Interview with Chef David Wagger

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Hirsch2 Brioche, Kerbelknolle, Karottenmousseline, Maulbeerenglace Venison2 Brioche, cervil root, carrots mousseline, glaze of mulberry; Hotel Gasthof Post, Familie Moosbrugger, Lech am Arlberg, Österreich

As a lover of fine food one of the greatest pleasures in my life is meeting the masters in the art of culinary. The best dishes, I’ve experienced, have always been those which reflect the personality of the chefs who create them. 

Chef David Wagger, from The Gasthof Post, is the latest to head the kitchens at Hotel Post Lech, Austria. With a younger, innovative approach to cooking and a perfect background in Austrian cuisine it’s an exciting appointment for guests. The five star hotel, with 46 rooms ranging from single rooms to chalets, is a surely an exciting place to make a mark given that the region has the highest density of gourmet restaurants in the world. Post is also part of the select group of hotels which belong to Relais & Châteaux founded in 1952. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Chef Wagger to chew over (ha!) all things culinary for the upcoming season. Read on to find out what we talked about. 

GTW: What do you find most exciting about cooking here in Post at Lech?

Different restaurants and menus we offer at the Post from the ever changing half board menu to the a la carte menu and my two special gourmet menus in the Jägerstube.

GTW: Postblick in particular looks like an incredible setting for your food. How inspired were you by your surroundings when you created the new menu?

DW: The Post is a very traditional Austrian hotel and has the personal touch of the family in management. It was and still is very inspiring to me to create dishes that combine tradition with modernity.

GTW:  Have you been surprised by the positive reaction to your appointment here at Lech as a young chef

DW: The level of culinary is very high in Lech. Lech has the highest density of gourmet restaurants in the world so the competition is very strong. Therefore, it’s a real challenge to raise the standards. The greatest joy is when I receive positive feedback from our guests and also from other chefs in Lech.

GTW: What’s the focus on your menu in terms of flavour? What would you say are the best examples of this on your menu?

DW: As mentioned before I like to combine tradition with new and modern aspects so a lot of my creations combine the Austrian kitchen with the Mediterranean kitchen. I really like the taste of tomato and basil.

GTW: Lech attracts a group of varied international guests so how do people who’ve never experienced Austrian cuisine react to it?

DW: Those not familiar with the Austrian kitchen are surprised by the variety of flavour and just after a few bites they are already fans! Especially the classics like the Wiener
Schnitzel or the Kaiserschmarrn; they are very popular among our guests.

GTW: What do those acquainted with your cookery make of it?

DW: My two gourmet menus are all my personal creations and interpretations. One of my personal highlights is the white tomato soup served with a scallop. They are what I would always bring to a dish.

GTW: What are you most looking forward to showcasing over the coming festive and ski season?

DW: This year I am very much looking forward to our special New Year’s Eve gala dinner. In particular I am very excited to serve the ibex consommé from our own hunt with cranberry ravioli and small curd dumplings.

GTW: That sounds delicious! Finally, where do you stand on the quail versus veal debate? 

DW: I would not put them against each other as they work very well together. You can see in our gourmet restaurant how we combine quail and veal with rosemary polenta soufflé and kohlrabi.

 

Post Lech opens for winter from 30th November to 22 April 2019 and for summer between 21 June – 30 September 2019. For bookings and more information on gourmet dining at Post visit: www.postlech.com

 

Castello Del Nero Hotel and Spa – Review

October is my favourite time of year to visit Italy. The weather is milder, the air cooler and this year I was going to Tuscany. I was a guest of Castello Del Nero Hotel and Spa in Tavarnelle Val de Pesa. I’d been longing to be here for almost a year and counted down the days as a child would towards Christmas. Read on for my review of this heritage hotel and spa.

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History

12th century Florence, a private family chapel, a grand Italian garden and an estate spanning the horizon of the famed rolling hills of Tuscany. This is the setting of magnificent Castello Del Nero Hotel and Spa. To walk through its doors is to become a part of its illustrious history. It’s the story of two Florentine aristocratic families who lived, breathed, loved and left their legacies behind: Del Nero and Torrigiani.

Wherever you may find yourself on this 750 acre, elegant estate you’ll be but a breath away from its rich past. Vaulted ceilings, original frescoes and raging fireplaces yearning to bestow the heritage of its ancestors. As it was for me, for you too, it will be futile to resist the draw of Castello Del Nero’s history. You will simply surrender to it.

The Hotel

This castle of noblemen, which has evolved into its new life as a luxurious hotel, is extraordinary. 50 rooms and suites span across the castle and farm buildings. The nobleman’s floor offers its most exclusive suite, named after Sir James Galway, with unparalleled views from a private terrace. The terrace dates back to the origins of the castle; a rare addition indicating that this has always been a safe haven.

