White Magic And Romance In Austria By Eadaoin Kelly

White sports, blissful spa tratments, gourmet experiences and Winter wonderlands – what better way to spend a romantic few days than a long weekend in Austria?

Schloss Münichau

We flew directly to Salzburg airport and were swiftly transported, by taxi, through the winding mountain roads. The journey lasted approximately 1.5 hours and cost €140 and reached a cool -17 degrees on route to Hotel Rosengarten in Kirchberg, Tyrol, an a equally chilly -12 degrees.

Hotel Rosengarten

After being warmly greeted by the hotel owner, we were shown to a suite known as ‘Burgundy.’ Each of the 26 rooms and suites in Hotel Rosengarten are named after some of the delights that can be found in the ground floor restaurant. The hotel is situated just 500 meters on foot (1.1km by road) from Maierlbahn (which accesses the Kitzbühel ski area) and is near the 55 lifts and 170km of slopes in the Kitzbühel, Reith and Kirchberg areas.

Hotel Rosengarten

Hotel Rosengarten opened on the 9th December 2010 and is a development of the gourmet restaurant. We unpacked our weekend bags in our open plan, glassy suite. There could be no better way for young lovers, disembarking the slopes after an arduous day’s skiing, to unwind and prepare themselves for a delectable dinner in the restaurant. The hotel proudly hosts the only restaurant to ever achieve 2 Michelin stars in Tyrol, a fine tribute to the work of Chef Simon Taxacher, who seamlessly incorporates a number of local ingredients into a menu of gourmet French/Mediterranean inspired cuisine.

The menu at Simon Taxacher was inviting and luxurious. The taste sensations, textures and visual displays were simply beyond the realms of our ordinary imaginations. The Goose Liver marinated with Gianduja bitter chocolate and Granny Smith apples was surprisingly and delicately combined to result in a magnificent dish. The Turbot, which effortlessly incorporated the texture of crunchy, curry-infused carrots and fresh cockles was followed by Savarin of Champagne, finger limes and kumquats. Candy floss and petit fours ensured that with each bite, the senses were aroused with an innovative, unique flavour sensation. Everything about this experience was faultless and truly thrilling. The Restaurant Manager, who was extremely knowledgeable, maintained a formal demeanour whilst making guests feel welcomed and relaxed. She really ensured that this culinary experience was truly original and enjoyable. The sommelier recommended Austrian wines as per our request, including Riesling Senftenberger Piri, 2009 (M. Nigel) and Riesling Achleiten Smaragol 2006 (Prager), which complimented the dishes to perfection.

The next morning brought about a severe drop in temperature, creating a postcard-perfect, snow-capped mountain view, and, importantly, the perfect skiing conditions (for my other half!). Wanting to make the most of my time at the hotel, I enjoyed a number of the exquisite spa treatments offered by Hotel Rosengarten. It seems that the Chef even had a hand in creating the spa’s menu, as beauticians utilised products incorporating ingredients from the kitchen.

Hotel Rosengarten

I began with a zesty fruit peel, vegetable body mask with a tranquillity body massage, finishing with a truly relaxing, vitamin body wrap leaving me refreshed and re-energised. Despite the cool temperatures in the spa area and the seemingly strange choice of music, the treatments were administered to perfection by the spa manager, resulting in one very satisfied customer.

After a day of pampering and treatments, mountain walking and skiing, we joined forces again for a light bite in the bistro. The strong lights and music within the bistro which accompanied this locally inspired and delicious menu, was quite the contrast to our dinner the previous evening. This concept, I was reliably informed, aims to allow each individual guest to dine formally or informally depending on their needs.

The hotel also offers a cookery school, for those whose interests lie within the kitchen rather than out on the slopes. Book now for the Cookery School which can host a party of up to 12 people at €320pp and includes a lunch and dinner experience with the culinary expertise of Simon Taxacher. The school is open on Tuesdays.

Rooms and suites from €190 – €480 per night.

Top tips: Relax at the bar with the charming and informed Bar Manager. Visit for the Cookery school and the summer spa treatments on the terrace.

www.rosengarten-taxacher.com

Schloss Münichau

Seeking a touch of traditional Austrian food and rustic surroundings, we left Kirchberg for the Schloss Münichau, the recently renovated and reopened castle hotel in the village of Reith, just outside Kitzbühel. The General Manager, Theo Muntigl, the man who was the vision behind the reopening of the 15th century castle hotel and Ritterstern Restaurant, greeted us warmly on arrival.

Schloss Münichau

Schloss Münichau, owned by the Harisch Family, has been lovingly restored under the careful and passionate eyes of Theo Muntigl. His aim was to recreate a traditional and luxurious open-fire retreat within the impressive castle walls (once a fortress dating back to 1469). My first thought was that this hotel and its enchanting staff were so incredibly charming that this would make the perfect, intimate wedding venue.

