Ski season regulars have kept its secrets to themselves for far too long. However with summer being the new winter in the Alps, the secret is out! This is our guide to gastronomy in the Austrian Alps with Lech Zürs am Arlberg as our focus.

 

Summer in the Austrian Alps!

Winter sports enthusiasts will be familiar with Lech Zürs am Arlberg, one of the world’s most exclusive ski regions located on Austria’s side of the Alps.

The twin villages of Lech and Zürs, together with other villages such as Stuben, St. Christoph and St. Anton, provide kilometres of deep powder snow and arguably some of the best off piste skiing in the world.

Hiking at Lünersee Lüner Lake near Bludenz Vorarlberg, Austria, by Christa Engstler

Photo credit: Hiking at Lünersee, near Bludenz in Vorarlberg by Christa Engstler, courtesy Vorarlberg Tourism

Off peak season (read: rock bottom prices!) is actually summer when the ‘White Ring’ gives way to lush green valleys framed by surreal mountain landscapes, many still capped with dustings of last winter’s snow. With miles of rural alpine goodness to explore, the off-pisters and A-listers are replaced by outdoor enthusiasts seeking to enjoy a range of activities including hiking, mountain biking, high-altitude golf, rock climbing and canyoning.

Although Austria may not rank as one of the world’s culinary hotspots, what Austrian food lacks in popularity, it certainly makes up for in character thanks (in part) to the gastronomy of the Alps. Lech Zürs am Arlberg was a great place to begin our learning.

 

Gastronomy rooted in history

Whether you are counting your Gault Millau points or Michelin stars, experiencing the gastronomy of any region is incomplete without exploring the ‘why’ behind the food and drink on offer.

Kässpätzle cheese dumplings by Michael Gunz courtesy Vorarlberg Tourism

Photo credit: Michael Gunz courtesy Vorarlberg Tourism

At 1,440 meters above sea level, Lech Zürs am Arlberg is administered under the province of Vorarlberg. Unlike the Tyrol province which is considered more Austrian in character, Vorarlberg has its own distinct cultural identity which is more aligned towards neighbouring Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Historically, the region was settled by the Walsers, a predominantly mountain people who were farmers, herdsmen and craftspeople that settled in the higher reaches of the Alps.

With little choice but to adapt to the often harsh conditions of the climate, they needed to produce everything locally to sustain their families through the long winter months. Identity, resilience and history are therefore the bedrock of the present day modernist gastronomy of the region.

From our experience, we share our gastronomic highlights below.

 

The Master Baker

Summer mornings in Vorarlberg are a joy to behold. Wake up to the sound of the rushing Lech River, the aroma of alpine flowers and mist rising slowly over the majestic mountain range sun-kissed by clear blue skies.

Pastries at the Backstube Lech Café courtesy Taylormade PR

Photo credit: Taylormade PR

The aroma of fresh baked bread seduces even the strongest to check out the Backstube Lech Café which serves pastries and coffee. Owned by master baker Clemens Walch, the café serves up products based on recipes developed and passed down through generations of the Walch family. In the winter, some of the bread is baked outdoors in a traditional wood fired oven adding some winter charm.

Pastries at the Backstube Lech Café

Clemens is recognised as the first non-Swiss baker to be accepted to the exclusive Guild of Lucerne. His bakery supplies bread to many local establishments and as far away as Vienna. The main bakery itself is located next door in the family run Hotel Gotthard which is owned by Clemens and his lovey wife Nicole. Our stay there meant we were spoiled for choice with a selection of tasty bread rolls for breakfast as well as other treats.

HDYTI bonus: (coming soon) Watch: How to make apfelstrudel (apple pastry).

 

Mountain Cheese

During our visit, we explored the beautiful mountain range surrounding Lech Zürs am Arlberg. With the assistance of an experienced hiking guide, we journeyed from the Lech village centre aiming to reach Bürstegg, an old Walser settlement by lunchtime.

Grazing Braunvieh mountain cow, Vorarlberg, Austria

Our exertions led us through pristine mountain scenery, eventually arriving at Bürstegg with our lungs bursting with fresh mountain air. The settlement itself is made up of the oldest farmhouse in Lech Zürs, a few outhouses and a tiny old chapel. The only other sign of life for miles was the odd Braunvieh mountain cattle dotting the glorious landscape.

Alpine snack of mountain cheese and meat by Dietmar Denger courtesy Vorarlberg Tourism

While Alpine transhumance (the cyclical winter to summer droving of livestock between the valleys and the high mountain pastures) may no longer be common practice, we were pleased to be presented with a platter of homemade mountain cheese (Bergkäse von der Alpe Batzen), bread and slices of cold meats.

The high altitude did nothing to dampen our ability to taste the rustic flavours which were accentuated by a shot of locally brewed schnapps.

HDYTI tip: Read about our full hiking experience here. During your visit, check out local farmer’s markets across the region.

