St Moritz’s seductive offering – mountain scenery, extravagant hotels steeped in history, and gourmet fare – invites easy access to epicurean nirvana. Its proximity to the Italian border also adds a delightful rustic influence to menus, and in some venues there’s a cosiness that you might not immediately associate with high-end dining. So here’s all the temptation you need: whether you long from afar or plan that trip-of-a-lifetime is entirely up to you.
Dine at breathtaking altitudes
They don’t bandy about the tagline ‘top of the world’ for nothing at St Moritz. There are more than 30 mountain restaurants at soaring heights, offering magnificent views as a backdrop to delectable dishes. Mt Corviglia (2486m) is the main ski area above the town, and it’s also where St Moritz’s most famous chef Reto Mathis presides over a remarkable foodie emporium comprising seven different dining experiences. Cream of the crop, if you want to truly indulge, is La Marmite (mathisfood.ch/corviglia/la-marmite), which specialises in truffles and caviar. You can try truffle pizza, the truffle burger or upgrade to the ‘Caviarissimo’ – beef carpaccio with truffles, smoked salmon and caviar, all the while watching the funicular chug its way up the slopes as skiers swoosh down it. This is mountain dining at its very best.
Another nearby option is Ski Hut El Paradiso (el-paradiso.ch; 2181m) where you can dine inside or sprawl on the sun terrace (book ahead for a luxuriously padded ‘beach chair’) and enjoy the mountain and lake scenery in style. Gorge on homemade ravioli ‘Älpler Gruyère’ with caramelised apples.
Even higher up, at 3057m, is Piz Nair and the Panorama Restaurant (piznair.ch), which certainly lives up to its name. Enjoy hearty Swiss dishes, perhaps veal sausage with Rösti potatoes, while the dreamy views make a rushed lunch an impossibility.
Feast with the stars: the Michelin and the famous
Serious foodies come out to play in the last week of January for the annual St Moritz Gourmet Festival (stmoritz-gourmetfestival.ch). Since 1994 the event has attracted international chefs of the highest calibre, with a specific theme promoted each year. In 2015, the festival celebrated 150 years of British travel to the region, with Michelin-starred chefs including the UK’s Jason Atherton, Angela Hartnett, Isaac McHale and Nathan Outlaw wowing diners with their creativity. In 2016 the event will host master chefs from Japan.
The festival has a packed program of events held in luxurious locations. If time is short, consider the Gourmet Safari, where guests are chauffeured from one hotel’s chef’s table to another. If you can get a ticket (they usually sell out within a few days of festival release), the Kitchen Party held at the renowned Badrutt’s Palace Hotel (badruttspalace.com) is a dining experience you’ll remember forever. Imagine joining a culinary conga line shuffling around the masters at work while a three-piece band plays and you’re getting close. Then think about entering an entire room devoted to an elaborate dessert display that looks almost too good to eat – almost.
The food isn’t the only head-spinning element at St Moritz – there could be some double-taking of celebrities while you dine. No, that’s not a Hugh Grant lookalike at the next table, that’s Hugh Grant. The woman at the bar who bears more than a passing resemblance to Charlotte Rampling? That’s her. Oh yeah, get used to it. And stay cool.
Indulge in cheese and artisan chocolate
Switzerland is renowned for its quality cheese and chocolate. On the fromage front, in St Moritz you’ll find several semi-hard ‘mountain cheeses’ specific to the Engadine region that are deliciously nutty and mild. But most foodie visitors are keen to try fondue (a pot of melted Emmental and Gruyère cheese mixed with white wine and kirsch liquor into which you dip bread) and raclette (a cheese that is melted over a rack oven and scraped onto plates, served with boiled potatoes and meats). Many places on via Maistra (the main street) offer these Swiss staples, but for something quirky head out to nearby Pontresina to try Restaurant Gondolezza (hotelsteinbock.ch). Housed in a converted cable car and seating just 25 people, it features raclette ovens on each table as well as various types of fondue. If you’re looking for an exquisite way to combine your cheese and chocolate fantasies, then two-Michelin-starred Ecco on Snow offers a tasting menu that includes Gruyère with fried onions and spicy sausage followed by the best Felchlin Grand Cru chocolate with sorrel and bergamot.
When it comes to purchasing artisan chocolate, your best bet is Läderach (laederach.com), a ‘chocolate boutique’ in operation since 1962 with an intoxicating array of treats. Hauser (hotelhauser.ch) also has a fine chocolate selection; try the truffles made with organic Swiss sloe gin.
Discover regional specialities (some more unusual than others)
Foodies would be familiar with veal and venison, which are very popular in St Moritz, featuring in many hearty local dishes, but what about yak from the Upper Engadine? Adventurous diners will certainly appreciate Kurt Röösli’s creations at the Hotel Waldhaus (waldhaus-sils.ch), such as consommé of yak from the Val Fex with green cabbage, chervil root and raviolini with braised yak filling. Kurt also takes the yak meat (remarkably healthy with far less fat than beef and 40% more protein) and makes it into a delicious sausage of yak, pork, bacon, salt, Tasmanian pepper, red wine, chopped onions and steams it in olive oil/butter before adding lemon, Cognac or rosemary for extra flavour.
Care to try marmot? After blanching the meat several times in boiling water, and giving it a long, slow braise in the oven Kurt adds dark chocolate and a herbal liquor (Braulio Amaro), which gives the meat a smooth taste. You can try it along with a selection of venison specialities: sautéed deer entrecôte, Waldhaus-made wild-boar sausage, marmot ragout served in a glass, and sautéed pigeon breast with Graubünden-style spaetzli (egg noodles), braised red cabbage, glazed chestnuts, purple peach and mountain cranberries.
Another good place for a sophisticated yet traditional meal is the Carlton Hotel’s Restaurant Romanoff (carlton-stmoritz.ch), which launched in December 2014 to specifically focus on local specialties. Here you’ll find all the rustic Swiss classics, such as Capuns (stuffed chard leaves) and pizokel (dumplings cooked with dried sausage, cheese and cabbage). Indulge in the Engadine Hay Soup with baked Alpine cheese cubes and pommes allumettes (matchstick fries) or Carlton Rösti with beef tenderloin, truffle jus and fried foie gras.
There are also cakes and sweets traditional to the area. In addition to Hauser (hotelhauser.ch), Café Hanselmann is a good option for the region’s famous Engadine nut torte; the honey-and-walnut aroma is addictive enough. Also try the Birnenbrot: bread with dried pears, figs, raisins and pine nuts and take home pralines for happy memories.
Karyn travelled to St Moritz with the assistance of Switzerland Tourism (myswitzerland.com) and the St Moritz Gourmet Festival (stmoritz-gourmetfestival.ch), staying at Giardino Mountain Resort (giardino-mountain.ch). When Lonely Planet contributors receive assistance from travel providers such as tourist boards, airlines, and so on to conduct first-hand research, we retain our editorial independence at all times, and never accept anything in return for positive coverage.