The rooms and suites with original frescoes have been painstakingly restored under the guidance of the Italian Fine Arts Commission. Walls are painted with marble dust mixed paint making them soft as silk to the touch. Roll top baths sit on stone floors ready to be filled with the warm lather of lavender, sage and salt which fill the air with the scent of the surrounding hills.

It is little wonder then that Castello Del Nero Hotel and Spa has an array of awards and accolades won over the last 11 years celebrating its heritage, cuisine and spa. Needless to say that this hotel is part of the prestigious collection curated under The Leading Hotels of the World.

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Accommodation

Each room or suite in the castle is unique making every stay a new experience for returning patrons. 12 suites have hand-carved four poster double beds, inspired by an original, found in a stable during renovation. Silky white monogrammed sheets and pillows contribute to the best sleep you could possibly imagine.

My suite consisted of a separate living and dining room, double bedroom and a bathroom twice as spacious as the bedroom. Neutral soft mint against white accents highlighted with flecks of gold made for a breathlessly serene space which I didn’t want to tear myself away from. Deep, soft towels and the ethereal feeling of simply being in a castle is one I can only describe as my most enchanting experience this year.

At the end of each evening a discreet turn-down service, the silence of the hills and the warm luxury of my suite effortlessly disconnected me from the outside world. I sunk in to my bed and a restful night of sleep on both nights of my visit.

Facilities

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Dining

Michelin-starred La Torre Restaurant, under the stewardship of  Executive Chef Giovanni Luca Di Pirro, serves a magnificent menu consisting of seasonal produce; some grown on the estate by the Chef himself. Breakfast is always served at La Torre with the unforgettable view of cypress trees and hills being gently caressed by a morning sun. I sat mesmerised by the view longer than I’d thought possible.

La Taverna poolside restaurant remains open from midday until 18.00 serving a relaxed menu of pizza and sandwiches as well as main dishes of fish and meat. My lasagna with beef ragout served here was wonderful with a distinctly Tuscan flavour recognisable by chunks of soft meat cooked in herbs. When you dine here don’t miss the Torta della Nonna which translates to grandmother’s cake. It’s served with custard cream and fior di panna ice cream; Italian home-cooking at its best.

Head to The Bar, after dinner for a night cap, which serves Champagne, cocktails and an array of wines from the castle’s own cellar which boasts over 1000 labels. The Bar is set in what was the original kitchen of the castle. The sinks, hearth and food lifts which serviced the noble floor remain perfectly preserved from its heyday.

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Spa

In keeping with Florentine tradition the castle offers an indulgent spa with ESPA treatments and plunge pool. The relaxed treatment rooms offer signature experiences of facial and body treatments as well as massages. A holistic approach to wellness offers hot stone massage and rejuvenating natural therapies. If you wish simply to experience the plunge pool or sauna you are required to wear swimwear.

Pool and tennis courts

The open-air pool sits in the garden beneath the hotel’s vast terrace. Set amongst the olive groves it’s 25 meters of gleaming warm water served by pool staff. Two tennis courts which are flood-lit for the evening are supplied with rackets and balls. Should you wish to book private lessons this is also possible and maybe arranged with the concierge.

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The Estate

Legend has it that Marquise Teresa Del Nero commissioned a path through cypress trees allowing her a shaded, private route to the woodland next to the castle. The path remains to this day should you choose to follow in the Marquise’s footsteps. It’s a beautiful, gentle walk and far less challenging than the other hiking routes around the estate.

On a final note, I must add, that the castle produces its own wine and extra virgin olive oil. They are used in the restaurant’s kitchen as well as the spa’s signature treatments. As of this year it has also harvested honey from its own hives. The unmistakable lavender notes in the honey is a fitting addition to its repertoire of fine food and wine.

Tuscany has remained one of the most captivating regions of Italy since time immemorial. Castello Del Nero only reinforces this allure. It sits nestled in a picture-perfect landscape only 25 kilometres from historic Florence, 35 kilometres from Siena and 20 kilometres from San Gimignano. The hotel has a free shuttle service on alternate days to Siena and Florence which can be pre-booked via the concierge service. Add to this mix informed staff, most of whom have remained with the hotel since the beginning, with unparalleled local knowledge and a passion for the castle’s heritage and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better experience in Tuscany. I travelled alone and not for a moment did I feel it. It felt as though I’d returned home albeit a rather more magnificent one than I could remember.

 

 

I was a guest of Castello Del Nero Hotel and Spa. Opinions expressed are my own. Enjoy a festive three night’s New Year’s Eve stay package from €740 per night. For more information visit: www.castellodelnero.com

 

 

13 reasons to visit Lisbon in November

It’s happened; we’ve put the clocks back. The days are shorter, we have fewer hours of daylight and it’s officially winter. It also feels as though someone’s put the temperature back along with the clocks. As the mercury heads towards zero we inevitably start thinking about sunnier shores; who can blame us? Still, not everyone wants the long-haul. So where should we go for a little blue sky? How about the sunniest capital in Europe? Yep, Lisbon. Here are 13 reasons to visit Lisbon in November.

