Dining out in Klosters: Michelin vs Gault Millau
January 8, 2010 § 3 Comments
Finally back home after a few days skiing in Klosters and new year celebrations in London. Right now, it feels like there’s just as much snow back home as there was in Switzerland.
Klosters is a schizophrenic kind of place. It’s a favourite haunt of minor royalty (though the only familiar face I spotted was that of shadow chancellor George Osborne sporting, surprisingly not a True Tory blue but, a head-to-toe red ski outfit) yet is very much non-glitzy. In the main street you are more likely to bump into a Swiss Hausfrau wheeling a shopping trolley than a leggy supermodel wheeling a flight bag. Hardware shops rub shoulders in the main street with jewellers’ shopfronts displaying the obligatory Swiss watches. There are more churches (one catholic, one protestant) than nightclubs (just the one – the discreet but shady looking Casa Antica).
Klosters is home to a clutch of well-regarded restaurants most of which are attached to hotels. Perhaps the best known (because Prince Charles chooses to stay here) is the Walserhof. Its restaurant has 2 Michelin stars and 17 Gault Millau points. Here is its inviting front door and a view of chef Armin Amrein’s festive tasting menu.
Interestingly, the Swiss place more emphasis on the Gault Millau ranking than Michelin. Gault Millau is an alternative French restaurant rating system which awards points for food alone. A maximum of 20 points are available which until recently meant in practice that the top score was in fact 19: with a French philosophical bent, Messrs Gault and Millau determined that perfection was never attainable. Controversially, in 2004 (by which date Messrs Gault and Millau were long gone), 2 restaurants in France were awarded the magical maximum 20 points and that number has subsequently grown to a handful. Falling standards or genuine excellence I wonder?
Sadly, I’m not in a position to comment on Gault Millau ratings as all their rated restaurants in Klosters (the Alpina, the Chesa Grischuna and the Rustico as well as the Walserhof) were fully booked.
This was perhaps a blessing in disguise as there is only so much cheffy food a body can eat and on a skiing holiday something more substantial is required. We paid visits to the cosy restaurant at the Steinbock Hotel (just across the road from the Walserhof), the Grill Room at the Pardenn Hotel, the restaurant in the swanky Hotel Vereina and, finally, for a more informal evening, the Pizzeria Fellini.
The Steinbock has to be one of Klosters’ best-kept secrets. It has a charming dining-room, soft lighting, wood beams and pink linen. On the evening we visited, the clientele was mainly Swiss families out for a celebratory meal. This is us, disturbing their peace just a little:
We chose the set four-course menu. Particularly good were the pheasant consommé and the parmesan-crusted lamb main course.
Both these dishes were undeniably old-fashioned – straight out of Escoffier in fact. My copy of Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire includes 137 consommé recipes. Whilst some of these are outlandish (swallows’ nest consommé for example), I think that a well-made simply garnished consommé is delicious, fits perfectly into a multi-course meal and deserves a revival. The lamb was served with lots of lovely vegetables and the most enormous caperberries (Kapernäpfel in German). These seem to be the latest trendy ingredient in the German speaking world – they keep cropping up in restuarant menus and German food magazines.
We drank a bottle of local red wine with our meal, a Blauburgunder (Pinot Noir) from Mayenfeld in the Rhine Valley a few miles away. Mayenfeld, more commonly spelt Maienfeld, is famous for being the local town mentioned in “Heidi”.
Next evening was the grill room at the Pardenn, a largish 60s hotel a little way out of town on the Monbiel road. Again, we opted for the 4 course tasting menu. The venison tartare first course was outstanding, as was my pudding choice of savarin, a dinky individual rum baba:
Yes, I know that the presentation looks a little stuck in a 60s/70s timewarp (as frankly does the hotel décor – alpine gemütlich it is not) but believe me, the syrup-drenched savarin was delicious.
Next evening, we chose the restaurant at the Hotel Vereina. The Vereina is an outsized Disney castle of a building plonked right in the middle of town. Unusually for Klosters, it aims to attract the kind of clientele who like to display their money. We were ushered into the dining room which looked to have had an extreme makeover back in the late 1980s – a lot of ornate steel and glass furniture combined with swags of fabric, not that easy on the eye.
Despite the shortcomings in ambience, the staff were, seemingly as ever in Switzerland, charming and appropriately attentive. The food was for the most part pleasant but nothing to write home about, international hotel cuisine without much personality – in my case it was just a bowl of soup and piece of grilled veal, no more, no less. Then the puddings came. I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, but the 3 choices we made (I opted just for an extra spoon to share all 3) were excellent – an unctuous crème brûlée, a chocolate fondant with a perfectly melting interior and, best of all, George’s choice of a vanilla soufflé:
Our final evening was a relaxed affair at the Pizzeria Fellini. The service was swift and efficient, the pizzas properly thin and crusty. Special mention has to go to my choice of a raclette pizza – melted raclette cheese (no tomato), gherkins and tiny pickled onions all on a pizza base. Perhaps the ultimate example of fusion food?
Landstrasse 141 . CH-7250 Klosters
Tel: +41 (0)81 410 29 29
Fax: + 41 (0)81 410 29 39
Landstrasse 146 . CH-7250 Klosters
Telefon: +41 (0)81 422 45 45
Fax: + 41 (0)81 422 16 36
Landstrasse 146 . CH-7250 Klosters
Tel: +41 (0)81 422 45 45
Fax: + 41 (0)81 422 16 36
Landstrasse 179 . CH-7250 Klosters
Tel: +41 (0)81 410 27 27
Fax: + 41 (0)81 410 27 28
Bahnhofstrasse 22. CH-7250 Klosters
Tel. +41 (0)81 422 22 11