I have often jokingly said that the main reason why I took up skiing was that it provided me with a valid excuse to go shopping in the name of buying new gear every season (and skiing is a gear-heavy sport!). It may not be an entirely true version of events, but there is certainly a grain of truth in there somewhere. In the same vein, I have often been heard to remark that I choose my ski resorts mainly for the quality of their restaurants. Again, not entirely true… but it has to be said that an abundance of good restaurants certainly enhances the ski experience as a whole. And if it is restaurants you are after, Kitzbühel in Austria is the resort for you. Between the village of Kitzbühel itself and neighbouring villages such as Aurach, Jochberg and Kirchberg (all a short cab ride away) there is a smorgasbord of choices from rustic mountain huts to cosmopolitan fine dining restaurants. Here is a selection of what’s on offer:
Restaurant Gebrueder Winkler im Gasthof Auwirt (Aurach)
Paß-Thurn-Straße 13, 6371 Aurach bei Kitzbühel
The low-down: Talented brothers Markus and Christian Winkler would not look out of place in trendy Hoxton with their meticulously trimmed beards and casual attire, but they are anything but casual about the excellent food at their restaurant in the Gasthof Auwirt. Having previously worked at the prestigious Neuwirt restaurant in Kitzbühel, they opened their current venture in 2016 in a cosy yet chic space in nearby Aurach. Markus runs front of house and is the sommelier while older brother Christian is in charge of the kitchen. The food focuses heavily on local produce but is anything but rustic – and the same can be said for the glamorous clientele who all look like minor movie stars.
What we had: We were welcomed with an unusual and refreshing aperitif of prosecco and basil syrup. I started with a green salad topped with local ham while my dining companion Milou had steak tartare served unusually on a warm potato mash (the dish is also available as a main course topped with truffle shavings). For my main I had a glorious piece of trout, enveloped in a light citrus foam – such a beautiful and delicate dish, and wonderfully paired with a glass of Martins Weissburgunder. For dessert I could not resist the apple tarte tatin, and I was not disappointed.
6373 Jochberg, Austria
The low-down: This traditional Austrian mountain hut has been owned and run by the same family for three generations and is situated amongst the ski runs above Jochberg, between the Barenbadkogel 2 and the Gauxjoch chairlifts. The large wooden hut with its generous outdoor deck offers a range of seating options: bar tables, couches, outdoor tables… even deckchairs on the snow if the sun is shining! The menu is full of traditional Austrian dishes like goulash soup and dumplings which is perfect to warm the cockles after a morning’s skiing. But it is the glorious view that had me swooning.
What we had: Our trusty ski instructor Harry regarded me with great suspicion when I ordered a salad – but the salad was pretty substantial, packed with shredded local ham as well as boiled eggs and sautéed potato… more than enough to keep me going through the afternoon. Harry opted for the more substantial spinach dumplings or spinatknödel which are delicious and perfect if you need to do a little carbo loading. But allow yourself enough time to sit on the deck and just admire the view as well, gluhwein in hand!
Hermann Reisch Weg 15, 6370 Kitzbühel
The low-down: The Rasmushof hotel is family-run and the Reisch family have played host to guests, summer and winter, since 1974. The hotel is perfectly located, at the foot of the Hahnenkamm, directly on the famous Streif piste, making it an ideal ski-in, ski-out option. In the summer, the pistes transform into a verdant 9-hole golf course. All year round, guests and visitors can enjoy a drink in the bar and lunch or dinner in the restaurant, situated in a series of cosy wood-panelled Tyrolean parlours. The menu contains a good selection of burgers but also includes traditional Austrian dishes like Tafelspitz, Schnitzel and Gröstl, and mains range from about €20-€25.
