Famed for its fresh, farm-to-table cuisine, warm hospitality and stunning views of the Matterhorn, Chez Vrony is among the world’s elite mountain restaurants.
High in the mountains of Valais, an easy twenty minute walk downhill from the Sunnegga funicular station brings you to the charming hamlet of Findeln. Little more than a cluster of stilted chalets and a tiny chapel, this minuscule settlement above the charming town of Zermatt has garnered itself an international reputation for culinary excellence. And with good reason. A number of high quality restaurants cling to the cliff edge here, (some recommended by Michelin and Gault Millau), and whilst all are well regarded, none is more revered than Chez Vrony.
Named for its current owner Vrony Cotting-Julen this classic alpine eatery, more than 2000 metres above sea level, serves lovingly-prepared, rustic cuisine, carefully selected fine wines and arguably the best view in the region.
Constructed at the turn of the 20th century, the spartan farmhouse began it’s journey to iconic mountain restaurant when Veronica Julen - Vrony’s grandmother - opened up a tea house for passing hikers and winter sports enthusiasts in the 1920s. At that time, alpine tourism was in its infancy, Switzerland had became a favourite destination for adventurous, wealthy Brits keen to test themselves in the high peaks, and Zermatt - with its ease of access to the Matterhorn, was a magnet for mountaineers looking to take on the ultimate challenge. Although the tea house was a modest operation, making Veronica and husband Severin little more than a few extra francs per week as well as falling victim to unpredictable mountain weather on occasion, it laid a solid foundation for what was to come.
When Severin passed in the 1960s, it fell to his son August to manage the farm in Findeln. Realising the limitations of the old building, August set to work with renovations, extending the property outwards and upwards and making modernisations to the plumbing, etc, such that the old tea house started to resemble the restaurant we see today. And since August’s daughter Vrony - together with husband Max Cotting - took the helm in the mid-1990s, Chez Vrony has never looked back.
Today, in a town almost as famous for its foodie culture as for its majestic Matterhorn backdrop, Chez Vrony remains Zermatt’s most famous mountain restaurant. A favourite with tourists and locals, winter skiers and summer hikers, Hollywood celebrities, gourmets and wine lovers, this simple, stone farmhouse, perched on a precipice in the Swiss Alps, has become an institution for followers all over the world.
Thanks to the Sunnegga Express funicular, which whisks passengers from the valley floor to a sunny plateau 700 metres above town in just four and a half minutes, access to Chez Vrony and the other Findeln restaurants is somewhat less arduous today than it was in the 1920s. During the winter months, a blue run leads skiers right onto Vrony’s terrace, and non-skiers - with appropriate footwear - can navigate their way down from Sunnegga without too much difficulty. In summer, hikers stop here from either direction, whether passing through Findeln on route to Sunnegga, Blauherd or Rothorn, or on the downward journey to Zermatt. But however and from wherever you arrive, you’re assured a warm welcome from an amiable, professional and well-drilled staff most often led by Vrony, Max and their family.
Your first dilemma on entering Chez Vrony is where to sit. If you haven’t booked - and you probably should have, particularly in high season - that choice might be taken out of your hands, but if you’re lucky enough to pick your perch, its hard to resist the fleece-decked loungers and arresting view of the restaurant’s large sun-kissed terrace. Truth be told, you need to visit at least twice in order to experience dining on the terrace, and in the rustic interior rooms complete with handmade, cow-hide covered chairs and artwork by local craftspeople including Vrony’s brother, Heinz Julen.
Your second dilemma is what to eat. The menu changes with the season but comprises mostly traditional Swiss cuisine imbued with an international flavour, and a carefully curated wine list which champions native varieties and Italian grapes. Cured meats are a house speciality, and the iconic Vrony Burger with its perfectly cooked patty and secret sauce is an absolute must, but there are plenty of interesting dishes here deserving of your attention. Typically guests start with a platter of air-dried beef, alpine cheese, homemade sausage, pickles and bread. Something of a Valais staple, Vrony’s version is distinguished by its onsite preparation - this is after all one of few remaining restaurants to use its own organic produce from cattle grazed solely on alpine pastures. Popular food choices include classic Swiss dishes such as Fondue, Raclette and Rösti, locally reared veal and lamb, and homemade apple fritters with vanilla sauce.
The story of Chez Vrony is the story of Zermatt. As the town was transformed from obscure rural village on the Swiss Italian border, to internationally renowned year-round resort, so the restaurant grew from humble beginnings to widespread international acclaim and near celebrity status. But the charming thing here is that despite its success, irrespective of how many coffee cups or blankets are sold with the restaurant’s stylised logo, or how many five star reviews it gets on Trip Advisor, Chez Vrony remains true to its principles. Principles that begin with preparing natural cuisine from time-honoured recipes passed down through the generations. Principles that pay homage to the land. Principles that put family at the centre of everything they do.
So if you happen to find yourself a little peckish whilst wandering in the mountains above Zermatt, stop by Chez Vrony in the picturesque hamlet of Findeln for authentic Swiss cuisine, magical Matterhorn views and a light dusting of alpine chic. We guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Written by Lisa Rowlands
Lisa Rowlands is Vinorandum’s voice on Switzerland. With a passion for wine, food and travel journalism, as well as a growing affinity for German and Italian, Lisa is well placed to offer insight into this small but quality focussed country.
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