Classy ski village in Switzerland
24 January 2019
Renewed design, great food, and a shuttle bus to whisk adventurers in no time to the piste. Experimental Chalet in Verbier will spoil you silly.
Verbier is a classy ski resort in the Swiss Alps. Loved by skiers who want to go exploring. In the area ‘Les 4 Vallees’, at least 410 kilometers of piste is available. The descent of the Mont-Fort (3,300 meters) is one of the highlights for advanced skiers. It might just happen you get passed by a member of the British royal family, because they, like entrepreneur Richard Branson and singer James Blunt, have their own chalet over there. Although Verbier is known for its exclusivity, there is little boasting. No Louis Vuitton and Chanel boutiques, no ladies in fur coats, no flashy cars, but a W Hotel, chosen as World’s Best Ski Hotel.
The Experimental Group has been founded by youth friends, who saw nice cocktail bars all over the world, except for in their home town Paris. So, in 2007, they decided to open their first bar. Twelve years later, they not only have bars, restaurants, and hotels in their home town, but also in New York, London, and Ibiza, and soon also in Venice and Menorca. Pierre-Charles Cros is one of the founders. He already went skiing in Verbier as a child. When the owner of après-ski club Farm Club wanted to sell his chalet, The Experimental Group saw this as an opportunity to open their first winter escape.
They had six months to give the hotel, restaurant, and the bar a make-over. For their other hotels – Grand Pigalle Hotel, Henrietta Hotel, Hotel des Grands Boulevards – they worked with designer Dorothee Meilichzon. This time they choose for the Italian Fabrizio Casiraghi, who you may know from his work of Claus in Paris, or beach club Ftelia in Mykonos. For this design, he went back to his youth in Tirol and combined that with influences from the Bauhaus period and the fifties.
At the table in the restaurant, the designer points at the lamps from the Bauhaus period. ‘Just like the lamp on the table in your bedroom.’ He tells about the edelweiss print on the carpet in the room – a hint to his time in Tirol – and about his search for months for the old-fashioned paintings of the Swiss landscape. When I inform about the illustrations of leaves all around the entire restaurant, a smile lights up his face. ‘They come from an enormous herbarium. Because we had nothing for the walls yet, we cut out page after page, framed them, and put them on the wall.’
In the same restaurant we have a view of the open kitchen. Chef Alexander Larrea worked at the Experimental Beach Club in Ibiza before he was invited by Gregory Marchand of Frenchie in Paris for an apprenticeship to perfect the dishes on the menu of Experimental Chalet. The result is a menu of great dishes full of local ingredients. Think of vegetarian cauliflower soup or a Cavatelli, a vegetarian pasta with Vin Jaune, Swiss cheese, and mushrooms. Of course, there are also fish and meat dishes on the menu. Absolutely do not forget to order the Frenchie Bannofee, a signature dessert of Frenchie with banana and caramel.
Experimental Chalet is not solely for hotel guests: the intention is that the guests will mix with tourists and locals. That is possible in the restaurant, but also in the bar on the second floor. A warm fire is cracking, and the guests are, sometimes still in ski-uniform, drinking wine. The bartender is mixing various cocktails and it is clear which two are the most popular. The St. Germain, with gin, liquor St Germain, elderflower cordial, and cucumber juice, and Le Chalet, a lovely cocktail for women, with champagne, pear liquor, and vodka. The bar has a DJ, but if you want to party all night long, you can go to the Farm Club, or one of the other clubs in Verbier.
The hotel has 39 rooms, all in the same warm red/green color palette. If you imagine being in a metropolis, you will believe it. Only, when you open the terrace doors, you look out over the village with the mountains in the background. Remarkable in the room is the edelweiss print on the carpet, the statue of a deer on the headboard, and a well-stocked minibar, including a hip flask you can take to the mountains. The illustrated logo of the hotel is visible everywhere: on the hip flask, on the bathrobes, and on the sweaters of the staff. The hotel also has a spa with a sauna, Hamman, jacuzzi, and treatment rooms.
Experimental Chalet is an address for lovers of great food, good cocktails, and a remarkable design. But, these ingredients apply to all over the world. What makes this hotel special is the adventurous/sporty character of the number of pistes all around. Do not expect dressed up, selfie-making people dressed according to the latest ski fashion (although the staff is inspiring with their Fusalp outfits), because the guests here really love skiing.
Starting at 250 euro per night, experimentalchalet.com
For more recommendations in Switzerland, check out Petite Passport Magazine #01
Rte de Verbier Station 55, 1936 Verbier, Switzerland