 

Catch your own fish for lunch

Continuing with the outdoors theme, although landlocked, Vorarlberg is dotted with endless crystal clear streams, rivers and spectacular mountain lakes, many teeming with life. The local fish specialty is river trout. Licensed anglers looking for a unique summer fishing experience will be pleased to find many opportunities in this region.

Zug Fischerstüble Arlberg, Austria Alps

Following a picturesque forest walk from Lech to the neighbouring village of Zug, we visited Fischerstüble am Fischteich, a log-cabin style restaurant at the edge of the forest and owned by local chef, Andy Mittermayer. Located right next to a local fishing pond, visitors can catch their own trout and have them prepared at the restaurant.

By far the biggest catch however is the surrounding scenery at this dreamy hideaway. You can see the reflection of the mountains on the surface of the still, algae-rich pond while you feast on grilled trout, fresh vegetables and wine.

 

The Family Joint

After an afternoon visit to Lech’s brand new 9-hole golf course (highest altitude golf course in Austria), we headed to the Lecher Stube Restaurant at Hotel Gotthard to hang out with Werner and Sarah Müllner, the friendly couple who run the place. Their vision is to showcase quality ingredients and local produce from the area through their menu.

Lecher Stube, Hotel Gotthard, Lech, Austria

Within a warm environment reminiscent of a living room, you can choose from an á la carte menu of traditional Austrian cuisine and a small selection of more international dishes.

Lecher Stube, Hotel Gotthard, Lech, Austria

Traditional alpine food tends to be carb heavy, a reflection of the cold and long winters. However our choices of Frittaten oder Grießnockerlsuppe (clear soup with sliced pancakes) and Frisches Edelwallerfilet vom Grill (grilled fresh catfish fillet) were light and fresh and both dishes paired well with a light local beer.

 

The Cousin’s House

Remember the excitement you felt as a child when your parents allowed you to sleepover at your cousin’s house? You could eat, play and stay up all night (sometimes!). Well, we found Lech’s own version of the ‘cousin’s house’, full of spirit, village camaraderie and Gemütlichkeit.

Hûs Nr. 8 restaurant and bar in Lech, Vorarlberg, Austria

Our hosts, Clemens and Nicole Walch treated us to dinner at a restaurant called Hûs Nr. 8. This beautiful building with a sultry, dark-grey alpine wood finishing sits just across the street from Hotel Gotthard and is run by Christian Walch, Clemens’ cousin and his partner Erika.

Kässpätzle and Grostl, Austrian food

This very cosy family run restaurant is a beehive for local night life and great alpine cuisine. An atmospheric place for small group dining, guests can select from an á la carte menu or share platters of Kässpätzle (dumplings in melted mountain cheese) and Grostl (potatoes and black pudding).

Drinks are served till late…after all, it is ‘the cousin’s house!’

HDYTI Tip: Hûs Nr. 8 is very popular so advance bookings are advised.

HDYTI Tip: Fancy trying your cooking skills? See recipe for Käsespätzle here. Use Chef Watson for ideas.

 

Grabbing a drink or two…or three!

No gastronomic tour is complete without sampling the local booze. We have to thank the cold winters and crystal clear mountain water for the quality of beer and spirits on offer in Lech.

You can use your Lech card to take a cable car from Rüfiplatz to the top of Rüfikopf where you can grab a pint at Panorama Restaurant am Rüfikopf. At an altitude of 2,350 meters visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the beautiful Lech Zürs landscape.

Bergheu hay gin at Hotel Gotthard bar, Lech, Austria

In other news, the hills are alive with the taste of schnapps! Here they come in all flavours. Enzian schnapps (with its dirt-like taste) and Vogelbeer schnapps are an acquired taste.

Our favourite tipple was the Bergheu gin which we sampled at Hotel Gotthard bar. Served with real hay for added effect, it is literally gin infused with hay, citrus notes and herbs, perhaps a testimony to the Walser’s ability to infuse their habitat into their gastronomy.

 

Guten Appetit!

Cuisine in the Austrian Alps is all about connecting with nature through food and experiencing an interplay of flavours from the mountains, rivers, lakes, fauna and flora in every bite and sip.

Bakery products at Hotel Gotthard, Lech, Austria by Taylormade PR

Photo credit: Taylormade PR

Exploring the regional gastronomy is a recommended part of any itinerary for visitors to this region. We found that a morning run and a mountain hike are excellent ways to work up a good appetite!

 

Useful information

Lech Zürs has Austria’s highest concentration of award-winning establishments. For a full listing, visit the Lech Zürs Tourism. For general travel guidance, see infographic below. Also contact Vorarlberg State Tourism.

Lech Zürs am Arlberg Austria Infographic @DipYourToesIn

 

Pin This

Vorarlberg Cheese by Michael Gunz courtesy Vorarlberg Tourism

Co-Founders & Curators at HDYTI

Eulanda & Omo Osagiede are London-based freelance writers and award-winning social influencers who run the popular travel, food, and lifestyle blog HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).