What we had: Although the menu focuses on local ingredients, many dishes are sophisticated and have an international slant. I started with char carpaccio with green asparagus and a peanut wasabi vinaigrette – a dish that was delicately balanced so as not to overwhelm the subtle flavour of the fish, and beautifully plated. We were discovering that one of the culinary themes of the area is beef tartare and that every restaurant puts their own spin on it. Milou tried the Rasmushof version which was once again beautifully plated and stuck pretty faithfully to the classic version of the dish. For mains it had to be the slow-cooked venison on polenta with romanesco – as hearty and satisfying a plate as any skier or hiker could wish for. I skipped dessert but Milou had what I can only describe as an Austrian take on sticky toffee pudding – a moist individual steamed pudding smothered in chocolate sauce, which she pronounced to be heavenly.
Krinbergweg 65, A-6365 Kirchberg in Tirol
The low-down: The Ochsalm mountain hut and guest house is situated on a lovely long blue piste served by the Maierlbahn chair lift. A popular place for skiers and hikers to decamp to for lunch, the hut has a cosy wooden interior and a glassed-in winter garden that’s a real sun trap. The building was originally a farmhouse and the rebuilt and refurbished restaurant is still known for its beef, mostly sourced locally from cows grazed on mountain pastures.
What we had: Although beef is the main event here (there are burgers, steaks, goulash and even a chilli!), Milou and I both decided to go for a more traditional Austrian dish. I chose a Gröstl – a hearty fry-up of potato, bacon and onion, topped with a perfectly wobbly-yolked fried egg. Heaven! The crunchy cabbage slaw that accompanied it was surprisingly delicious too and helped to balance the heaviness of the dish. Milou decided on a carb-fest in the form of cheese spaetzle – in a nutshell it’s the Austrian equivalent of mac & cheese: noodles in a creamy cheesy sauce topped with crispy fried onions. Portions are generous so there is no chance of hunger pangs on the slopes after lunch!
Florianigasse 15, 6370 Kitzbühel
The low-down: So… here’s a funny story. We weren’t originally meant to visit Neuwirt. Our programme said “Schwarzer Adler” but when the taxi dropped us off confidently outside the Schwarzer Adler hotel in Kitzbühel, how were we to know that there is a Schwarzer Adler in the neighbouring village of Jochberg as well, and that this is where we were meant to be?? So a word of caution – make sure you know exactly which Schwarzer Adler you are booking at! By the time the error was discovered we were already seated, champagne glass in hand, and so it was decided that we may as well stay where we were! The hotel and restaurant are family-owned and although the menu is full of fairly simple and traditional Austrian dishes, there is definitely an ambitious chef in the kitchen dishing up modern twists on old classics, in an unfussy and relaxed environment.
What we had: Before we had even ordered anything we were presented with a basket of gorgeous bread; olives, cured sausage and some whipped cream cheese with chives; followed by an amuse bouche of trout tartare avocado mousse. These all worked very well with our aperitif of pink champagne. We started with a dish off the specials menu: homemade noodles with lobster tails and foam – an indulgent but not too heavy starter. For mains I chose beef two ways: a thick cut fillet medallion that was pink perfection inside; and a little pastry purse of slow-cooked ox cheek. The quality of the meat was impeccable but in terms of my favourite thing on the plate, there was stiff competition from the little dish of creamy, garlicky Dauphinoise potatoes… To finish we shared a cheeseboard of local cheese plus a selection of homemade chutneys. It’s a great place for a meal to celebrate a special occasion!
Kitzbüheler Str. 9, 6365 Kirchberg in Tirol
The low-down: Hildegard and Peter Erbe are the owner-managers of this traditional Tyrolean restaurant, situated in a cosy space under pretty vaulted ceilings in the centre of Kirchberg. Peter is in charge of the kitchen while Hildegard, resplendent in a traditional dirndl, keeps an eye on front of house. As soon as you arrive, you will see that the emphasis here is on red meat and particularly steak! Apart from the a la carte menu there is a separate list of speciality steaks on each table and much of the beef is locally sourced. For the pescatarians, the fish is also described as being caught personally by the chef – so it is fair to say that ingredients are carefully sourced. There is also a selection of jacket potatoes for the less carnivorous guests.
