Where to stay:
I’m a fan of the personal service you get in smaller hotels, so my choice was the mid-range Zwei Jahreszeiten, just a stone’s throw from St Anton train station. It also has the benefit of being a minute’s walk from the main street where many great bars, shops and restaurants are located and it’s close to three of the village’s ski lifts – Rendl, Galzig and Gampen.
In St Anton – a long and spread-out resort – accommodation is about location, location, location – and in this respect I lucked out.
My hosts, Daniela and Rainer Stremitzer, were fabulously friendly people with a wealth of local knowledge. It also helps that Rainer is a chef, so the platter that makes up each morning’s buffet breakfast (selection of breads, meats, cheeses, pates and vegetables, plus cereal, juices and hot beverages) contains only the finest ingredients and, most important to me, perfectly boiled eggs.
The modern, stylishly-designed hotel has six double en suite rooms and two suites. My double room, spotlessly clean with fresh white bed linen, also boasted a balcony – great for sipping a glass of wine and watching the world go by, temperature permitting, of course.
The guests were an amiable mixture of ages and nationalities and all of them were interested in my assignment – it seems good food and good skiing go hand-in-hand these days.
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Where to Dine
What’s a girl to do after a hard day’s riding on the death-defying slopes of the region? Unquestionably the best way to restore depleted energy levels is by visiting one of the 82 restaurants dotted around resort.
Ski resorts are notoriously expensive and the cuisine can err on the side of stodgy, carbohydrate-loaded dishes. So I went in search of experiences to suit different tastes and budgets, but – in these times of financial hardship – nothing that was going to break the bank.
First up was Scotty’s, a village centre pizzeria attached to the Hotel Rosanna. The restaurant opens from 5pm until 11pm, but the bar remains open, so this venue really works as a one-stop-shop for a fun-packed night out.
The menu features 14 pizzas (from standard margherita to spicy Mexican, replete with tortilla chips), ranging from €8.50 to €12. A selection of salads, pasta dishes, side orders and puddings is available and a bottle of house wine comes in at €12. The vibe is relaxed and informal, with dining parties ranging from young couples to large groups of high-spirited holiday-makers and seasonnaires.
I opted for the formaggio caprino (goat’s cheese, sweet red onions, rocket, fresh parmesan and sun-blushed tomatoes), while my partner selected the Mexican (the tortilla chips novelty working a treat). The spicy Mexican is not for the faint-hearted. Fully loaded with jalepenos and chilli beef, it does what it says on the tin. I made my choice in the interests of taking back the power for vegetarians. Austrians are big on meat and so it can be a struggle in some places, although Scotty’s had all bases covered.
Next stop was the fabulously quirky Underground On The Piste. Attracting a slightly older, young professional crowd, this single-storey, cosy, wood-panelled restaurant is a short walk from the village centre or – as the name suggests – reachable from the ski run into the village.
As such, it has a vibrant après-ski scene, with a selection of ‘grazing dishes’ (calamari, chicken wings, camembert in almond crust) popular with the late-afternoon crowd. But, for me, it really comes into its own in the evening. Famous for its fondue, it also boasts an impressive selection of meat, fish and Asian platters. A selection of rooms and cubby holes feature candle-lit tables to suit any party.
The eclectic range of starters include delicious sharing style plates of home-made pate, stuffed vine leaves and a selection of sausages and cheeses. By the time our mains of seafood kebabs and duck with balsamic & honey glaze arrived, Underground’s unique charm was in full effect. At around €18 for mains, it’s not bank breaking stuff for great quality food.
The food was beautifully prepared and presented, but the wandering minstrels (two guitarists, a cellist, sax player and pianist) who had magically appeared to supply the evening’s entertainment took the experience to yet another level. Meanwhile, a Charlie Chaplin movie was being beamed on to a big screen on the terrace for the delectation of diners in the glass-panelled summer house.
Our final stop – Hazienda (www.hazienda.at) on the village’s main street – required some preparation. In ski resorts, smart casual is generally de rigueur. But Hazienda, a subterranean haven of soft lighting and clean lines, is something special. We upped our dress code and, after a warm welcome, settled into a cute, two-seater slot on the bar, commanding views across the restaurant – perfect for a couple or those who enjoy the sport of people-watching.
Sophisticated but unpretentious, its walls are bedecked with Pop Art. Groups of diners can ensconce themselves in an alcove or take a table in the main area, while – perhaps unusually for a high-end option – solo dining at the bar does not provoke curious stares.
We commenced with tuna al carpaccio. Light, delicate and accompanied by lime-mint vinaigrette with a wasabi kick, it was melt-in-the-mouth delicious. The main event consisted of jumbo shrimp on Indian curry madras with basmati rice for myself and classic grilled sirloin steak with herb butter and mixed greens salad for my partner. Oh. My. Word. I genuinely cannot remember the last time I was so blown away by a culinary experience. Subtle flavours, crunchy mange tout, tangy papaya, succulent cherry tomatoes, tiny taste bombs of sticky coconut and the meatiest shrimps this side of Australia made for a memorable meal. Just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, we were persuaded to try Hazienda’s signature pudding – the gino. The recipe remains top secret, but it involves fresh fruit and white chocolate served warm with pistachio ice cream. Needless to say, it was to die for.
You can expect to pay around €45/head, excluding drinks, but Hazienda is a place to create an event out of a meal.
280km of ski slopes
85 cableways and lifts
St Anton tourist information: www.stantonamarlberg.com
By Leigh Mytton