It’s the sunniest capital city in Europe

Let’s get this out of the way; Lisbon is Europe’s sunniest capital enjoying a staggering 2,799 hours of sunshine per year. This number of sunny hours beats all other capital cities on the continent. It also means you’re likely to catch some rays later in the year.

Low cost flights

There are a number of operators offering low cost flights to Lisbon from most UK airports. Depending on the time of year online travel operators offer deals from as little as £44 from London to Lisbon one-way.

Short flight time

With an average flight time of around two and a half hours trading off comfort for a no-frills journey won’t matter. You’ll arrive in less time than it takes to cross London during rush hour. Put your headphones on, get comfortable and enjoy the short journey.

Public transport is convenient and inexpensive

Lisbon airport is only seven kilometers from the city centre. Wherever you choose to stay the journey time is unlikely to be more than 25 minutes by Metro. Trains leave every few minutes but you may need to change lines.

Buy a Viva Viagem card which costs €0.50 from the ticket machines and top it up. Your single journey from the airport to the city centre costs just €1.40. Given that this is also quicker than taking a taxi it’s an easy decision to make. If you plan to use public transport for the rest of your stay a daily pass is just €6.30. It allows you to make unlimited journeys for 24 hours on all public transport including ferries, tram, funiculars and buses as well as the Metro.

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Trams

Lisbon’s trams are quite spectacular. I’ll never forget my first tram; think Laura Dern in Jurassic Park (2013) when she sees a dinosaur for the first time. Bear in mind that there are also modern trams in  the city. The classic Remodelados are mainly yellow and rattle and screech through the winding cobbled streets of Lisbon. Route E28 which crosses the Alfama district is the most scenic and a wonderful way to see Lisbon. The trams run from 6am to 10.30pm hourly. Latest time tables can be found here to Campo Ourique and here to Martim Moniz.

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Funiculars

Whilst Lisbon’s trams are icons of the city its funiculars are less well known. Lisbon was built on seven hills and the funiculars were introduced in the late 19th century to make them a little more manageable. There are three funiculars and one lift: Ascensor da Bica, Ascensor da Glória, Ascensor do Lavra and Elevador de Santa Justa.

For great views of the city, against the backdrop of River Tagus, Ascensor da Bica is considered the most picturesque ride. It climbs one of the steepest hills and crosses the quaint area of Bica district. Best of all, funiculars are part of the public transport network so the Viva Viagem card is accepted on them.

One of the world’s oldest cities

I was surprised to learn that Lisbon predates ancient cities like Rome, London and Paris by centuries. You can feel history seeping out of the cobbles when you walk on them; dramatic but true. Alfama is the oldest district first inhabited by fishermen and the poor. The Moorish Castle of São Jorge is found here as is Lisbon Cathedral. Take a walk amongst the old houses and new restaurants in Alfama and listen to the familiar sounds of the Fado filling up the evening.

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Pastéis de nata

The Guardian ranked pastéis of Belém the 15th tastiest delicacy in the world. The 18th century Monastery of JeróNimos in the parish of Santa Maria de Belém is where it all began. A revolution in 1820 caused religious orders to be gradually shut down. In Belém, some monks started to sell pastéis at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in an income. When that monastery too was forced to close, in 1837, the recipe was sold to the refinery. They duly opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém in the same year. Their descendants still own the business. You really don’t want to miss this one. Lisbon bakes 10,000 pastéis a day.

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Street Cafes

We’ve established that this is the sunniest capital in Europe. So it would follow that al fresco dining is popular. From coffee shops serving Portuguese coffee to bakeries filled with every sin imaginable, Lisbon loves cafe life. Doors wide open to busy streets send the aroma of the sweetest treats wafting out. Lisbon’s streets are lined with cafes. You’ll be spoilt for choice with places to eat and drink whilst sight-seeing.

Fine Dining

If cafe culture doesn’t suit you’ll be pleased to know that the city has a growing reputation for fine dining. Suba restaurant at Verride Palacio Santa Catarina hotel, headed by Chef Bruno Carvalho, is a real gem. With an express Executive Menu for lunch time diners and a more extensive a la carte menu for the evening it’s a credit to Lisbon. Expect innovative cuisine such as cauliflower cappuccino mixed with traditional dishes such as goat stew all presented with Michelin-worthy flair.

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Street art

It’s remarkable how the city has embraced its street art and artists. Trams, funiculars, walls and shop fronts are often covered in artistic graffiti. However, instead of painting over, as most city authorities would, Lisbon has embraced its street art making it a unique meeting of past and present. It’s not uncommon  to find residential streets with historic buildings adorned with colourful street art.