What we had: As meat is the speciality here, I decided on a veritable meat fest! I started with beef carpaccio served with parmesan shavings – perfectly pink and delicately flavoured. For my main course I tried a dish that I had not seen on a menu before: venison cordon bleu – crumbed parcels of venison filled with cheese and ham, served with potatoes and a rather unusual (but not unpleasant) pink cranberry foam/mousse. Both Milou and I treated ourselves to dessert: ice-cream with a delicious caramel sauce for me; and pancakes filled with ice-cream and topped with chocolate sauce for Milou (which she pronounced to be the best dessert of the trip!). Hildegard also poured us a shot of homemade schnapps from probably the best tot measure ever. Prices are very reasonable with main courses running to about €15.
Gasthof Schwarzer Adler (Jochberg)
Dorf 13, 6373 Jochberg
The low-down: It turned out to be second time lucky when we finally made it to the correct Gasthof Schwarzer Adler in Jochberg! This time there was no mix-up with the address and as the car wound further and further up a mountain road, my only regret was that we were having dinner, not lunch, as surely there must be a great view out there somewhere… The restaurant is modern but decorated in traditional Tyrolean style, with lots of pale wood and very tactile charcoal felt-covered menus. Owner and chef Andreas Lechner achieved his first Gault Millau at 26 and has had many years experience both as a chef and a food and beverage manager. He has truly put his stamp on the Schwarzer Adler menu, with interesting twists on traditional Tyrolean favourites.
What we had: When we arrived there was a small glass jar on the table containing an amuse bouche of creamy pickled herring. The bread was served with another little glass jar containing delicious herb-whipped butter. Seeing as I had not tried any yet on this trip, I decided it was time to sample some Tyrolean steak tartare. The Schwarzer Adler spin on this comes with shaved cauliflower, lacy melba toast, Parmesan and truffle mayonnaise. The meat was subtly flavoured but that meant it did not overpower the cauliflower and the truffle mayo. For my main course I could not resist the oxtail-filled dumplings with wild mushrooms – and I was not disappointed! The unctuous meat and the earthy mushrooms made for a wonderfully comforting yet sophisticated dish. For dessert I kept it simple with a delicious run and raisin ice-cream, but there are many more traditional Tyrolean options to choose from including apple streusel cake or apricot pancakes.
Hinterer Sonnberg 14, 6365 Kirchberg in Tirol
The low-down: Reutzenhof is a large and imposing wooden chalet on the slopes above Kirchberg and is apparently about 270 years old! The restaurant is small and very popular, so advance booking is definitely recommended. Decor is very traditional Tyrolean with lots of wood and pretty cutouts in the backs of chairs.
What we had: The menu consists almost exclusively of Tyrolean mountain hut fare – hearty, rib-sticking stuff. Some of my companions went for the lighter option of an omelette and salad and I must say the omelette looked fluffy and excellent, as did the plate of goulash that somebody ordered. I chose to try another Tyrolean classic: pan-fried calf’s liver with bacon, onions and apple. This substantial portion was like a plate of heaven for me – loved the salty bacon and the sweet apple with the liver! For dessert, we sampled another Austrian classic: Kaiserschmarrn’. Literally translated this means “emperor’s mess” – but in reality the dish consists of thick pancakes that are shredded and then oven baked with raisins and icing sugar until the whole dish is deliciously crispy at the edges. Then it is served with a fruit compote – traditionally apple – but in this instance it was plum. I’ve had a few of these, and this was definitely among the best Kaiserschmarrn I’ve had.
Bärenbichlweg 35, 6373 Jochberg
The low-down: Gasthof Bärenbichl is a small family-run guest house and restaurant in Jochberg and you certainly feel at home the moment you walk into the welcoming space. A huge traditional wood-burning stove dominates one side of the room and both the walls and ceiling are wood-panelled, the latter with beautiful decorative carvings. The restaurant is not very big and was packed on the night we visited, so I would advise booking in advance.
