One of the most wonderful things about skiing is often not the sport itself, but the outstanding mountain restaurants that are dotted around the landscape. Cosy Alpine interiors, roaring log fires, sweeping sun terraces with 360-degree views of the mountains, bubbling fondues, and vin chaud — there is so much to love.
But what makes a perfect mountain restaurant? As Meredith Erickson, author of Alpine Cooking tells us, it should be “cozy and unpretentious, with menu choices that are indicative of exactly where you are. You know you’re in a great mountain restaurant when you completely lose track of time.” We couldn’t agree more.
As ski resorts prepare to open for the 2022 winter season, we share some of our favorites around the Alps, alongside a warming recipe from Meredith’s cooking bible.
In Switzerland’s Bernese Mountains lies glitzy Gstaad, beloved of the European jet set and packed with swanky boutiques and grand old hotels. One of its longest-standing restaurants is the Rössli, which has been owned by the Reichenbach family since 1919. And its signature dish? A legendary poached trout, which it still serves to this day. We also recommend the wiener schnitzel, ideally eaten on its beautiful terrace on a sunny winter’s day.
Restaurant Rössli Gsteigstrasse 16, 3784 Feutersoey-Gstaad Rössli
Chalet Gstaad, is a beautifully renovated old farmhouse with five large bedrooms, roll-top baths, and 360-degree views of the mountains.
Engadin: Hotel Restorant Lej da Staz
A 25-minute walk from St Moritz, in the middle of the Stazerwald, you will find the Hotel Restaurant Lej da Staz. The restaurant has a wonderful terrace with views over the lake and surrounding mountains. Cozy and rustic inside, the menu exclusively serves up traditional dishes from the region and other parts of Switzerland. Expect mountain cheeses and hams, beef consommé with thinly cut pancakes, fondues, and Swiss chicken.
Hotel Restorant Lef da Staz, Via Dim Lej, 7500 St Moritz-Celerina
Suvretta House in St Moritz, which has ski-in/ski-out access to the Corviglia ski area.
Kleine Schneidegg: Bellevue des Alpes
One of the last grand hotels of the 19th century, this family-run spot sits at a majestic 2070m at the foot of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains. Surrounded by the beauty of the Bernese Oberland, this historic hotel is also home to an iconic restaurant, which has a vast terrace. We love that it was the setting for The Eiger Sanction starring Clint Eastwood and North Face with Benno Furnmann. Bellevue des Alpes Kleine Scheidegg Bellevue des Alpes
There are 100 beds at the hotel Bellevue des Alpes and the season runs from mid-December to mid-April.
Getting to S’Aelpele is half the fun. Take a taxi to Zug and the hut’s team will come and collect you by ski-doo for the last leg of the journey. You arrive at a secluded mountain hut under starlit skies and feel as if you have arrived at someone’s super cozy, traditional home. It’s all about the fondue here - meat or cheese (ideally both), lots of schnapps, and possibly some singing and dancing from a nearby boisterous table if not your own. Make sure you book ahead.
Gasthaus S’Aelpele Zug 61, 6764 Lech Gasthaus S’Aelpele
Boutique Hotel Schmelzhof run by the charming Strolz family or the ski-in-ski-out Chalet 1551.
The Sonnbühel has been a fixture on the Kitzbühel scene since it opened nearly 100 years ago when it was the embodiment of la dolce far niente in the golden age of the 1920s. Wonderfully located, super authentic, and with a winning sun terrace, it is still the place to have lunch and a spot of après-ski. Feast on Sonnbühel (young bull) tartare, burrata chips, and whole cochinillo pork grilled on a spit, or the sharing chateaubriand. It is a must-visit for anyone in the area.
Sonnbühel Hahnenkamm 11, 6370 Kitzbühel Sonnbühel.
The Kitzhof Mountain Design Resort, which enjoys a superb location and even better views of the Kitzbüheler Horn and Hahnenkamm peaks.
Originally built by miners in the 15th century, the Mesnerhaus has lived many previous lives during the centuries including as a schoolhouse and sacristan house. It became a restaurant in the 20th century and, since 2007, has been run with passion by Maria and Josef Steffner. Decorated with four Gault Millau toques, the haute cuisine menu is characterized by specialties from the Lungau region.
Mauterndorf 56, 5570 Mauterndorf; Mesnerhaus
The Mesnerhaus has its rooms, so you can just roll up to bed after dinner — or a long lunch.
Dolomites: AlpiNN and St Hubertus
The Dolomites are a food lover’s paradise, with endless mountain huts treating skiers fresh-off-the-piste to its hearty north Italian highlights, from pasta to gnocchis and polentas. And no mention of the Dolomites can go without referencing Norbert Niederkofler, the culinary brains behind AlpiNN and St Hubertus. AlpiNN is an incredible space, so high up in the mountains that you feel almost in the clouds. Choose its ‘Blind Menu’, with the assurance that everything will be cooked ‘from the mountain’ as per Niederkofler’s food philosophy. St Hubertus is his triple-starred restaurant at the luxe Rosa Alpina Hotel in San Cassiano. Ask for the table by the crackling fire and settle in for a very regional feast.
AlpiNN, Kronplatz, Bruneck AlpiNN.
St Hubertus Strada Micurà de Rü, 20, 39036 San Cassiano St Hubertus.
Hotel Rosa Alpina, so you can roll upstairs to your room after dinner.
A Recipe from Meredith Erickson’s Alpine Cooking
Zürich-Style Veal Strips in a Cream Sauce (Zürcher Geschnetzeltes)
Serves 4 to 6 Easy
The best veal I’ve had was at Kronehalle, Zürich’s famous fine-dining restaurant. I also think Zum Weissen Kreuz, also in Zürich, does an incredible (and much less expensive) version. Apologies to Zürich, though, the image pictured here is from the Bellevue Hotel in Gstaad, 100 or so miles away. This is perhaps my favorite Alpine dish. High-quality veal is cut into thin strips, gently sautéed in butter with mushrooms and white wine, and served simply over rösti (no surprise, we’re in Switzerland). I would go with the rösti, but you could also accompany this with spaetzle or rice, or mashed potatoes. It feels hearty and hut-worthy, but still sophisticated (maybe because of the demi-glace?) and somewhat lighter than a lot of mountain cuisine. It’s appropriate no matter the season or occasion; consider it the Alpine version of a blanquette de veau (French veal stew).
Veal demi-glace can be purchased at any good butcher
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
- 1 1/2 pounds (680g) veal tenderloin, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch (2.5 to 4cm) strips
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 pound (450g) white mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup (50g) minced shallots
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (200ml) white wine
- 1/2 cup (120ml) veal demi-glace
- 1 1/4 cups (300ml) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
Preheat the oven to 285°F (140°C), or its lowest setting.
Warm a large sauté pan over high heat, then add the grapeseed oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the veal strips and sauté briefly, until they just start to brown; season with salt and pepper. Transfer the meat strips to a plate and keep warm in the oven. Turn the heat to medium and add the butter to the pan. When the butter starts to foam, add the mushrooms and sauté until all the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes, but the mushrooms haven’t colored.
Stir in the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Pour in the wine, turn the heat to medium-high heat, and cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated.
Turn the heat to medium, stir in the demi-glace and 1 cup (240ml) of the cream, and cook until the sauce reduces enough to coat the back of a spoon. Return the warm veal strips to the pan, and return to a simmer.
With a small whisk, whip the remaining 1/4 cup (60ml) cream to soft peaks. Gently stir the whipped cream, parsley, and chives into the stew.
Photo credit: Christina Holmes.
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