Experience

Fine dining taken to new heights

It’s said we eat with our eyes. These spectacular mountain restaurants take that adage off the plate and extend it into the landscape around them

John O'Ceallaigh | 19.10.2019

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When it comes to dinner dates to remember forever, little matches the majesty of a meal in the mountains. From the Serengeti to the Sacred Valley, here are seven special restaurants that will leave you on a high.

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RitzCoffier and Spices, Buergenstock Resort, Switzerland

When it comes to no-expense-spared retreats, Switzerland’s Buergenstock Resort is next level. Reopened in 2017 following a nine-year, £440m renovation, its amenities extend from a 10,000 square metre spa to Audrey Hepburn’s wedding chapel. And yet, after gliding across Lake Lucerne by catamaran and then ascending via funicular railway to check in, most guests would agree the resort’s standout feature is in fact its peerless position high atop a 500-metre cliff.

Staggering panoramas are on offer at most of the resort’s nine restaurants and bars, but it’s worth reserving in two venues in particular. Facing away from the lake, fine-dining restaurant RitzCoffier serves exceptionally sophisticated (and properly delicious) Michelin-starred French cuisine against a backdrop of rolling meadowland and snow-capped Alps. Taking inspiration from Japan to India, the pan-Asian menu at Spices is too far-reaching to scale the same culinary heights, but the vista is even more dramatic. Cantilevered over the cliff face, above the water, it’s an address to make jaws drop and questions pop – particularly when the room is bathed in the golden glow of another awe-inspiring Alpine sunset.

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Etxebarri, Spain

Currently ranked sixth in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, critics and chefs alike rave about Etxebarri. Its high placement is all the more remarkable given its remote location – in the foothills of Mt Anboto in Spain’s Basque Country – and humble origins: the restaurant’s founder and head chef Victor Arguinzoniz was raised nearby, is self-taught and has worked here for years.

It’s Arguinzoniz’s idiosyncratic approach that makes meals here so wonderfully different. Everything is cooked over the grill – if you’re averse to smoky, woody flavours this isn’t one for you – and freshness is always assured. The menu is determined according to the best of the locally sourced produce available that day, but flawlessly cooked meats and vegetables are of course staples. Wrapping everything up is service that, like everything else, carries just the right amount of warmth. That welcome lack of pretention feels all the more impressive given Etxebarri’s lofty reputation.

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Bukhari, COMO Uma Paro, Bhutan

Located high in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is awash with magnificent mountainous landscapes but nearly every tourist visits the region of Paro – home to the country’s most famous landmark, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Nearby, COMO Uma Paro resort is a sublime base from which to explore the region and its restaurant, Bukhari, so exemplary it’s regularly frequented by members of Bhutan’s royal family.

With that kind of endorsement, it’s unsurprising that the Bhutanese dishes on offer are as good as can be. Distinctive and unadulterated ingredients (most of which are locally sourced and organic) are combined to create memorable, nourishing dishes, such as riverweed and egg drop soup or fern tips with chilli and cheese curry, perhaps with clove ice cream and garden-mint sorbet with wildflower honey for afters. A further sense of homeliness is provided by the crackling wood fire that forms the restaurant’s centrepiece and the canopy of pine treetops visible just beyond its windows.

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Singita Sasakwa Lodge, Tanzania

Set in a 350,000-acre private concession, Singita Sasakwa safari lodge stands atop a 1,400 metre ridge overlooking the Serengeti. Views of the plains below are endlessly fascinating at any time, but become almost transcendental during the Great Migration, when millions of wildebeest, zebra, gazelles and more wander these plains in search of fresh pastures.

That unmatched backdrop means meal times are always occasions to remember, with indulgent get-togethers encouraged. Guests are hosted on a full-board basis and can opt to dine in the privacy of their cottages or in the grand dining room that anchors the colonial-style manor house. Best of all, however, is to take dinner on the lawn, where tables are laid simply and tastefully with antique cutlery and fine bone-white china under night skies that are staggeringly clear. The straightforward international dishes, such as poached lobster with pak choi and chicken confit with herb risotto, are of impressively high quality, while the wine list – encompassing over 200 labels and 20,000 bottles – will wow oenophiles.

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Mil, Peru

There’s one special at Mil that’s best avoided: if your waiter suggests you take a shot from their oxygen tank it’ll be because you haven’t fully acclimatised to the restaurant’s Sacred Valley setting amid the clouds, some 3,500 metres above sea level.

Potential altitude sickness aside, dining here promises to be memorable for all the right reasons. Devised by Virgilio Martínez, Peru’s most celebrated chef, the restaurant draws on long-standing partnerships with dozens of neighbouring Andean farming communities to showcase the finest indigenous Peruvian produce and agricultural practices.

Visitors are invited to learn more about these collaborations and this unusual elevated ecosystem at the restaurant’s on-site laboratory and research centre – or they can simply order a cocktail (an infusion of Andean passionfruit, lime and a corn-based spirit, say) and get started on a set menu that might feature alpaca with lake blue-green algae, cabuya nectar with lamb and grains, or oca tuber with cacao.

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Three Ravens Restaurant & Wine Bar, Canada

Ringed by the Canadian Rockies and proud home to the country’s first national park, Banff makes a beautiful space for skiers in winter and serves as a gateway to the unblemished Alberta wilderness come summertime. But whenever you visit, Three Ravens Restaurant & Wine Bar provides a remarkable setting from which to take it all in, with diners enveloped by the surrounding peaks.

For foreign guests, dinner itself is often as much of a revelation as the view, with the fine-dining menu making commendable effort to showcase distinctive local produce and Canadian dishes. This might extend to seared bison tenderloin with dauphine potatoes and charred tomatoes, or roasted elk rack with farrow risotto. (Seafood, when it’s served, is limited strictly to options that are certified as sustainable.) There’s also an extensive array of Canadian wines – who knew? – and good reason to splash out on another bottle with proceeds from food and drinks sales going to support local artists.

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Sense on the Edge, Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman

About two hours’ drive from Dubai but feeling as if it’s a world away, Six Senses Zighy Bay stands on Oman’s northern Musandam Peninsula, fringed by the Hajar mountains. To get a sense of this austere and dramatic landscapes guests can paraglide into the resort from Zighy mountain – or simply book dinner at the resort’s Sense on the Edge restaurant for a significantly less terrifying way to approximate the experience.

Set into the mountainside some 293 metres up, with spectacular views over the sea, the location feels especially romantic and remote on sultry evenings as the sun is about to set. Hardly surprising, then, that guests are often here to celebrate special occasions. Dishes are drawn from the Arabian Gulf and beyond – the likes of scallop with apple and basil, a stack of short ribs with wasabi, or a tart dessert of passionfruit with raspberry and basil – all paired thoughtfully with a full range of international wines.

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