As the train pulls into Gstaad, I get a glimpse of the Alpina, looking like a stately castle perched high above the town. The driver who meets me tells me that, although the hotel looks old, it only opened in 2012, built on the site of a previous property which had fallen into disrepair.
Inside it’s certainly modern and efficient, even though it’s furnished with recycled wood from farms over Europe and local stone from the river. Works of contemporary art adorn the walls and there’s a custom-made electric Fiat 500 in the lobby, but it’s not for travel. Its arctic paint exterior changes according to heat levels, demonstrating the effects of rising temperatures worldwide.
There are only 56 rooms in the hotel and I get a Deluxe Suite, complete with a spacious bedroom with a large ensuite dressing room and a separate lounge with its own gas-fired stone fireplace. I’m pleased to find a complimentary bowl of fruit, bottled water and some cakes baked fresh by the chef waiting for me. Of course, the bathroom has a bathtub, bidet and separate shower with double washbasins.
The technology is state of the art with a huge flat screen TV, USB charging ports and curtains that operate at a flick of a switch. Best of all is the huge bed with luxurious pillows and linen. For the morning, there’s an espresso machine plus a kettle for tea. A nice touch is the hand crafted bookcase, stocked with coffee table books. My balcony offers glorious views of Gstaad and the mountains – below I see the large heated outdoor pool.
It’s part of the Six Senses Spa which also has a Himalayan salt grotto, a Turkish bath and an indoor pool. I can’t resist going for a quick dip, even though it’s only early spring, and there’s still snow on the ground. Of course, the mad Englishman is the only one to venture into the water and I have it all to myself, enjoying unhindered views of the snow-capped mountains, as I complete a series of lengths. I relax with a full body massage in the spa.
Even though the town of Gstaad is only a short walk downhill and the hotel offers a complimentary shuttle service to the ski slopes and restaurants, the hotel has a range of eating options, worth checking out. I enjoy a healthy salad lunch sitting outside on the terrace and later meet Chef Martin Göschel who gives me a tour of his kitchen. His Restaurant Sommet already has one Michelin star and he tells me that he’s keen to make the best of local produce. His delicious multi-course tasting menu, with wine pairings, is a great success.
You may prefer a more traditional Swiss fare so there’s the Swiss Stübli, looking like it’s been part of village life for centuries. Of course, cheese is big here, since Gstaad is surrounded by cows, and their fondue doesn’t disappoint particularly when it’s served with new potatoes. A starter of rocket with roasted bacon and sliced egg is also pretty good.
What’s surprising is the presence of a one Michelin star Japanese gourmet restaurant. It’s the only Megu in Switzerland, adding to their other branches in New York, Moscow. Doha and Delhi. Head Chef Takumi Murase trained at Megu in New York, and you can watch Sushi Chef Tsutomu Kugota wielding his knives from your table. There’s also an extensive selection of sake, including some rarities specially imported.
Special thought has been given to the design of the hotel. The road into the grounds leads through a tunnel into a subterranean space accessing the lower ground floor where you’ll find reception. The next floor contains the bar and all the restaurants. Glass doors open out onto the terrace and pool and the rooms are on the floors above. A unique touch is the private cinema which you can reserve, choose the movies and get unlimited popcorn.
Gstaad is one of those high-end destinations, frequented by the rich and famous. If you want to feel like one of them, then dig into your pocket and stay at the Alpina. It’s a modern recreation of those classic Swiss hotels, with outstanding food and a high level of service, welcoming without being stuffy.
Tell me more about Alpina Gstaad
Prices for the Alpina Gstaad this summer (10 June – 23 Sept 2018) start from 575CHF, around £425, for a Deluxe Room, based on two sharing, including breakfast, free access to pools, saunas, steam-baths and relaxation areas at the Six Senses Spa, parking as well as service charge, all taxes and VAT.
My Switzerland has information about the country.
SWISS operates up to 119 weekly flights from London City, Heathrow, Gatwick (seasonal), Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh (seasonal) and Dublin to Zurich.
The Gatwick Express is the quickest way to get to the airport from central London.