There was a time when you knew what to expect of restaurants in Swiss ski resorts like Laax. A fire – always roaring – stuffed goats’ heads adorning old wood-panelled walls, embroidered napkins and rosy-cheeked waitresses in traditional dress serving traditional dishes: Rosti, cheese fondue and Kaeseschnitte. It was all so, well, traditional. And that was just how we liked it.
And then something happened. Ski resorts got cool. Instead of chintzy restaurants, up sprung pan-Asian eateries serving noodles and cocktails, and hip cafes where people gathered in throngs for cheap pizza and DJs. It shouldn’t work. But in Laax it does. The resort is the freestyle capital of Europe and, let’s face it, cool skiers belong in cool eateries.
Cafe No Name (+41 81 927 73 44) is one of the coolest on the hill. The concept is simple: a scruffily hip mountain hut where freestylers congregate to refuel on big bowls of soup, foot-long sarnies and coffee – its latte macchiato is considered to be the best of its kind above 2000 metres. Though the nosh, really, is secondary: it is the sun-trap terrace, with its cool tunes playing over the speakers and unrivalled views of the half-pipes and snowparks around Crap Sogn Gion, they come for. On any blue sky day, from 12pm to 4pm, you are guaranteed to see a dozen or so people sitting on the wall checking out the pipe action below.
Located underneath the cable-car station at Crap Masegn, where piste bashers were once kept, The Elephant is the place for long lunches – white tablecloths, sheepskins rugs thrown over the chairs, sweeping views of the surrounding peaks and divine food. You can expect fresh oysters daily and dishes like Argentinian entrecote with ratatouille risotto and pasta with Parmesan cheese, fresh truffle oil and Grappa brandy. One tip: ask one of the waitresses to tell you the story behind the restaurant’s name, it’s a hoot. You know what else is a hoot? Tipis. Especially eating in one almost 2000m up the mountain. Which is exactly what skiers can do at La Vacca (+41 81 927 99 62), perched at the top of the bubble from Flims. This is a super-trendy steakhouse housed in a big, white (heated) tipi decked out with proper tables, a wood floor and cow-skin throws, where diners can choose their own steak before watching it being cooked on the central grill.
Of course there are several traditional mountain restaurants in Laax such as Startgels (+41 81 911 5848), run by the people behind Grandis, as well as a smattering of self-service restaurants. One of the best being Tegia Curnius (+41 81 927 99 30), with its lovely open terrace), but it’s the ones breaking the mould that are leading the way
At Capalari (+41 81 927 73 73), tucked under the cable-car station at Crap Sogn Gion, people fill its terrace, a mix of tables and cream cube sofas, perfect for supping champagne. The restaurant is known for its fried Pizokels (Swiss dumplings), served with everything from pickled cabbage and bacon to raclette cheese and apple sauce.
Capalari overlooks the rocks bar, where from mid-afternoon the young trendy crowd from Cafe No Name generally moves on to. Diners on Capalari’s terrace don’t seem to mind the loud music and chatter below, and the kids don’t seem to notice that they have onlookers. But that, in many ways, sums up Laax. Different crowds, different styles, that exist in harmony. Everyone really is happy.
Other places to try include Naraus Enzian (+41 81 911 5878), Segneshutte (+41 81 927 9925), and Cassonsgrat Edelweiss (+41 81 911 5898). Tegia Larnags (+41 81 927 9910) is another gourmet choice.
Oodles of variety in town, too
Down in Laax itself, all the eatery-action is centred around rocksresort in Laax, which was completed in 2009. The eight sugar-cube-shaped buildings house eight restaurants: in Nooba, with its funky purple and green lighting, diners share tables with strangers – as they would in Japan – while munching on edamame beans, spicy Pad Thai and green curries. Meanwhile in Burgers they tuck into jumbo burgers, hot dogs and fries.
But here’s the twist: there is another side to Laax’s foodie scene. And it is all about fine dining in very fine settings, catering to Laax’s more mature clientele. Walk a few paces from Nooba and Burgers and you’re at Grandis. Ask the sommelier to help you choose a bottle of wine from the 1,200 different labels, showcased in sleek glass cabinets (it doubles as a wine shop), before taking a seat at one of the candlelit tables. The restaurant’s known for its grill specialities, whipped up by the landlord, Ueli, on the open beechwood fire, as well as its raclette (go for the bread and beef option).
Then there is Mulani (+41 81 927 91 91), tucked away in an old wooden barn away from rocksresort with no sign, and yet tables book up weeks in advance. This is the place for seafood lovers, with exotic-sounding dishes like wasabi prawn soup, pike with champagne sauce and herb potatoes, and seafood risotto with lobster foam.
Waldhaus Flims Mountain Resort & Spa houses six restaurants. Top one is Restaurant Epoca which offers gourmet dining and has been awarded 17 Gault-Millau points. The others include Pizzeria Pomodoro (+41 81 911 1062) and Pizzeria La Dolce Vita (+41 81 928 1440) also in Waldhaus Flims.
Las Caglias (+41 81 911 2949), also in Waldhaus Flims, is cutting-edge architecturally and houses a Bohemian-style restaurant serving good food at reasonable prices. La Clav is recommended in Hotel Adula. Clavau Vegl (+41 81 911 3644) in Flims Dorf, is popular with the locals and renowned for its regional specialities. Da Nus (+41 79 587 11 33) in Flims serves Grisons specialities. In Laax, Romana (+41 81 921 5055) specialises in Balkan cuisine, and Riva (+41 81 921 5353) has good cheese dishes. Casa Seeli (+41 81 921 3048), in Falera, is praised.