February 19, 2010 § Leave a comment
Two very different dining experiences during a recent ski holiday in Zermatt, Switzerland.
First, the Stockhorn Grill which I first visited some 20 years ago and is still going strong. It’s a meat lover’s paradise with the speciality being various cuts of meat spit-roast over an open fire. Be warned that you need to order the whole chicken in advance as it requires an hour’s cooking time. Here’s a picture of the open-plan cooking area, the fire flickering theatrically in the dimmed light of the restaurant.
The Stockhorn formula is simple but extremely effective- salad to start, then your chosen meat which is served with generous quantities of potato gratin or chips/French fries (one has to be careful with fried potato terminology to avoid being served with a bowl of what we in the UK would call crisps!). I chose the venison fillet cooked medium rare with potato gratin. Absolutely delicious served with a bottle of full-bodied Swiss Rhône red wine colourfully named “Sang de l’Enfer”, literally “Hell’s Blood” which wasn’t hellish in the slightest. The meal was simple and robust, no need for pudding to follow. It’s a tried and tested formula which is still packing the guests in – the queue for a table was out of the door as we left the restaurant.
Our next choice was Sonnmatten, a restaurant attached to a boutique hotel in the hamlet of Winkelmatten, an appetite-enhancing 15 minute walk upwards from the centre of Zermatt.
The chef at Sonnmatten is Marco Drynda, originally from Swabia in Germany. Drynda has recently stepped-up to his first head chef position after several years as number 2 to Alain Kuster at the Mirabeau in Zermatt.
The restaurant and bar décor is delightful, bringing off the trick of looking both clean and modern yet warm and cosy at the same time. We were hungry and asked to be shown straight to our table – matt black walnut with crisp white linen napkins, no-fuss stainless steel cutlery and generously proportioned wineglasses. The young service team led by host René Foster were dressed discreetly all in black and were charming and efficient. We sipped a glass of prosecco and went through the menu. Our fellow guests were either German or Swiss German and exuded an air of understated good taste. We’d finally escaped the crowd of Brits who flock to Zermatt at this time of year. So far so good.
Starters took a little time to arrive but were worth waiting for. I’d chosen a simple pumpkin soup which was well flavoured, silky textured and delicious.
Sadly, main courses took an absolute age to turn up. The restaurant though small was quite busy and from the animated discussions the waiting staff were having it was evident that the kitchen was having problems getting the food out in time. This was a shame as it marred an otherwise very satisfactory evening.
When my chosen main course of braised veal cheek finally turned up, it was generously proportioned, sticky and unctuous. It was almost too intense and meaty if that’s possible.
I should mention the wine list – lots of interesting Swiss wines as well as the usual French bottles. We chose a local Humagne Rouge – a cigar boxy red.
After two big-flavoured courses, pudding wasn’t an option for me even though the choice was enticing. My son George chose a plate of apple desserts pictured below. These disappeared in a matter of seconds!
There’s a lot to like about Sonnmatten. I love the chef’s modern take on German and Swiss classic dishes and ingredients and the restaurant makes a stylish alternative to the glitzy big name restaurants attached to the 5 star hotels in downtown Zermatt. If only the kitchen could resolve its timing issues…
Telephone +41 27 967 3030
Stockhorn Restaurant and Grill
CH 3920 Zermatt
Telephone +41 27 967 1747