What we had: Soon after we sat down we were served a small amuse bouche of salami-style sausage on rye bread. For me, this turned out to be the only part of the meal that was not fried! For her starter, Milou chose to have the regional speciality of Schlutzkrapfen – half moon-shaped pasta parcels not unlike ravioli, filled with spinach and ricotta. But I could not resist the lure of fried cheese… specifically mountain cheese from the Achentalalm, crumbed and deep-fried into melty cheesy heaven, served with a berry compote. Oh so rich but oh so delicious! For her mains, Milou stayed traditional and had a schnitzel (an enormous portion!) while I had another dish that I had seen on almost every menu in town: fried chicken. Think moist chicken pieces encased in a crispy golden shell… seriously addictive stuff.
Ried Henntal 41, 6370, Kitzbühel
The low-down: There’s a first time for everything, so they say… and little did I know that our visit to Bichlalm was going to be the first time I’ve had to take a snowcat to reach a restaurant! Bichlalm sits in splendid isolation in what used to be a little self-contained ski area but which is now a ski touring area, served by only one lift: the Bichlalm 2-seat chair lift. Apparently a bargain was struck between the ski resort powers that be and the restaurant owner which has resulted in the resort undertaking to maintain a lift to access the restaurant for as long as the restaurant remains open. From the top of the chair lift, it is possible to book a snowcat to take you to the top of the nearby Stuckkogel from where you can ski down to the Bichlalm. The restaurant remains very much open and has been recently refurbished – I love the wooden walls and the blue accents.
What we had: The menu is once again a “greatest hits” of Austrian mountain classics, which is just what you need if you have skied down an unmarked piste in a snowstorm…! I chose to have lentil stew with St Johanner sausages and fresh horseradish (the ski instructors took much pleasure in telling me the horseradish was cheese just to see my reaction…). My ski instructor had the venison goulash with spaetzle which looked supremely comforting and hearty. And then for dessert the instructors insisted that we had to try the Bichalm’s Kaiserschmarr’n… which we duly did and which was found to be fantastic.
Ganslern Alm (Kitzbühel)
Ried Ecking 21, 6370 Kitzbühel
The low-down: If Rasmushof is the place from where to look up at the famous Streif course as you wine and dine, Ganslern Alm is the place from where you can look down on the course – and indeed on the whole of Kitzbühel. Perched directly on a piste facing downhill over the village, it is a warm and welcoming room where diners can choose a more secluded booth by the main window or to sit on stools at high tables.
What we had: We started with a carrot soup which was incredibly thick and rich (and un-carrotty!). This was followed by the one of the restaurant’s speciality burgers for which they are best known: a venison burger. The patty was thick and cooked to pink perfection on the inside while achieving a nice char on the outside. It was served with a chilli jam which everyone at our table found to be a little too overpoweringly spicy though. The salad was small but good, and the sweet potato fries were fresh, hot and plentiful. For dessert, we had beautifully plated mini chocolate cakes together with ice-cream and local preserves. They are apparently also known for their legendary hot chocolate… so if you are skiing past do make sure you stop and try some!
Kitzbühel is situated within easy reach of three international airports: Munich (2 hour drive); Innsbruck (1 hour drive); or Salzburg (1 hour drive); and enjoys convenient direct train links with Innsbruck airport.
We stayed in the Alpen Garni Auwirt Hotel in the village of Aurach, a short taxi or bus ride from Kitzbühel. This family run hotel is comfortable and modern while still retaining a homely feel and the owners are utterly charming.
DISCLOSURE: I travelled to Kitzbuehel as a guest of Austrian tourism and was compensated for my time. I was not expected to write a positive review – all views are my own and I retain full editorial control.
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