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Sleep in a palace

Lisbon has made a swift move from being a low-cost European city break to one of unparalleled luxury. Hotel Verride Palácio Santa Catarina, for example, has swept the board this year with luxury accolades ranging from inclusion in the Condé Naste Traveller Hot List, a nomination for the World Luxury Hotel Award and making the shortlist of Wallpaper magazine’s Urban Hotels awards. Visit in November and you’re more likely to get a chance at booking their Royal Suite which is an ethereal dream.

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Rooftop bars with views

Given that this is a city built on seven hills the rooftops of Lisbon offer spectacular views over the city. Most hotels take advantage of this and offer rooftop bars to rival each other. Verride Palacio Santa Catarina hotel has the highest point with 360 degree views in the neighbourhood of Santa Catarina. Their Happy Hour on Thursdays and Fridays are legendary and attracts Lisbon’s hippest crowd. Never fear dipping temperatures as the bar here has a roof and outdoor heating.

 

 

I was a guest of Verride Palácio Hotel located at: Rua de Santa Catarina nº 1, 1200-401 Lisboa.

Ten reasons why you must never leave Munich without visiting the English Garden

Not many places can boast an urban space twice the size of Central Park, New York. Yet, Munich’s famous Englischer Garten or English Garden dwarfs both Central Park and Hyde Park, London in size. It occupies an area of 1.4 square miles from mid-town to city limits.

English Garden gets its name from the informal garden landscape style that was popular in Britain around the mid 18th – 19th century. It’s easy to see why on a summer’s day over 100 000 people flock to the park; woodland and meadows, a network of wide paths, plenty of places to picnic and an ice cold stream running through it makes it an easy choice for city-dwellers to relax and unwind. I spent a day here taking in the scenery, getting lost and generally being an absolute tourist. I highly recommend it. Here are ten reasons why you must never leave Munich without visiting the English Garden.

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1. You can ride an artificial wave

There’s an artificial wave where surfers can line up along the bank and wait their turn. You need to be an expert or skilled surfer as the current can be strong and there are metal poles under the stream.

2. Go with the tide on the Eisbach

The Eisbach or ice brook is a man-made river which flows through the park. Although swimming in the brook is not allowed it’s not a rule that’s enforced strictly. On any day swimmers brave the chilly water and let the natural tide carry them along the brook. It’s a pretty cool thing to do on a summer’s day in particular and you will see hordes of teenagers gliding along the brook.

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3. Almost everyone rides a bike and there are plenty of spaces to park one

One of the most noticeable things in Munich is that almost everyone rides a bike. So there are bike stops everywhere. If you’re peckish and want to stop for lunch you can park your bike next to your table and relax.

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4. There’s a rose garden

English Garden has a rose garden and it’s as beautiful as it sounds. As well as perfectly manicured flower beds there is an arched pavilion with seats, right in the middle, for eating your lunch surrounded by roses.

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5. Goldene Bar serves up a mean grapefruit lemonade

The Goldene Bar is a super cool cafe and restaurant which sits behind Haus der Kunst. It has a terrace overlooking the park. They serve a mean cold grapefruit lemonade and a fabulous cup of coffee with cake.

6. You can drink tea in a Japanese tea house

The Japanese tea house inside the park was built in 1972 to celebrate the Olympics in Munich that year. A traditional Japanese tea ceremony takes place here regularly. However, you will need to check opening hours outside summer months as it was closed when I was there.

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7. Eat local at Seehaus Restaurant

Seehaus restaurant inside the park is set in the most idyllic setting with views across the lake. It’s cosy and gorgeous and has outdoor seating as well as more formal dining inside. The menu is pretty incredible and suited for celebrating a special occasion. I had the charred Bavarian salmon in elderflower oil. Delicious!

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8. There’s a five-storey Chinese Tower

The Chinesischer Turm, or Chinese Tower, inspired by the Great Pagoda in Kew Gardens, London was first constructed in 1789 to 1790 . It has five storeys and a beer garden with 7000 seats. It’s still only the second largest beer garden in Munich. Come here during summer and it’s Oktoberfest in the sun.

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9. There’s an old toilet converted into an ice cream shop

Fraulein Grüneis is, wait for it…a public toilet converted into a quaint ice cream shop. It’s become one of the most popular meeting places in the park and all of Munich. You can buy anything from pretzels to penny sweets here.

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10. There’s a Greek style temple on a mount

Monopteros or Apollo Temple is a 16 meter high Greek style temple built in 1832 on a small hill within the park. It was designed by Leo von Klenze and is complete with polychrome stone paintings. As much as its historic value the elevated position offers a stunning view of the sunset over Munich. Rumour has it that it’s a favourite with lovers.

 

 

 

 

English Garden: