Autochthonous cooking and architecture
TEXT: Renate Breuß and Marina Hämmerle
Operating a restaurant in the mountainous Zugertal valley requires a great deal of passion. It’s impossible without it, says Gerold Schneider, leaseholder and landlord of the Klösterle, which occupies a 400-year-old building from the early settlement period of the Walser people. Its name and purpose both pay homage to the cultivation of an area whose beauty outshines most on this planet, stretching towards the Lechbach stream and the Formarinsee lake to the south. The valley belongs to the Klostertal municipal area, the Klösterle to an Alpine cooperative.
Since the 1980s, the Schneider family has run the house as a restaurant and inn. Gault Millau named it the Newcomer of the Year in 2021. This honour is the direct result of a persistent search for fresh and adventurous minds with a love for experimenting, which culminated in the recruitment of Jakob Zeller and Ethel Hoon. Both used to be on the team of Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson, who owned the famous Fäviken restaurant.
South Tyrol, Singapore, Sweden and Lech now constitute a conglomerate of experience that adheres to a culinary philosophy based on regional products. Evidence of this approach of seeing what the landscape and the local farmers have to offer is scattered throughout the house: you can see it fermenting in the jars of the culinary library, stored in the pantry facing the mountains, prepared on the tables. Help yourself to whatever appeals from the sizzling pans and hot bowls, share the food, take in the sheer pleasure of a meal in good company.
Food production thrives on local and personal knowledge, on curiosity and creativity, on craftsmanship and experience. Now, meet the main cast: rowan berries and an iceberg floating in a Negroni, a silky and mild sheep’s milk yoghurt drizzled with spruce tip syrup, a stunning Pavlova performing a drily trickling, softly brittle play of consistencies, a speckled trout painted blood red with beetroot, an Alpine spring roll garnished with Asian-inspired roast onions, a black lamb’s liver served on a bed of white vegetables (braised in whey) … truly, a feast for all the senses. Vegetarians, too, may rest assured that their health and their taste buds are in good hands here thanks to quality primary products grown with the utmost care.
Jakob and Ethel seek dialogue with their suppliers, with the weather and the season. Increasing farmers’ awareness for these qualities is a great and worthy challenge to them and, in their eyes, to politicians. Schneider views the Klösterle as a conducive environment for development. His acceptance of visionary ideas is a great boon to his kitchen team at the Almhof hotel.
Another unmissable treat for guests and locals hiking in the Zugertal valley is the Monday pop-up. Simple pizza from hand-kneaded dough, left to rise for at least 24 hours, or a ramen night with Alpine pork? Just another reason to start making your way to the cosy Klösterle, even if the little restaurant is a little further out than you would normally venture.