If only I was dressed in a way that did it justice. I think this is the first time I’ve ever ventured into a Michelin starred restaurant with my hair in Heidi braids and plastic and metal manacles on my feet.
My skis have been parked outside with dozens of others, like a chaotic creche for metal sticks.
I’ve tried not to slip on the ice on the way down to the terrace. I can’t wait to loosen my boots- my shins are thudding from pressure and pain.
Sometimes skiing feels less like fun and more like ‘let’s get cold and carry cumbersome things over slippery ground’. Yet sometimes skiing allows you to get to some stonkingly pretty places.
Half way down the blue run number 6 from the top of the Sunnega Express in Zermatt is Chez Vrony. It’s everything you ever dreamed a piste-side restaurant would be. Two minutes after we step onto the terrace I turn to The Hungry One and say ‘I don’t think I ever want to leave’.
If the weather is blustery and bitter then the old wooden farmhouse boasts enough small dining rooms with intimate corners to tuck your frost bitten thighs into. But if there’s even a glimmer of sunshine then outside is where you want to be.
There are sheepskin covers on the chairs, some of which are so gently sloped they should probably be next to a swimming pool. On them and the other banquettes there are Chez Vrony branded fleece rugs to huddle under. And above it all there’s the view of the Matterhorn to ponder (it’s much bigger than at Disneyland, I promise).
The first day we visit (yes, we went back multiple times) we find ourselves tucked upstairs on the second floor balcony. It’s been a while since we’ve been skiing, so the first priority is celebrating that we got to the restaurant in one piece. It’s a glass of prosecco for me and a deservedly large wheat beer for The Hungry One. Three sips in and I’m remembering why I like skiing. Any sport that sanctions drinking at lunch is fine with me.
An investigation of the wood covered menu brings an explanation of the ethos of the restaurant.
One thing Chez Vrony are particularly proud of is serving their own organic produce- which is made from cattle that have eaten nothing but the grass that grows on the mountains that surround you. Chez Vrony keep five or six dairy cows in nearby Findeln during the summer. Their milk is used to make Swiss mountain cheese.
When they are older the cows are used to make home made sausage and dried meats, which are then cured in a hut just below the restaurant.
We found that a tapas plate for two or three people is one of the best ways to taste the fruits of their labour and to re establish feeling in your fingers.
Soon infront of us is a hefty wooden board with six white dishes. To the side there are thin slices of dark bread and sweet butter.
The mountain cheese is curled in repose and holey like a moth eaten jumper. It unfurls to pliable sheets that let the sunlight slake through. It’s nutty and sweet and the perfect foil for pickled onions and cornichons.
The meats include prosciutto and wafts of air dried beef. Together with a sticky relish of fig and hazelnuts it’s sugar and spice and all things that are nice, rolled into one.
All around us are fellow skiers and boarders, slowly peeling off layers in the warm sunlight. Many have a bottle of wine perched in front of them, like a half finished project plan.
An astoundingly large proportion of people here are eating the Vrony burger. We figure it’s worth finding out what all the fuss is about.
It’s a fantastically dense and seed deckled bun with a flag protruding from the top. The flag gives you instructions on how to eat- their suggestion is to cut it into quarters. Granted, you would have to have a particularly elastic jaw to wrap your mouth around its girth in one go. The patty is blushingly rare and there’s a zippy coleslaw style relish cuddling up next to it. To one side are some crisps and a small dish of horseradish creme, with some heat exhausted cherry tomatoes collapsed on top.
It might be the fresh air. It might be the view. It might be the glass of Terre Brune from Santadi in my hand. It might be that everything tastes just a little bit better when you’re in a little bit of pain, but this is a red hot contender for the best burger we’ve ever had.
There are plenty of other appealing options on the menu for those wanting something a little more refined. The pastas, in particular are great. One day I carbo loaded at lunch with a plate of ravioli filled with mountain goat cheese, with caramelised Valais pear. Glistening over the top was some brown butter- and a surprise for any vegetarians who might order it- a crispy rasher of cured pig.
On another day, when we really felt like celebrating I split a mound of the special of angel hair pasta with truffles. There were white carbs. There was butter. There was an avalanche of thin black slivers over the top and one lone cherry tomato, which I quickly ate on its own. It was indulgence personified.
For those wanting something lighter, there were some fantastic smelling soups that were delivered to those around us and some impressively large and fresh looking salads (something we hadn’t yet discovered in Switzerland) . And if you’re after a more authentic taste of the country then there’s a whole page on the menu devoted to traditional dishes, from fondue and raclette to rosti with veal sausage and onion gravy.
There’s a unique elegance about this place. It sideslips from the casual charm of the staff who arrive in the morning by sled and gad about in special uniforms of tight black snow trousers and branded white shirts through to the gentle music which tinkles out over the balcony at just the right volume to allow for conversation.
If you’re heading back out onto the slopes then something sweet will steady you for the afternoon. Desserts traverse from simple classics like chocolate mousse, through to goat’s cream cheese with truffle honey. One way to get a taste of most is the dessert mix.
Again, out comes the wooden board and the six little dishes. This time filled with a light milk chocolate mousse, four balls of ice cream (strawberry, apricot, vanilla and cinnamon), fresh fruits, a cream capped mound of meringue and a knee quiveringly good apple fritter.
The disc of apple is bound in a crisp cinnamon sugar batter. It’s like the love child of an apple pie and a cinnamon doughnut. There’s a puddle of custard around the base for contrast. It’s as comforting as a warm bath at the end of a long cold day.
Espressos come in smartly branded little mugs with crumbly chocolate chip cookies balanced on the spoon.
I read somewhere that this is one of Robbie Williams’ favourite restaurants. I can see why.
It would be very easy to spend the rest of the afternoon sitting with on the balcony, sipping coffee, or wine (or both) and wait for the Matterhorn to gradually eclipse the sloping sunlight.
I know this, because it’s what we did one afternoon. The Heidi braids got unleashed, but my sunglasses stayed on.
Luckily when we finally prised ourselves away the run down to the bottom of the hill is both short and kind.
And I discovered that after two glasses of wine, my shins don’t hurt nearly as much.
Chez Vrony, Zermatt
Tel: 0041 (0) 27 967 25 52
From the top of the Sunnegga Express, ski down blue run 6, taking the left fork just above the chapel.