a Relais & Chateaux property and the mastery of a Gault & Millau ‘Chef of the Year’. At the end of a woodland track, five minutes by electric shuttle – or half an hour on foot – outside car-free Swiss Alpine resort Saas-Fee, Waldhotel Fletschhorn soars above the valley bottom as if suspended in mid-air, opposite the snow-capped Mischabel summits. As well as the views of a mountain hut, it brings the undisturbed atmosphere of a retreat, with its cloak of evergreen pines.
There are nice forest walks, which lead to longer routes, on the doorstep, cross-country skiing tours out the back door, and balconies that invite for a day’s reading.
R&R is the order of the day, but the shuttle is always available if guests need to get somewhere. If it’s cream façade sprayed with window boxes looks unassuming, Waldhotel Fletschhorn surprises across the threshold. Limed oak floorboards mirror bleached pine ceilings, sandwiching air force blue and sunshine yellow walls hung like a gallery with striking canvases.
Antique sideboards and driftwood and pearl lamps lend a patchwork feel, like being at an artistic friend’s home, an air heightened by the entrance hall with coat rail and the bright dining room and bar, which form the hub of the place. In fact, there is nothing to really identify the Fletschhorn as a hotel – bar the discreet ‘Relais & Chateaux’ sign on the door.
Expect the welcome of your life: owners Maren Müller, Markus Neff and Charlie Neumüller – who are hands-on, also preparing and helping dish up dinner (Markus is Gault & Millau ‘Chef of the Year 2007’, and Charlie, an award-winning sommelier) – greet everyone with vigorous handshakes and delighted grins, as if welcoming friends into their home. There is no fussy form filling; you are just shown to your room. Their concept is simple: they want guests to unwind, enjoy a nice dinner and just ‘be’.
The restaurant and bar tick all the boxes. There is also a sauna, steam room and whirlpool, bookable for private use.
A sanctuary from the outside world, the 13 rooms are spacious and serene. From their balconies, they let in woodland and mountains – a sight that renders the TVs superfluous. Inside, a blend of old and new furnishings creates a comfortable, fallen-into-place feel with a splash of the Scandinavian – think a coastal palette offset by paprika-colored easy chairs, oversized reading lamps and artwork in complementary tones. The half-height dressing rooms, containing hangers and shelves, are an inspired idea.
There’s enough space left over for large open-plan bathrooms with corner tubs, hot powerful showers, huge towels and colorful vials of products. The best bit? There’s no light pollution, which, coupled with the fact the beds are comfortable, means falling asleep is a doddle. In his restaurant, which has a Michelin star and 18 Gault & Millau points, head chef Markus uses local fare – including trout from the hotel’s pond, herbs from the garden, and lots of butter and cream – to concoct wholesome, beautifully cooked meals.
The six-course menu, which can be tailored to guests’ dietary needs, is a good introduction: you might get foie gras with truffles followed by venison and red cabbage, or avocado mousse before kohlrabi spaghetti and turbot on Swiss chard. The dribble-inducing cheeseboard, piled with classics such as Appenzell or Gruyère, and local varieties from the Hannig Alp above the hotel, is an event in itself. Then there is the wine: Charlie’s award-winning cellar contains 1,200 varieties – more than half from the canton and many made with rare grapes.
Mercifully, breakfast is small, but it doesn’t compromise on quality. The fried eggs with tomatoes and mushrooms are particularly good. In the afternoon, guests tend to gather around the bar, where the thick, creamy homemade hot chocolate is a must-try. The Fletschhorn trio also owns the Spielboden mountain/ski restaurant, catering to skiers with gourmet dishes and a well-stocked wine fridge. In summer, friendly marmots linger for titbits.
Double rooms from CHF 350 (£288) in low season; and from CHF 460 (£378) in high. Breakfast included. The six-course evening menu is offered at a special half-board rate of CHF 105 (£86) instead of CHF 185 (£152). Free Wi-Fi, minibar and shuttle. There are connecting rooms and the option of extra beds, but the Fletschhorn is more suited to couples