We were led to our compact but cosy bijoux room, which overlooked the courtyard and gave us an outstanding view of the nearby snow-topped peaks. All the hotel’s rooms have been carefully restored and packed with genuine antiques and original furnishings. Whether it is the authentic lampshades, the historic dusty beams that span the rooftops or the quirky fixtures and fittings, there is something utterly captivating about Schloss Münichau. The hotel creates an almost fairy-tale like atmosphere, capable of transporting you back to the 15th century.

After our impressive round-trip walk to Kitzbühel, the perfect après-ski spot (where we passed the ice-topped Schwarzsee lake, surely a sight to behold in the Summer), we prepared for dinner and joined a full room of other diners at Ritterstern Restaurant across the courtyard. We felt it best to leave our menu choices in the hands of the maitre d’, someone who knows a thing or two about traditional Austrian wines and local fare.

To say we were very impressed by Michelin star Chef Thomas Dreher, who provided a glorious, fresh and locally-sourced offering, would be an understatement. This included a terrifically tasty and generous tartlet of smoked trout and beetroot, a visual delight, which we followed with a chestnut soup accompanied by red cabbage ravioli. With our meal, we enjoyed a wonderful Weingut Josef Pöckl ‘Admiral’ cuvée red wine from Neusiedlersee. Dreher had created the perfect, festive starters which also included the Hashed Lamb braised in paprika and smoked leek puree. Already more than satisfied, our gastronomic experience was heightened by the Veal with marrow crust and Brussels sprout salad, a dish extremely enjoyable but impossible to finish due to the sheer generous servings.

Seeking the comfort of the log fire back at the tearoom (a room laced with antlers and the perfect place to ‘snuggle up’), the ‘chocolate dream’ dessert with hints of ginger bread and spiced oranges completed our remarkable dining experience. Strolling through the restaurant full of romantic couples, families and a group of ‘Sex in the City-like’ ladies, we made our way across the courtyard, truly satisfied, for a brief nightcap before bed.

Rooms from €59 – €99 per person per night including breakfast.

Top tips: Enjoy the scenic hiking and walking trails and relax in the tea room with a glass of red wine by the roaring fire.

www.muenichau.com

St. Peter Stiftskeller

With our return to London in mind, we decided to squeeze in one final adventure. Upon our return to Salzburg we made a swift visit to St. Peter Stiftskeller. The Restaurant is absolutely incredible to behold as it stands joined to a traditional monastery. Believed to be the oldest (and one of the most unusual) restaurants in Europe, St. Peter Stiftskeller has been open since 803 AD and is located in the heart of Salzburg’s Old Town, making it easily accessible by taxi or foot. Now under the management of Claus Haslauer and Veronika Kirchmair, St Peter has been restored to its finest.

St Peter Stiftskeller

If visiting during the Christmas festivities, you will enter a sparkling and merrily decorated restaurant that offers guests an incredible 12 dining rooms to choose from. Each room has an individual style and seats between 6 to 200 guests. St. Peter Stiftskeller The Restaurant has something to suit every taste. Each room is individually dressed for the St. Mary Winter Wonderland season.

After wandering in awe around the exquisite rooms, we were seated in the Bürgerstube room and we happily watched the groups of international guests come, dine and leave with smiles of contentment stretched across their faces. The service was formal but warm. Our lunch began with a hearty, seasonal cream of orange and pumpkin soup, followed by the ‘Wiener Schnitzel,’ a pan-fried escalope of turkey with parsley potatoes. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, I must admit I regretted not sampling the traditional Austrian tafelspitz, a prime cut of beef with creamed spinach and fried potatoes. As I spied the tafelspitz being laid in front of another guest I suspect my ‘safe’ choice had been a little unwise!

Despite the smeared wine glass on our table which was quickly replaced, we enjoyed a glass of Prälatenwein from Weingut Türk in the Kremstal region of Lower Austria, which was well recommended by the Sommelier. Unfortunately, with time being against us, and as we were impressively full from our starter and mains, we missed out on the speciality – Salzburger Nockerl, a traditional dessert made with meringue and fruit sauce. The whole dish is created to resemble the snowy mountain peaks surrounding Salzburg.

Since 1996, The Baroque Hall has hosted the Mozart Dinner concerts and we were tempted to cancel our flights to enjoy this musical cuisine experience. Absorbing the beauty of the sophisticated dressed room and imaging the local graduates of the Mozarteum entertaining the guests (distinguished past guests at St. Peter Stiftskeller The Restaurant include Mozart and Haydn), we pledged to return in the summer to enjoy this promising experience.

Lunch from €14.80 per person. Dinner from €18.80 per person.

Top tips: Enjoy the Mozart Concert 3 course dinner from €51 per person

www.stpeter-stiftskeller.at

Leaving the bustling, high-spirited and vibrant city of Salzburg (we were extremely fortunate since this was only airplane to depart Salzburg for London that day due to severe weather) was harder than anticipated. We reflected upon the natural beauty that Austria has to offer and the wealth of winter sports resorts and championships the quaint country hosts. We have many reasons to return to Salzburg and the surrounding areas. However, I would recommend that one packs a case not with thermals and ski goggles, but with one’s washroom necessities as they were not available in the hotel rooms. A small price to pay for a location as idyllic as Austria.

www.austria.info/uk