Although I’ve stayed in some fabulous places as a DOSE writer, I can’t profess to be much of an authority when it comes to the art of luxury hospitality. However, I’m told by friends who found themselves high-flying jobs and wealthy boyfriends – the kind who fly to St Tropez on a whim and claim that “Paris is just not what it used to be” – that in recent years, there’s been a shift away from the stuffy, straitlaced, overtly grandiose feel of the fanciest of five-star hotels towards a vibe that manages to be more down-to-earth, while at the same time oozes luxury.
But could the same be said for Switzerland, a country synonymous with wealth and luxury, that is home to some of the world’s most famous hospitality schools? Rich tourists have flocked to the country since the Victorian era, attracted by the clean air, unsullied mountains and medicinal mineral waters. Despite hundreds of grand hotels having been built since then, tourism hasn’t spoilt the landscape in the way that it has for many popular destinations: the train journey to The Chedi Andermatt from Zurich winds around the glittering Lake Zug before climbing up to the breathtaking mountains, made all the more awe-inspiring by the panoramic windows of the Glacier Express train that allow you to marvel at the surrounding landscape from every direction.
Log fires and lounge beds
Upon arrival in Andermatt’s train station, it’s a hop, skip and a jump across the road to The Chedi, although the cleansing feel of the fresh mountain air might make you want to linger outside to allow your lungs to lap it up a little longer. Nevertheless, you won’t want to delay checking in too long: after all, the balconies in the rooms offer far superior vantage points from which to soak up the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
As soon as I enter the hotel, I begin to understand what must be meant by unpretentious luxury. The unnecessary trappings of traditional five-star hotels – the red carpet leading to a butler in a top hat at a revolving door; reception staff in stiff suits and bow ties – have been done away with to allow the hotel’s real wow factor to stand out: everywhere I look there is an abundance of dark wood, with vases of orchids adding a feminine touch. In the distance, huge leather lounge beds topped with inviting fur cushions surround roaring log fires, where couples can be seen drinking champagne, friends gather around a platter of cured meats and cheese, and businessmen conduct meetings while tucking into slices of cake. It’s a stark contrast to lobbies in other luxury hotels, where guests linger anxiously, conscious of being on show to be judged by those passing through – this is somewhere you can feel comfortable cosying up by the fire, nursing a hot chocolate and gossiping with friends.
The most lavish bed you’ll ever sleep on
Bedrooms at The Chedi Andermatt manage to strike the same balance, being both lavish and practical: the hotel has invested a jaw-dropping 50,000 Swiss Francs per room in Hästens mattresses to ensure that every guest gets the perfect night’s sleep. Rainfall showers and free-standing bathtubs are colossal, and come equipped with an array of Aqua di Parma toiletries to ensure that guests smell as chic as their surroundings. Glass-fronted fireplaces continue the inviting, warm feel of the lobby area, while the expansive balcony is the ideal place to gaze at the postcard-perfect landscape while sipping on one of minibar drinks that is included in the room rate.
A five metre-high cheese tower
Epicureans will delight at the hotel’s gourmet offering. The Michelin-starred Japanese Restaurant serves one of Europe’s largest sake collections with over 100 varieties, while the truffle edamame beans are so good, you might never be able to go back to the steamed and salted variety again. The hotel’s other restaurant serves traditional and Asian-influenced dishes in a buzzing dining room that dispenses with the pomp and ceremony of traditional five-star hotel dining – you won’t find any haughty waiters in white tie here; service is friendly and fuss-free: no judgement was passed when I decided to order a second portion of pastry chef Maria’s sublime chocolate praline tart…
The real highlight, though, is the hotel’s five metre-high cheese tower, an almighty glass structure showcasing the best of local produce. You’ll need to stay a few nights just to try all of the varieties, which pair perfectly with the wines on display in the monumental wine room.
Switzerland’s largest indoor pool
In keeping with the hotel’s congenial vibe, the spa isn’t hidden away in sealed-off quarters: instead, the impressive 35m pool extends beyond the lounge bar, where the warm glow of the log fires blends almost imperceptibly into the reflection of the soft lighting that ripples on the surface of the water. That’s just the beginning: the 2400m² spa area features further pools outside and downstairs, as well as multiple saunas and steam rooms, a state-of-the-art gym and a yoga studio: the Sunday morning vinyasa class leaves guests feeling virtuous before proceeding to indulge in the hotel’s epic live jazz brunch, which serves a Sunday roast better than any I’ve had back home.
Ski butlers and mountain missions
Rather than peppering the hotel with old-fashioned, awkward-looking butlers, The Chedi has redeployed them to serve much more useful purposes by offering Switzerland’s only ‘ski butler’ service. Guests can arrive with no ski clothing or equipment and get kitted out in the finest gear, before joining the magic carpet lift directly from the hotel to be transported to Andermatt’s pistes. The butlers remain on hand to offer advice on the best slopes, as well as providing gourmet refreshments prepared by the hotel’s chefs to fuel your pursuits. In the summer, the hotel has partnered with Swiss Special to run adrenaline-fuelled ‘Alpine Off Road‘ tours of the mountains in a vintage 1940s Willys military Jeep, where you’ll not only experience some of Switzerland’s most spectacular scenery, but also epic James Bond-style bunkers built into the mountains, some of which are still in use today.
Room rates at The Chedi Andermatt start from 500 CHF (£380) Deluxe Room on a B&B basis (includes entrance to The Spa & Health Club, mini bar and taxes). For more information, please visit thechediandermatt.com
The Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited travel throughout the rail, bus and boat Swiss Travel System network. Prices from £185 in second class, visit www.swisstravelsystem.co.uk for booking. For more information on Switzerland visit www.MySwitzerland.com.
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