Rob Spellman heads to Ischgl Austria, noted for its ski-soaked partying, in Summer and discovers a culinary treat worthy of many a Michelin star along the Jakobsweg.

Even a simple hike can’t escape the hedonism this part of the world is infamous for. It is summer in Ischgl, the west Tyrolean resort often referred to as the “Ibiza of the Alps” down to its hard partying during ski season, but glancing up now you’d think butter wouldn’t melt on the vast green Alps of the Paznaun Valley in which the pretty little town sits.

Starting at St Nicholas church in Ischgl, our group sets off on a westerly seven-mile walk to lunch through the Fimba Valley towards the Austria-Switzerland border. But this will be no baguette-and-beer affair. At the Heidelberger lodge, a stop-off for walkers at 2,264 metres and just within Swiss terrain, five Michelin-starred chefs are busy at their stoves. Exercised and hungry, we will be met by the peculiar sight of them dressed in traditional chef’s whites, cooking outside against the majestic Silvretta mountains.

Hiking in Ischgl
Hiking in Ischgl, c. TVB Paznaun-Ischgl

The gourmets – France’s Jean-George Klein, Austria’s Paul Ivic, Tristan Brandt from Germany, James Knappett from the UK and the Netherlands’ Onno Kokmeijer – are launching this year’s Culinary St Jacob’s Way (or Jakobsweg), a scheme launched in 2008 that attracts world-class chefs to the Paznaun region.

Culinary Jakobsweg, Ischgl

Each chef is stationed at a lodge where they create a dish based on local ingredients and the plate remains on the menu throughout the summer season. The trek to the five eateries is loosely based on the ancient northern routes of The Camino de Santiago to Santiago do Compestela, a playful homage to the tastebuds.

The spectacular walk to Heidelberger lodge takes the hiker through three Alpine regions: Bodenalp, Gampen Alp and Fimba Alp. This is a notably lush area, and the valley floor wide. All you’ll hear is the low tinkle of cowbells, and you might even spot a marmot or two.

James Knappett
James Knappett plates up for Jakobsweg (c) TVB Paznaun – Ischgl

We find all the dishes to be sumptuous. The resident chef at Heidelberger is Tristan Brandt, whose veal cheeks with sweet potato and ginger will be feeding walkers and mountain bikers throughout the season. However, my favourites were Paul Ivic’s vegetarian wonder cheese mash from Fissed barely braised leek and pear vinaigrette, and James Knappett’s fallow deer with celery puree and plum-soaked tea and 100% chocolate.

For Vegetarians and Carnivores

Ivic has set such giddy standards in vegetarian cuisine that his TIAN restaurant in Vienna became the first non-meat eatery to receive a Michelin star. To sample this mouth-watering hodgepodge of dairy, fungi and fruit for Culinary St Jacob’s Way, you must make for the Friedrichshafener lodge, a natural-stone inn located at 2,151 metres at the Verwall Alps.

Dishing up a culinary treat for Jakobsweg (c) TVB Paznaun-Ischgl
Dishing up a culinary treat for Jakobsweg (c) TVB Paznaun-Ischgl

Knappett’s rich, meaty extravagance is the star dish at the Almstuberl lodge. To reach Almstuberl, take the Diasbahn cable car from Kappl to an altitude of 1,800 metres, before an agreeable hike up Alpine meadowland to the lodge. The Almstuberl is close to the Sunny Mountain Adventure Park and the Dias Almmuseum which offers herb and cheese tours. If you stay only one night in Ischgl, you’ll receive a Silvretta Card which provides free use of Alpine transport and access to museums.

A dish sure to have you drooling like Hannibal Lecter is Onno Kokmeijer’s Wagyu short rib with shallots, salted lemon and Trappeur spice. To sample this plate, you must visit the two-star Michelin chef at the Ascher lodge. Sitting at 2,256 metres and above the village of See, the seven-mile journey up takes in a waterfall, and on reaching the lodge you’ve unrivalled views of Rotpleiskopf which stands at 2,936 metres.

Jamtal lodge and Stuva restaurant

Another Culinary St Jacob’s Way venue with killer views is Jamtal lodge where chef Jean-Georges Klein awaits you with his savoury Alsatian tarte flambe. The hut sits at 2,165 metres in a high valley that extends from Galtuer in the south to the glaciers and is surrounded by the Silvretta’s highest peaks such as the Fluchthorn. There are also terrific views of the Jamtal glacier and its neighbouring peaks.

James Knappett’s dish for Jakobsweg (c) TVB Paznaun – Ischgl

One culinary star for 2019 is Ischgl resident Benjamin Parth, a 30-year-old gourmet who has been voted Austria’s Chef of The Year (the Gault & Millau award). Parth is based at The Stuva restaurant at the Hotel YSCLA in Ischgl, a chic space of fossil-coloured wood and cosy chalet lighting. The winter sports concept of the interior ends at his tasting menus, where delicate portions of turbot, Danube salmon and veal come with a beguiling density of flavours.

The Ischgl ski season begins in late November with its strip bars, drunken singalongs and nightclubbing. But for now it’s all about Culinary Jakobsweg, where the body’s pleasure centre is the palate.


Cover photo: Michelin-starred chefs for Jakobsweg in Ischgl (c) TVB Paznaun-Ischgl

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