Obviously, the overwhelming reason why visitors flock to Zermatt in winter is for the fabulous and varied skiing to be experienced there and part of that experience is a spot of lunch or perhaps a drink, or three in one of the great restaurants to be found on the piste above the resort. Here’s a pick of the mountain restaurants that will suit many a taste and a wide range of budget.
One of the first restaurants to establish itself was Chez Vrony, situated at an altitude of 2100m, with spectacular views and an armchair view of Zermatt’s calling card, the Matterhorn. Chez Vrony has a rich heritage and a family history stretching back for over 100 years. This delightful hostelry also has a loyal and enthusiastic staff, many of them stay for several seasons, others for years, one member of the team has clocked up over a quarter of a century, it’s this loyalty that plays a huge part in maintaining the high standards of customer care and ensures the warm welcome that has been instrumental in many customers returning year after year. The transformation of a small, spartan farmhouse in the high Alps into Chez Vrony encapsulates the history of the past century, chronicling the fortunes of the Julen family and Zermatt’s meteoric rise from remote mountain village to world famous tourist destination. Chez Vrony is one of the few restaurants that still uses its own organic products, made from animals nourished solely on Alpine grass. The dry-cured meat, the homemade sausage and Alpine cheese are all made from traditional recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Another fine establishment with a rich history is Zum See, nestled in a picturesque 500-year-old hamlet between Furi and Zermatt. You step back in time to an era when Furi was once a “Maiensäss”, a high settlement where farming families lived for the summer, long before a ski was even thought of. Many of the original structures are still standing and serving a useful purpose to this day. The many old buildings are authentic Walser mountain houses, barns and stores. Furi became famous, however, because of its glacier garden. The first glacier mill was discovered in 1966 by the Zermatt hotelier and nature lover Yvo Biner. The glacier garden is a relic of the last ice age. Zum See, set in the heart of this enclave is a family-run restaurant and has earned a worldwide reputation over the last three decades. The Zum See is listed on the Gault Millau Guide with fourteen points, high praise indeed. Max and Greti Mennig, together with their son Markus and his wife Marion and the rest of the team make sure that after a day of skiing or a long hike, you can indulge in a freshly prepared meal with high quality ingredients, daily delivered to the restaurant and accompanied with a nice bottle of wine from an impressive wine list. Specialties include calfs liver, fresh Doversole, fish soup or homemade pasta dishes.
Another firm favourite is the Findlerhof, established for over twenty years. You can really switch off here and enjoy yourself in the cosy, family atmosphere with Franz and Heidl, the hosts. You can make the most of the terrace, enjoy the sun and take in the magnificent scenery. The restaurant can be found in the middle of a unique hiking and skiing area in Findeln, high above Zermatt at 2051m, with breathtaking views of the Matterhorn, and the exquisite cuisine and the fine wines selected by Franz. The Findelhof has been in Gault Millau and the Michelin Guide for many years, which is testament to the quality to be expected at this lovely, homely restaurant.
Chalet Etoile in Cervinia, Italy is obviously not a restaurant in Zermatt but a great day’s skiing from Zermatt over the border into Italy should ideally include a stop off at this fabulous venue, so it’s included. Situated on a blue piste above Plan Maison, beneath the Rocce Nere chair lift, this lovely rustic Italian restaurant is skiable from Zermatt and referred to simply as Ulla’s, a Swedish lady who runs it, along with her husband Cesare. The menu changes daily but a firm favourite is fish soup, a bowl of steamy, spicy broth brimming with mussels and langoustines, yum! Mains include pasta with mushrooms, spaghetti with lobster or clams, bistecca (beef steak, like a juicy Porterhouse) or slow-roasted leg of pork. The wine to drink is pinot noir from the Cave des Onze Communes in the Aosta Valley, leaving room for dessert. A perfect espresso with its crema intact, and a full strength grappa, puts a fitting full stop to a wonderful meal. Leave a little room and don’t get too stuffed, you’ve got a return journey to complete and you’re sure to want to stop for another tipple on the way back down into Zermatt.
Rebecca Taylor is Director at SkiBoutique.