Issue 39 / An Indian Foodie Romance In St. Moritz, Switzerland

An Indian Foodie Romance In St. Moritz, Switzerland

Mar 01, 2016


Exploring the sights, sounds and delicious scents of St. Moritz! 

Done with Interlaken, Gstaad and Jungfrau? Head to the east of Switzerland to the alpine resort town of St. Moritz to experience a desi mini-castle ensconced in ice within a Hogwartish palace; miles and miles of sweeping, snowy carpets; and the densest concentration of uber luxe retail therapy in a compact but power-packed space.

Guten Morgan!
Buongiorno

Bainvgniev!
Namaste!

Whatever language you speak, you'll receive a royal welcome when you arrive, with a Rolls Royce waiting at St. Moritz railway station to drive you for a royal five minutes to Badrutt’s Palace. You also have the option of flying your private jet straight into the Engadin airport in Samedan. But if you're like the rest of us, you get yourself a first class Swiss Rail Pass and take the scenic three-hour, two-stop train ride to St. Moritz. 
 

I'll take my 5-star resort with some extra snow on the side please. Badrutt's Palace crowned with the iconic tower that's sold in gourmet chocolate form in town.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

 
Lit up for the holidays with its trusty steed.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

Ask for my first impression of the 120-year old Badrutt’s Palace and the phrase "intimate luxury" springs to mind. The Swiss are inherently polite and friendliness comes easy to them, even to liveried staff with impeccable manners. They’re also an enterprising lot. One hundred and fifty years ago, Johannes Badrutt bought and developed two properties in the region, Badrutt’s Palace and Kulm Hotel, but they remained empty in the winter season. A determined Badrutt managed to lure four Englishmen to leave dreary London and come to his hotels in December 1864, promising them sunshine, a free stay and a full ticket refund if they weren’t happy.

The guests didn’t leave until Easter! Badrutt’s daring bet gave birth to winter tourism in the country, which has now blossomed into an all-season obsession with all manner of sport including bobsledding and the Cresta Run, where participants go head-first into the ice. The race begins under the town’s famous 12th century leaning church, said to lean more than its cousin at Pisa.
 

Always game for a smile and pose, the locals notch up St. Moritz's charms considerably.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

At the hotel, there’s so much to admire, not the least of which are the gorgeous Swiss alps and frozen St. Moritz Lake outside the windows of my room, made even more delectable when accompanied by a brunch of cheese-laden omelet and local Grison barley soup. I wander down to the Grand Hall where there's a live piano performance and peek into the Madonna Room where Raphael’s  L’Assomptione holds court. Badrutt bought this famous painting in 1880 in Italy and took it to St. Moritz hidden in a hay-cart. A controversial identical work titled The Sistine Madonna now hangs at the Royal Gallery in Dresden, Germany.  
 


Room with a view.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


The Grand Hall at Badrutt's Palace. Expect opera all day and a live harpist at the breakfast buffet.

Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


Madonna Saal with the peerless painting.

Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar
 

Lush during summers the St. Moritz lake is a frozen canvas through winter, playing host to sports ranging from ice cricket to thrilling horse races.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar
 
Poppadoms for you, my precious?

Onwards to poking around the accommodation, the signature Beau Rivage suites are plush, but my favourite is the spookily vintage Alfred Hitchcock suite, maintained just like the filmmaker liked it all 34 times that he stayed here after his honeymoon. Along with the master auteur, icons like Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn and an elephant (a wedding gift by a guest to his wife: it was parked in the hotel’s lobby) have graced this property. Indians hardly lag behind.

Lakshmi Mittal’s hilltop chalet is visible from outside the hotel, the Chopras dropping by for a Yashraj recce is par for de course and, on day two of my stay, I spot Navya Naveli Bachchan at breakfast and later on the ski slopes. As a nod to the increasing Indian influence and coinciding with the hotel’s 120th anniversary, their pop-up restaurant Le Pavillon is celebrating an Indian winter.

