Gastronomy Capital

Text Claude Hervé-Bazin
Date of publication Winter 2019-2020

The 2020 selections of the world-famous Gault&Millau restaurant guide have been revealed and Zermatt counts an impressive 242 cumulative points from its 17 qualifying restaurants. This record-breaking number is the highest for any Swiss ski station, well ahead of St. Moritz (14) and Gstaad (9).

The latest edition of the Gault&Millau restaurant guide counts 870 Swiss restaurants recognized for their exceptional know-how, 96 of which are new to this edition. This marks a new record for the country, in terms of the sheer number of restaurants that were tested and approved by the demanding critics who compile this global gastronomic reference guide. Created in the 1970s, this guide came to life in the wave of nouvelle cuisine brought about by Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros Brothers, and Michel Guérard among others. These 870 Swiss establishments have been recognized for the quality of their ingredients, the attention to detail given when preparing them, and the ingenuity of the chefs. Zermatt performed particularly well. No fewer than 17 restaurants were selected, earning a cumulative 242 points, the same amount as last year. That number is 29 times higher than the Swiss average, in terms of the number of Michelin-starred restaurants per inhabitant. Although the cumulative score is the same, there were a few small changes: one restaurant no longer qualified, but another took its place; another restaurant lost a point, while two others earned an extra point and qualified in the top ranks.

The Masters’ Kitchens
At the very highest level, two chefs from each restaurant share the major accolades: Master Chef Ivo Adam from After Seven, the Backstage Hotel’s restaurant (along with Head Chef Florian Neubauer), and Salvatore Elefante from the Mont Cervin Palace’s Ristorante Capri (along with Head Chef Giovanni Bavuso). Together, these two establishments won 17 points on their own and have two and one Michelin stars, respectively.

After Seven has many surprises in store, both in terms of the kitchen’s creativity and in terms of the establishment’s décor: from behind a full facade of windows, the restaurant evokes the atmosphere of a New York-style loft that’s been improved upon by Zermatt artist Hans Julen. Here everything feels visually-baroque and quirky, down to the table service, which is highly thorough yet fresh (and never stilted). The menu is unique in of itself: dishes are chosen by the number of plates and the time one wishes to be seated at the table. Eating at After Seven truly transforms a simple meal into an unforgettable experience, including bread that’s baked directly at the table, and lollipops created by the patrons themselves. The restaurant is open from December 7, 2019 to April 12, 2020.

At the Mont Cervin Palace, the Ristorante Capri —where Head Chef Giovanni Bavuso brings his cuisine from the award-winning restaurant Il Riccio on Capri here to the mountains for the winter— is also only open for the season, from December 18, 2019 until March 29, 2020. Here, the cooking has a view of the Alps but is 100% Mediterranean, with strong marine influences. Some highlights from the menu? The yellowtail tartar trilogy and the house-made tagliolini with lemon, burrata, raw gambas, and sea asparagus. This fine establishment offers a chance to truly enjoy the full spectrum of Mare Nostrum delights.

Reaching New Heights
This year, there were also two establishments that earned an additional point from Gault&Millau. This included Alpine Gourmet Prato Borni (16 points), located inside the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, which is open in both winter (December 7, 2019-April 13, 2020) and summer (July 4-September 13, 2020). Executive Chef Heinz Rufibach has made it his mission to highlight and serve the best local products from Switzerland, with a special focus on Valais. Past menu items have included an amuse-bouche lobster and hay shot, mountain venison, an abundance of valley root vegetables, and a surprising selection of sweet wines.

The Omnia, the signature restaurant inside the hotel of the same name, also improved their score from last year for a total of 15 points. Executive Chef Hauke Pohl, trained in the French culinary tradition, has created a menu that’s as contemporary as the hotel’s décor, with a balanced blend of regional and cosmopolitan influences, and ultimately defined by seasonal ingredients.

It is also worth noting that Gault&Millau gave 14 points to three of  Zermatt’s most legendary Alpine chalet dining establishments: Zum See, Chez Vrony, and Findlerhof… three more reasons to wine and dine in Zermatt this winter season.