Zermatt has 56 mountain restaurants, many of which are reachable on foot, too. If you arrive before midday and are not a large group, booking is often unnecessary. Swift, good-value family bets are the self service places at Sunegga, Riffelberg, Gornergrat and Trockener Steg. But it's a shame not to try the world famous table service places too. Top of many a list is Chez Vrony (967 2552) at Findeln. Just as appealing, I find, are these:
Aroleid A weathered, chalet-style building, rustic, amiable and unpretentious, with excellent Swiss specialities such as rösti with bacon and eggs served by smiley waiters. Where: Furi, facing the junction where the red 52 and black 62 pistes merge. How much: Main courses from CHF14 Contact: 0041 27 967 2658; takes cards; open daily; usually no need to book.
Vis-a-Vis Part of the imposing mountaintop Gornergrat hotel (3,089m), Vis-a-Vis is underrated and rarely too busy. Its traditional dishes are beautifully done and presented: dishes include garlic soup served in a "bread bowl" (CHF17.50), or rösti with veal sausage (CHF23.50). Service is speedy and there's a vast terrace with the best views on the mountain of the Monte Rosa massif. You can often see ibex, too, yards from the terrace. The self service place in the next-door room is adequate. Where: Just above to top station of the Gornergrat railway, up an elevator. How much: Main courses from CHF19.50. Contact: 966 6400; cards accepted; open daily; booking not usually needed.
Bontadini My favourite place to eat in Italy is Bontadini, which has a smart downstairs part, with light flooding through floor-to-ceiling windows, and a self service upstairs offering tasty pastas and drinks at about half the price. Downstairs, the gamey menu of Aosta Valley specialities includes tagliatelle with deer with "Twelve Slugs Bourgignonne Style". There's also a great wine list. In general in Italy, prices are lower than in Zermatt and the food the same - or better - quality. Other favourites over the border include Le Clochard - good value and off the beaten track, with a stream to cross en route back to the piste - and Chalet Etoile. Where: At the bottom of the chairlift just below the Theodulpass. How much: Main courses from 14 euros. Contact: 0039 0166 948410; takes cards; booking difficult as phone rarely manned, so arrive by midday; open daily.
Stafelalp A bright, modern wing was added to the modest old Stafelalp restaurant a few years ago, sending it upmarket (the sheepskins on seats are a tell tale sign of fairly high prices) but also providing a lovely, colourful light-filled room for lunch, and a sheltered terrace (with live music in spring). Food and service are top notch. Where: On the red run (52) back from Schwarzsee, with the north face of the Matterhorn looming close. How much: Main courses from CHF20, meat dishes about double. Contact: 967 3062; cards accepted; booking not usually necessary; open daily.
Zermatt town has 111 restaurants and food outlets, from Wilde Hilde (rotisserie chickens) and Take-It Doner to smart Asian restaurants (Myoko Japanese is popular with locals) and stylish Grills. Typically, pizza and pasta costs CHF20-plus, cheese fondue CHF24 and meat or fish dishes CHF30-plus. Pork is usually the cheapest meat.
The Omnia This starkly modern restaurant in a contemporary design hotel (pictured; see hotels) offers a la carte and gourmet menus, with matching wines and imaginative dishes such as veal with foie gras, hibiscus, bulgur wheat and cherries. It's popular with locals for special occasions: Caroline Ogi-Stefanazzi, who runs Hotel Walliserhof, names it as a favourite. Where: Auf dem Fels, inside The Omnia, a hotel perched on a hillside and accessed through a tunnel from the upper part of the main street. How much: Four-course gourmet menu CHF111 (corresponding wines CHF79); a la carte main courses from CHF48. Contact: 966 7171; the-omnia.com; cards accepted; open daily; booking advisable.
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