John Hill samples the delights of skiing mid-April and fine dining at Europe’s highest gourmet restaurant.
Solden is Austria’s most successful ski area – with guaranteed snow from October, when the World Cup race season starts there, right into May, thanks to its twin glaciers. And now for high-livers like me there is the icing on the cake with a quite superb fine-dining restaurant, Ice Q, right atop the Gaislachkogl. Even without the wide and spacious Rettenbach and Tiefenbach glaciers Solden is rarely snowless, thanks also to a great snow-making system.
The numerous runs are generally long and suitable for all standards, particularly strong intermediates. I visited last weekend to round off a quite-amazing season made perfect by staying at Solden’s best hotel, the 5-star Das Central. I checked in at noon after a speedy drive from Innsbruck airport a hour away. Twenty minutes later I was up and off and seeing the empty slopes wondered if I had erred in my choice of destination. However the higher I went the more the pistes were filled with happy skiers enjoying the late-season sun and good snow. Then I found the space-age Ice Q building atop the 3,048m Gaislachkogl and wandered in to peruse the menu.
Wow what a carte. “It would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly.” american foodie Anna Thomas once said. I followed her advice, and didnt we eat well! I sat down with my ski pal Christian, and quickly polished off a starter tray of canapés followed by salad then a main course of lamb chops so succulent they could have come from Wales instead of the Otz valley below. Meanwhile my ski partner was licking his lips over his duck main course washed down by a delightful Austrian chardonnay (€35 per head). We didn’t need any more food, but as always we were seduced by the desserts – too succulent for my waistline and the whole meal demolished the myth that you cannot taste anything at altitude. We felt guilty so raced off to make as many last runs as possible to justify the calories.
If the mountain fare was first class wait till you see the hotel offering. Das Central is another of those amazing Austrian hotels, family-run with a quest for perfection – and delivering it at affordable prices. I have dined many of Austria’s “mouth brothels” and Das Central is up there with the best, thanks to the devoted efforts of head chef Gottfried Prantl and the management team of Martin Sperdin, deputy director Michael Waschl and delightful owner Angelika Falkner – all wine connoisseurs. A choice of three restaurants – classical, fine dining and fondue room – so regard this as your starter.
Further delicious courses upcoming – so watch this space and keep logging on to our Good Gourmet Guide.