These reviews and comments also unilaterally praised the food of the region. I used to think that the reports on the charm, scenery and food of the region was just a fight back against the large ski resorts of France and Switzerland that could boast far higher skiing, more efficient lift systems and far longer pistes. The Italians had to come back with something to out-do the French and Swiss, the food and scenery were the only possible arguments they could use but I never thought these arguments really carried much weight.

However, my sister had a lovely ski holiday in San Cassiano (within the Alta Badia ski region) which has direct links to the ski area of the Sella Ronda. She and her family simply raved about the fantastic restaurants they found for lunch, the huge ski area and the wonderful scenery. So I got to wondering – perhaps all the claims that I had heard and read over the years were true? Last December I had the opportunity to sample the region and find out for myself if the hyperbole matched reality.

Dolomites - Shopping for furs on the Via Corso, Cortina d'Ampezzo
A shop window on the Via Corso, Cortina d’Ampezzo

Getting to the Dolomites

I flew BA with Louise, my wife, into Venice where we picked up a small but none the less serviceable hire car. I have driven in Italy on a number of occasions and on each occasion I have discovered just how good the UK road signage is, and just how bad the Italian road signs are by comparison. Signs to and from Italian airports start well but tend to peter out, often they are completely missing on the crucial roundabout with frustrating results. However, the journey from Venice airport to Cortina was a smooth as silk. There was no need even for a map.

Dolomites - Cortina d'Ampezzo Town Centre
Overlooking the Via Corso, Cortina d’Ampezzo’s main street

A very straight forward journey of less than two hours saw us arrive in Cortina d’Ampezzo. This romantic and glitzy resort is not actually part of the Sella Ronda but it is just East of the Alta Badia region, separated by the mountain pass. The mountains surrounding Cortina are truly spectacular and the views from the town are delightful in all directions.

Dolomites - The surrounding peaks of Cortina d'Ampezzo
The first morning light catches the tops of the surrounding mountains

Cortina d’Ampezzo Resort

We stayed for two nights at the very grand Cristallo Hotel Spa & Golf which is situated just above the resort, giving lovely views over the resort centre with the church and its towering Campanile. The Cristallo Hotel is privately owned by a wealthy family from the North of Italy and although large it still very much retains the feel of a private hotel. The staff were always friendly and very courteous – really it was impossible to find fault. The room we had was spotlessly clean and very comfortable, the food was delicious, the bellinis from the hotel bar almost up to Ravello standards and we very quickly felt at home. As we were there in early December the snow was decidedly patchy so we spent most of our time either relaxing in the glorious hotel spa or mooching about the pedestrian centre of Cortina. This is normally something that I loathe doing in a ski resort, yet somehow in Cortina it seemed both natural and very enjoyable. There is no doubt that a ski holiday in the Dolomites is a totally different experience to skiing in the Western Alps of France and Switzerland.

Hotel Cristallo Spa & Golf, Cortina d'Ampezzo
The main bar at the Hotel Cristallo Spa & Golf, Cortina d’Ampezzo

One night we ate out in the Ancora Hotel restaurant, in the centre of Cortina at the lower end of the Via Corso – the main pedestrian street of the resort. Like the best Italian food it was simple but also simply delicious!

After a couple of days in Cortina we drove West towards San Cassiano. As we climbed over the pass the first serious snowfall of the season began to fall, covering the road at an alarming rate. Fortunately the car was fitted with good winter tyres and these, combined with plenty of winter driving experience meant we arrived in San Cassiano without mishap.

Dolomites - San Cassiano village centre
San Cassiano village centre, Alta Badia, Dolomites

San Cassiano Resort 

The Rosa Alpina Hotel in San Cassiano is the best hotel in this sleepy village, and many would argue that it is in fact the best hotel of the entire region. Enthusiastically run by the young and glamorous Pizzinini family the hotel is impeccably managed. Food is taken very seriously in San Cassiano and for a very small village it quite remarkably boasts 4 Michelin stars. There are two single star restaurants in neighbouring hotels and then the restaurant St Hubertus, the pride and joy of the Hotel Rosa Alpina, which has two Michelin stars.

The Pizzinini family and the head chef of the Hubertus, Norbert Niederkofler, are well connected in the culinary world. There are only a few restaurants in the whole of Italy with two Michelin stars and the influence of the St Hubertus reaches far and wide. Through its influence Norbert has gathered together the minds of the best chefs in Italy, each chef assigned with creating their own signature dish that uses the local, fresh ingredients of the Dolomiti region. The recipes and the means to cook them have been given to 11 mountain restaurants in Alta Badia ski region (Corvara, La Villa and San Cassiano). The net result is that the on-mountain dining in this region really is better than anywhere else in the World – Michelin starred food at local restaurant prices. Delicious dishes served without pretention; World class cuisine delivered in a very local way – truly a gastronomic delight and worth the trip to these resorts on its own.

Corvara Resort

We drove on further West for 45 minutes to reach Corvara, which forms the North East corner of the Sella Ronda ski circuit, and is home to the World famous La Perla Hotel. Although not without fault I have never been to a hotel that exudes more romantic atmosphere or charm.  There is no dining room as such, instead there are a series of small but charming stuberls – wood panelled and with low level light they drip with romantic ambience. If you want to impress a loved one you would be hard pressed to find better.

Dolomites - Hotel La Perla, Corvara
Hotel La Perla, Corvara

There is also a Michelin starred restaurant at the Hotel La Perla which offers more of the same romantic decor and ambience. We went for the ‘taster menu’ which was as delicious as one might expect. I am not sure if it entirely warranted its Michelin star but the service was impeccable, discreet and attentive, and the setting delightful. If you could eat a romantic atmosphere then it would most definitely deserve two Michelin stars!

Dolomites - The dining experience at the Hotel La Perla, Corvara
The dining experience at the Hotel La Perla, Corvara

The spa at the La Perla was large, well fitted out and catered for all tastes. We enjoyed the saunas, steam room, cold paddling pool (not sure what the technical term is for one of those), charming indoor swimming pool and various relaxation areas.

There is no doubt that the Hotel La Perla is one of the really special hotels of the Alps. It possesses a wonderful atmosphere, bags of charm, Michelin starred dining and a fantastic spa. Oh, and in case I forget to mention, it also offers guests true ski-in and ski-out convenience.

Dolomites - The run outside the door of the Hotel La Perla
The run outside the door of the Hotel La Perla

I have still yet to explore the area fully on skis but with over 1,000 kilometres of pistes it’s not hard to imagine that there is plenty of scope for all standards. However, with the amazingly high standard of on-mountain dining, skiing in the Dolomites tends to be little more than a gentle cruise from one gastronomic delight to the next. And that sounds just about perfect to me!

To find out more about luxury ski holidays in the Dolomites please speak to Simon. Telephone: 020 7801 1080.

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