I walk by the ice skating rink one moonlit night to arrive at a decidedly exotic Indian tent sporting a tandoor at the entrance. The interiors are kitsch, with paintings of women from the subcontinent who look a little Afghani. I quickly attribute it to the fact that St. Moritz is sponsoring and training two Afghani skiers for the 2017 World Ski Championships. We’re dining alongside the palace’s wellness advisor, Martha Wiedemann, and her daughter. The former, dressed in a brown salwar kameez, is India-born (a Malayali). This prompts me to order the Kerala Shrimp Moilee, an excellent choice. After amuse bouche of poppadoms, chutneys and kebabs, Chef Sandeep Kalra of the Trident Gurgaon (who recently whipped up a smorgasbord for Shahid Kapoor’s wedding) is on hand to curate a non vegetarian thali. There’s also a lush dal makhani and refreshing pineapple raita.

Except for the vegetable kolhapuri (a dish that hardly anyone in India gets right, so all is forgiven) the feast is delicious and weaves in signature dishes from all corners of the country. Kalra uncorks a 2004 Gran Reserva 904 Bodegas from Rioja, Spain to pair with my thali. But our desi tour de force turns out to be a smoking jewel box, in which apple jalebi, gajar halwa and mango kulfi sing in happy calorific unison.
 

A pop of Indian colour in Switzerland.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


Your kitsch Indian palace is ready, madam.

Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


Palate ticklers!

Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


Chef Kalra's thoughtfully curated non-vegetarian thali.

Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

Piglia Pacific!

Don’t call J.K. Rowling for a translation just yet! That means "take it easy" in Romansh, the fourth official language of Switzerland which is very similar to Latin and vastly spoken in these parts of the Graubünden canton. It’s also a phrase I start repeating to myself very soon. After stuffing my face silly with Indian khaana and Italian goodies at the palace’s Pizzeria Heuboden, it’s time to hit the slopes for my maiden attempt at skiing.

Up on the slopes of Corviglia, on the beginner’s piste with lots of shrieking kids and a very patient instructor, I have a ball for a good hour and more, learning to stand with the gigantically heavy skiing boots on my feet and trying to walk ahead maintaining a V-shape with the front of my skis. Despite the obligatory falls and bumps, it’s an adrenaline high and great fun, which calls for a group celebration. Lunching on couscous salad and tagliata, we look out at skiers whooshing through the 400-meter long Audi run in the distance. Post-lunch, we take the gondola up all the way to 8,200 feet to gawk at the 360-degree snowy panorama and say hello to a St. Moritz icon, the gorgeous, quietly capable mountain goat.
 

Matsuhisa at Badrutt's Palace.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


Baby skiing steps into the afternoon sun.

Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


The view from atop Corviglia.

Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar
 

Devilish samosas and cheese porn.

Skiing aside, there’s so much more that St. Moritz offers. I lose out on an opportunity to dine at Badrutt Palace’s new gastronomic star, the cavernous, orange-and-white themed Matsuhisa restaurant, but make up with a facial and healthy lunch at La Diala, before heading out on a horse-drawn carriage ride up the magical Val Fex.
 

Val Fex, as magical as it gets!
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


Lara and Kalandar canter up the valley.

Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

On another day, we take the Bernina Express train for a peck at Berghaus Diavolezza, where the local venison bresaola (air dried beef) jostles for attention on the menu with gosht masala, rajma, gobi pakoras, samosas and phalon ki chaat.
Later that same day, whooshing up the funicular train (again, that Hogwartish feeling) to another quaintly named snowy peak — Muottas Muragl — we lunch leisurely on a typical Swiss apertif platter of cold cuts and a heart dish of chard leaf stuffed with beef and spätzli dough dunked in sinful quantities of cheese.
 

The Romantik Hotel cafe terrace up at Muottas Muragl.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


Heads up, eyes ahead, climb on and never give up: the Capricorn theme.
Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar


The hotel-owned Palace Galerie on Via Serlas is pure luxury retail nirvana.

Photo Credit: Aparna Pednekar

No matter how many chaats and lamb curries warm your palate in Switzerland, there’s always the cheese porn to rely on for added sensory pleasure. That done, may I suggest you hit Via Serlas? From Gucci to Chanel and Cavalli to Ralph Lauren, there’s nary a luxury label you’ll miss while burning off those calories and hefty pockets.

Main Image Photo Credit: Aperna Pednekar

Aparna Pednekar

Aparna Pednekar

Author

 Aparna is an India - based travel writer for leading lifestyle and fashion publications. She's also a gemologist and jewelry designer. New cities, new food, cats, dogs, snakes, hours of walking and driving fuel her incurable ADD.

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