Drei Sonnen, Hotel and Restaurant, Serfaus, Austria
If you don’t already know an area well, you find yourself searching online for the right places to stay and to eat. Presuming that you read my reviews regularly, you should already know that in most cases I choose hotels on the basis of good cuisine. The four-star hotel “Drei Sonnen” at Serfaus doesn’t offer only high quality but apparently also a “Kulinarium”! (http://www.dreisonnen.com/). What an amusing description. This need to always find or create new terms, like “gourmet restaurant” – another preposterous phrase – Kulinarium isn’t a real word, of course. You might think it would have its origin in Latin, but it doesn’t. Is it a place, a room, or an auditorium where you experience culinary delectability? It is a very grandiloquent notion, which of course suggests something extraordinarily special. Particularly compared to all of its neighbors; in Serfaus every second building is either a hotel, a holiday flat to rent, or a gastronomic establishment. Well, I didn’t make my choice only because of the absurd institution of “kulinarium,” but because I got a good deal.
As ambitious as the approach of the hotel is was precisely as disappointed as I was by the cooking. They offer a total and irreproducible mix of styles. Regional, as always in Austria – since indeed the Alps offers the best quality meat, dairy products, herbs and selected vegetables! Why then is their beef from Argentina? Why do they offer fried calamari – like any fish & chips shop?
The table decor in itself does not bode well for the quality of the food. Totally overloaded by glasses, cutlery and paraphernalia, and a very strange taste in table design.
Every dish is somehow moving in at least three different taste directions. It was impossible to recognize any clear intention of the chef – just an undifferentiated fusion of aromas: cucumber, Asian sourness, beef and foam made out of indefinable.
When it should be light, it was heavy. When you would expect some bite, it was soft or even mushy. Eye catching, indeed! The question of visual taste – meaning beauty – is personal and very individual. But the taste of food is not so subjective! Bad food can be an insult!
It is very possible that the chef is even proud of his creations. I’d say that he doesn’t believe in training further to hone his skills, and likely he doesn’t do it often.
By the way: in the winter at ski resorts in Austria, you are often offered a “Sause”. There isn’t a real translation for this: it isn’t only cake, but soup and even more, which is offered around 4 pm as an in-between meal. This makes sense if you’re skiing the whole day and don’t want to stop for a proper lunch, of course you return to the lodge pretty hungry. One day they had roast pork – classic Austrian – Bavarian food. This was the most delicious moment of my entire stay – and do you know what – this was certainly local meat and fit the skills of the chef. A cobbler should stick to his last!
Perhaps I have been excessively tough in writing this review. Nevertheless, there are way too many of these kind of places: overly satisfied with themselves and by their regulars – their loyal and somehow blind customers. When I was paying my bill on the last day, the proprietress asked me how I liked everything. I asked her if I could be honest. She agreed and so I told her my thoughts. Obviously she didn’t like what I said at all, she had some good and some less adequate explanations and excuses. Two things were really astonishing: according to her, many guests actually choose the hotel because of the cuisine – the “Kulinarium” and all her suppliers are among the very best ones. I didn’t argue with her as I very much appreciated that she actually listened to me, and perhaps even reflected on it a bit.
There is another factor to mention that influences my conclusions: the hotel has quite a nice wine collection. It contains some classics as well as some good and rather rare wines – at very fair prices! Unfortunately I cannot remember the sommelier’s name, but he is of Egyptian descent – which is quite rare: after all, I am writing about a hotel and restaurant in a Tirolian village! Once you know that he (and his wife) are Coptic Christians, you understand how it happens that someone like him has such a good understanding of wine. He is honest and curious, and we spent a few nice hours together talking about wine. It seems that so far he hasn’t had the chance to travel to any wine fairs himself, but instead must rely on a wine supplier or on personal acquisitions by the owner. Given these circumstances, it would be rather difficult to come up with a really unique or distinguished wine menu.
Overall, the owners of the Drei Sonnen are obviously open-minded; besides employing an Egyptian sommelier, they’ve also hired a professional Ayurveda therapist from India! A real multi-cultural team – this is very valuable – considering Austrian political narrow-mindedness and rightwing nationalistic tendencies.
Last but not least: Serfaus is a nice tourist town in the mountains, with a comfortable and very large ski resort. The village is free of private traffic, ideal for families with kids and it offers a plenty of alternatives. I should have used the week I was there to look for some other places.
Serfaus is located in Tirol, Austria.