1,775 metres above sea level in the Valsana hotel is not where you expect to find an English library, but that’s where I found myself. Sat in the ski resort of Arosa, surrounded by books, in front of a log fire, enjoying a glass of Roederer. Although the books in this recreation are a little modern, it’s the thought that counts. It’s a nice homage to the UK by the owner of the hotel, who dictated its form as he was a fan of all things English. All I need now is my smoking jacket and slippers, and I could be ensconced in a modernised 221b Baker Street with Watson by my side.
Somewhat contrastingly, amongst the shelves is the evil child of the wine world. Stainless steel nozzle reach out, ready to dispense their calibrated splash of various wines. Why evil child? Well, I don’t like my beverage dispensed in such a manner and often the bottles run out, or are left too long. Not here though – each bottle is shiny and full and awaits hotel guests to insert the card to choose from the array of grapes on offer, including, I am delighted to say, local Swiss wines.
Moving through this snug, the room opens out to reveal a wall of glass, showing the lit snow, deep where it has fallen on the terrace. We are then invited to take a seat in the restaurant. Like the rest of the hotel’s main areas, Restaurant Twist has been designed by one of the most successful interior designers in the world, Carlo Rampazzi. His vision was to use nature as the artist, combining wood, stone and glass, accentuating their various tones.
We are shown to a sturdy wooden table, one side serviced by a similarly styled modern bench with a wingtip studded chair for my dining partner. It’s a good start as everything is level and so sturdy that it appears dinner will survive an avalanche. Towards the bottom of the restaurant is a little breakfast service area that seems somewhat out of place. This is the only decorative reminder that you are indeed in a hotel. Cutlery, table and glassware are clean and correctly weighted
After two days of rib-sticking ski food in the alps, we are looking forward to something a little more healthy. That said, when the most gorgeous fresh bread arrives with homemade butter, we still both dive on it as if we haven’t eaten for weeks.
Twist claims ‘a healthy, mindful yet creative cuisine’, and one look at the menu reveals a multitude of dishes with various upgrades that can be added. The word ‘bowl’ features heavily on the menu, and there are some sixteen choices to be made. Furthermore, there are the options of additional dressings (three), four ‘upgrade’ options, five power bowls, and ten side bowls. I am going to need a large drink just to pick through this complicated process, so decide to stick with the non-vintage Louis Roederer. What is astonishing is how much both of us are craving the fresh vegetables and ingredients the menu promises. This is because vegetables, salad and generally anything healthy are usually an afterthought in the Alps.
Prior to starters arriving, I order a glass of the sister-hotel’s own Hotel Eden Roc Gran Rosé 2015 for us both. It had to be done, as putting your own wine on the list is either a declaration of great faith or stupidity. An Italian produced wine from Ticino, the rosé was unusually made from merlot, showing soft and refreshing with a medium finish. In all, no tannin present and. in overview, it is fresh and rather fun. It arrived showing tartrate crystals, which smack of quality. These manifest as clear diamond like deposits in the bowl of the glass and caused some confusion at our table.
Swiftly, my starter bowl arrived. The vessel was replete with leaves and pieces of local Swiss cheese. Peeled walnuts imparted crunch, whilst slivers of pumpkin cevichéd in lime juice were topped with teriyaki chicken. Further creaminess and sweetness were incorporated into the salad with avocado and figs. That such simplicity could add such texture and flavour was impressive. Peeling the walnuts removed their abject bitterness and made them complementary to the dish.
Opposite me arrived a beef bowl glistening with juices, which was being enthusiastically demolished. Seasonal lettuce supported strips of teriyaki beef with tomatoes, micro-herbs, seeds and deliciously crispy onions. Again crunch, freshness and consistency prevailed. The beef was pleasing in its juiciness and so tender, with a foil of crunchiness by the sunflower seeds.
To accompany the mains, we plumped for a bottle of the Trimbach Riesling 2015. It arrives quickly and is rich, floral, tight, and so bone dry that it is simply delicious, and given the vote of confidence by my dining partner to boot. Nudging 13.95%, this is not a wine for wimps, but the finish is never overpowered by the alcohol. Spurred on by the riesling our decisions are made.
For the main course, I started with a pasta bowl, which arrived with blowtorched avocado, peeled roast walnuts and a lemon yest twist. The chicken breast is cooked through, moist and clearly from a very happy chicken, as the meat is dense but light. The searing of the avocado gives a delightful smoky flavour, so much so I have now replicated it at home. The pasta is verde and arrives perfectly al denté.
Opposite me, poached codfish with black salsify, leek and olive oil has hit the table. Sat in a light gold foam with floating prawn-style cracker and a batter sliver holding eight golden caviar balls. The presentation of this has stolen the show so far and has real impact. The cod is fresh, light moist and cooked to perfection. The sauce flavours are well-balanced. The golden balls and batter are a little unnecessary, adding nothing to the dish.
Ensuring we had all bases covered, we added a beef dish into the mix. A bowl, oily with juices and a slightly superfluous white sauce. This was married with seasonal lettuce, onions and a flavoursome jus. The steak strips were thin and skillfully charred; this rated for me as the second best beef dish I have had anywhere in the world. Removal of the white sauce would have seen victory.
Accompanying our main courses are sweet potato and ‘bio’ fries. The latter must be the best in Switzerland: skin left on, they are golden and crispy and crunchy, with that wonderful jacket potato backnote. The sweet potato fries? Well, they always seem to promise everything but deliver nothing.
Then dessert arrived. We had decided to share one plate – and what arrived was a triumph. Candied peeled walnuts sat beneath and around ginger and apple purée. Topping that was a cardamom mousse topped with crunch apple crisp shards. Sprigs of chervil accompanying added faint taste of liquorice. This all set off by caramel gelato to add sweetness.
There is great work here from the team at Restaurant Twist. They are delivering a fresh new concept for the Alps, and clearly it works. Staff are enthusiastic and helpful, and as chef had left by the time we had finished, we were joined by Tobias, who had assembled our dessert. We asked him to pass our thanks to Marcel Laversa and the brigade the following morning. The only thing left to do was return to a little piece of England in Switzerland for a nightcap.