I don’t ski. I never have and I most likely never will. I’m not a fan of clunky footwear and to be honest, I’d always choose a white beach over white slopes. Yet I found myself in a snowy St. Anton am Arlberg – a glam ski resort in Austria – at the beginning of March for a couple of nights. But I was not there for the so called aprés ski or to go off-piste.
I’d flown to Innsbruck to stay at the Hotel Tannenhof. Of course, the cosy interiors of the seven-suite hotel with its Tyrolean furniture and open fireplaces, as well as the pillow menu that is sent in advance for guests to choose from, was part of the reason for the visit to this Austrian village. But what really piqued my interest was the restaurant at the hotel. It is run by an English chef, who has helped cement its position on the European gastro map.
Once the Rimowas had been collected of the luggage belt at Kranebitten, we were greeted by the Tannenhof ’s chauffeur. They picked us up in one of their Maserati to whisk us an hour up the road to St.Anton. Not only was the hypnotic hum of an Italian sports car and the snowy Alps in the distance enough to relax us into the journey, but the homemade snacks and chilled drinks provided made it even more enjoyable. We were greeted with a smile, a roaring fire, a sleepy black Labrador and a glass of Bollinger. A nice welcome to St. Anton.
Everything at the Tannenhof exudes luxury. I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels – I would like to one-day live in one, but that’s for another time – and the level of attention to detail at this hotel is world class. The upkeep is flawless. Not a single scuff or scratch in sight. A bugbear of mine is checking into a hotel room that has walls covered in scuff marks. Lighting was on point, the bathroom was bigger than my apartment and my biggest turn on – sockets by the bed.
Whether hitting the slopes is your thing or not, you’d be foolish not to check out the spa at the Tannenhof. The indoor pool, outdoor sauna and ice-cold plunge pool is a perfect way to spend a couple of hours before dinner. James Baron, 31 years old, is fluent in German and French but clearly an Englishman. He joined the Tannenhof as head chef in December 2015 and in his first year at the five-star superior hotel he was awarded 18 points out of a possible 20 by the Gault&Millau restaurant guide, making the Tannenhof the top restaurant in western Austria. Baron was also awarded “Austrian Chef of the Year 2017” by the Grand Restaurant & Hotel Guide but he wasn’t always set on a career in the kitchen.
Baron’s food draws inspiration from the roots of Austrian cuisine and when we sat down for dinner – with views over the mountains and snow lightly falling – we’re handed a menu that is titled “Culinary journey through the Alps”. The menu is designed like an OS Map – unfolding it like an overeager Scout on a fieldtrip – it reveals a map of Austria, on one side it depicts where the food has been sourced and the food for the night on the reverse.
Although this fieldtrip comes at a price, it is one that is worth paying for. The only option is a tasting menu but one that allows diners to choose between 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 courses – a nice compromise for no á la carte options. We opt for 5 courses at €125 per person.
The amuse-bouche gave a welcome nod to the creativity and quality of food we were about to be served. After completing his A-levels back in London, Baron had planned to study architecture but it was a stint working in a Michelin star restaurant in his home town of Petersfield in Hampshire that made him realise he was destined to work in the hospitality industry. After his training, he found himself working in restaurants in Canada. He then moved to Switzerland where he worked at Didier de Courten’s two Michelin starred restaurant and also for Andreas Caminada at Schauenstein Schloss Restaurant Hotel.
A cute ceramic dish filled with venison tartare was a vibrant start to the meal – both in colour and palate. The sturgeon dish came with a generous pile of caviar on a bed of what tasted like a chunky leek and potato soup. Every Brit loves a soup. Foie gras – presented in two different ways – was a reminder of Baron’s CV with his experience in Michelin star kitchens. A warming broth with crayfish and dumplings was on brand for Tyrol. The final savoury course was probably the most simple but yet the stand out dish. A medium rare slice of Austrian beef in a silky jus that worked well with a glass of Blaufränkisch.
And the perfect end to a meal – being able to retire to your bedroom in a matter of minutes. There’s now a reason to visit St. Anton even if, like me, you cannot ski.
hoteltannenhof.net | CODE Hospitality was a guest of Hotel Tannenhof