What do we think of when people mention Austria? I guess it will be a wealth of folksy images ranging from overhanging roofs, wooden balconies, to skiing and snow. All of the above are accurate visions of this country but there is still more. Austria isn’t just a winter wonderland for hardy sporting types; it’s a magnet for those who have an appreciation of the good things in life …and all year round.
Our diverted flight (no, don’t even ask) took us to Munich and we passed through a corner of Germany and then through a particularly beautiful part of Austria en route to the Rosengarten, a unique spot which is a destination in its own right. This is a place that has already carved a reputation for quality of accommodation, spa facilities and, above all, food.
The person presiding over this culinary kingdom is Simon Taxacher who has achieved so much. His style is undoubtedly contemporary but that is only one element that sets him apart from the majority of chefs, not only in Austria but throughout the world. It’s his flair, passion and technical skill combined with sympathy for his ingredients that allows him to present dishes that are memorable, visually stunning and always delicious.
Simon is not a man alone. Sandra, his wife, is Maître de Maison and is the front-of-house face of The Rosengarten. She has a background in hospitality and a dedicated commitment to the success of the hotel. I doubt that she has many complaints. The rooms and suites are furnished to 5-star standard. The bathroom toiletries are by Bulgari and the minibar contains the best of local and international goodies – all thoughtfully chosen to enhance your in-room haven.
Rosengarten Hotel Restaurant and Spa is on the edge of a classy village called Kirchberg. You will likely not have heard of that unless you are a skier but you will, I feel sure, have heard of Kitzbühel – a ski resort of the highest calibre frequented by the great and the good (well, at least those with a bit of cash). Kirchberg is just a few kilometres from that glitzy hub and is better value for money.
The village is traditional with all the wooden-housed, painted-plastered, mountain-backdropped charm that you would hope. It attracts the skiing fraternity in the snowy winter months as it has slopes for raw beginners, enthusiastic daredevils and through to those with a death wish. Thankfully they also have a sledge run for those like me who can’t naturally walk and whistle at the same time and who would probably already have had their skiing licence taken away, if there was such a thing. The snow had just arrived and there was a sense that Christmas would soon be upon us. The Christmas Market in Kitzbühel tempted with its stalls selling gluhwein and gingerbread.
Summer in Kirchberg is for those who want to use the ski lifts as transport to grassy hills for picnics. You will be able to enjoy breathtaking mountain views while you nibble your schinken. Clean air and a bit of unaccustomed exercise will ready you for a meal at Simon Taxacher’s Rosengarten Hotel Restaurant.
You will note that it’s called Rosengarten Hotel Restaurant and Spa, so don’t plan to have every day up a mountain or indulging in retail therapy. The spa offers a far less taxing form of therapy in relaxing treatment rooms, where one can be massaged and steamed and pampered and unwound till all you want to do is wrap yourself in a fluffy dressing gown and slippers and read a good book till your eyes slowly close and you dream that the world is a better place. This Rosengarten holiday destination might not have a beach, but that spa is a worthy competitor, and it’s open all year round whatever the weather.
There is one rather special room at the Rosengarten spa. It’s a retreat for couples, a private space with a Jacuzzi bath made for two, a couple of massage couches, and a romantic nook in which to relax in calming solitude. A glass of champagne and some fruit complete the experience.
The Rosengarten hotel and restaurants have already been noticed by Relais & Châteaux, an organisation which seeks out quality, searches for the superb and celebrates the sublime. They have just invited The Rosengarten to be part of its number, and the group includes some of the best chefs and restaurants not just in Europe but the World. Be assured that those who are listed are exceptional in every regard. That gold fleur de lys on The Rosengarten wall is a badge of honour that is worn with pride.
But it’s the food that is the cornerstone of this establishment. We enjoyed our first meal in the bistro. A simple and short menu was nevertheless stunning. We started with a carpaccio of beef and then a pumpkin soup which was an outstanding example of its genre. I was then presented with the best ravioli dish I have ever had: paper-thin filled pasta in a light and flavourful velouté. I could understand the reason for the regard in which Simon Taxacher is held and I complimented him the next day. “Oh, that’s just the ordinary restaurant fare,” he told me. A meal at the Taxacher gourmet restaurant was bound to be a stunner …and it was.
We were invited to attend a Gala Dinner to celebrate the Relais & Châteaux accolade, a formal meal for 80 or so food and hospitality worthies …and me. Simon charmed us with his customary culinary artistry, flair and imagination. Course after course arrived with its associated wine, each chosen to complement the various fish, fowl or game. If this food was music it would be baroque with all the trills, swirls and twiddly bits. If this food was fabric it would be a tapestry of rich colour and texture – complex yet not a stitch out of place. If this food was mathematics then each element would combine to be more than the sum of its parts.
There is a natural flow at Relais & Châteaux Rosengarten. The quality starts at the top, in the Cookery School and its private dining area (more of that in future), and cascades down through those sumptuous rooms, drifting through both restaurants and down to the spa. Each floor is bathed in comfort and charm and punctuated with a little culinary excitement along the way. It is indeed worthy of that gold emblem.
The Relais & Châteaux Rosengarten is located in the picturesque village of Kirchberg, just 7km away from Kitzbühel, with the renowned sports mountain Gaisberg on the doorstep.
26 Rooms and Suites
Bistro Rosengarten Light
Piano Bar & Smoking Lounge
Private Dining and Cookery School Studio on the top floor
2012 – Member of Relais & Châteaux and Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux
Relais & Châteaux Rosengarten
Phone: +43 5357 4201, Fax +43 5357 4201 50.
Visit The Relais & Châteaux Rosengarten here
Hotel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018