I always enjoy flying into Innsbruck in the heart of the Tyrol, the descent is spectacular with the plane slowly descending into the valley, the mountains looming tall on both sides close enough to feel like you are just sitting in a cable car! Then there is the airport, fast and efficient, we were through passport control, luggage in hand, being welcomed by our chauffer all within 20 minutes. During our short journey we saw what I can only describe as Austrian farmers, many in Lederhosen, drinking beer whilst showing or selling goats! Oh how I love Austria… On arrival at the five star Relais & Châteaux Jagdhof Hotel we were warmly welcomed by Kai, the Front Of House Manager, who immediately showed us through the restaurant and out to the sunny terrace for a glass of Ruinart Champagne. What a way to travel! Just a morning taken up on travelling and we are already sipping Champagne under the beautiful Tyrolean Mountains with the Stubai Glacier off in the distance. Sitting there on the terrace in the sun it was a strange but magical juxtaposition, to be sipping champagne while looking at the snow clad mountains in the distance! It has to be said, skiing in late April really is one of my favourite pass times, one can appreciate the best of both worlds, with summer having arrived in the valley and winter still holding on tight high up amongst the glacial peaks.
I spent most of my early childhood skiing in Austria, so coming back to this country is always a pleasure, on this occasion the Jagdhof did not disappoint. Despite the fact that the Jagdhof has 70 rooms, suites and apartments, it still manages to feel cosy and warm with very traditional Tyrolean atmosphere and style. The main hotel was built and opened in 1977 by Leo and Margot Pfurtscheller, it is now run by Armin and Christina Pfurtscheller with their son Alban playing an integral role in the culinary excellence of the restaurants. With three generations of the family involved, it seems that hospitality is in the blood and one of the reasons that the Jagdhof is such an wonderful hotel.
After our delightful welcoming drink, we were chauffeured to the local Interski shop in Neustift, where they run a super slick and very friendly service. I think I can safely say it was also one of coolest Ski shops I have visited: spacious, modern with a fantastic selection of ski clothing and equipment for sale and rent. We were fully equipped and in no time at all we were back off to the hotel to be shown the suite that awaited us, and what a suite it was!
Our suite boasted a large living room, a comfy dining area, walk in wardrobe, bedroom and as for the bathroom, well this was big enough to swing a mountain lion what with its own sauna, walk in shower, double sinks and a bath big enough for a rugby team plus that mountain lion! The living room and bedroom both led onto the south-facing balcony with views up the valley to the Stubai Glacier. This would be our home for the next four nights, but secretly I was already wishing that I were moving in for good.
It was soon time to meet our hosts Armin and Christina Pfurtscheller for pre dinner drinks. Armin first approached us with his big smile and bright but traditional Austrian costume, he proudly welcomed us to his hotel. Shortly after Christina joined us, once again in traditional dress and a cheeky smile to go with it. It is clear why the Jagdhof feels so homely when run by such a fun, vibrant couple. After meeting the present owners we were then shown to the very Tyrolean ‘Hubertusstube’ restaurant decorated with eclectic antiques, fine traditional fabrics and hunting trophies. In this timeless setting we experienced gourmet delights such as Beef Tartar with truffle cream and cress, Parsnip Cream Soup with marinated Crayfish, duck with red cabbage and my particular favourite all you can eat buffet dessert!
The second night we were invited to eat the six course gourmet taster meal, with white table service and the head chef Albin Pfurtscheller serving and introducing the courses. All accompanied with live Tyrolean music playing in the background it certainly made for a night to remember. We experienced such delights as Foie Gras ‘two ways’ with truffle sauce, local caught Turbot tartar in white asparagus soup, seasoned scallops with tomato risotto, white wine foam reduction and pak choi, locally caught fillet of Stag with red cabbage and cauliflower panna cotta and a most delicious dessert of Creme Brulee Valharona Chocolate, Raspberry sorbet and fresh berries. Each course was accompanied by a perfectly selected and complimentary glass of Austrian wine from the cellar that, apart from getting us quite merry, really opened my eyes to the delightful variation and quality of wines coming out of Austria. The hotels’ 20,000 bottle cellar was built in an old nuclear bunker under the hotel and decorated with rare bricks from the K&K era and hand-painted tiles from the Mouton-Rothschild dynasty. I know where I am heading when the apocalypse comes!
On the third night we were very excited to experience the ‘Gondel’, the smallest restaurant in the Tyrol! With space for only six dinner guests, the Gondel is housed in a retired Gondola ski lift, which has been decorated with reclaimed Stubai spruce in a classic Tyrolean style with a coffered ceiling and alpine carvings throughout. You cannot help but grin from the moment you enter the cosy and intimate Gondel. Of course the only food one should serve in such a place is Fondue, and that was probably the best ‘Fundo’ (Sorry, could not resist) I have experienced in the alps. We had four different meats cooked in ‘Fondue Bourguignon’ a soup-type-broth that made the meat so much more tender and juicy that the usual oil. Of course the fondue experience would not be complete without… you guessed it, chocolate and fruit fondue to finish. This is one restaurant experience you should not miss; just make sure you book early, seats are not easy to come by!
Aside from the fantastic dinners at the Jagdhof, I cannot go without mentioning the breakfast. It is served from 7:00am to 11:00am with every breakfast food known to mankind. Pastries, breads, jams, honeys, meats, cereals, freshly ‘tailored’ cooked egg dishes to fresh fruit and vegetable juices, including the gluten free options, that myself and my partner required, followed by strong coffee or a glass of Dutch courage in the form of a Bucks Fizz, perfect preparation for a day skiing on the Stubai Glacier.
The Jagdhof bar, like the rest of the hotel was a very cosy affair too. The Bar feels like the heart of the hotel, with lots of alcoves to snuggle up in for the evening whilst listening to the live music and entertainment put on every night. The bar staff like all the staff at the Jagdhof could not be more inviting and friendly, we even helped them perfect the Espresso Martini which you must request when you visit. You will usually bump into a member of the Pfurtscheller family at the bar and share a drink or two or three. Whilst at the bar we met a few other guests who come back time and time again, to the point that they have now become friends of the hotel, I can see why.
Sadly the last day had come and it was time to return home, I can honestly say that I did not want to leave and we were very tempted to stay another night when it was offered. I have been to Neustift before in the summer and I enjoyed it then, but several things were different this time. Firstly, skiing on the Stubai Glacier really is fantastic and must be experienced by any level of skier, the Jagdhof runs hourly shuttles to and from the Glacier every day which makes getting on to the pistes smooth and stress free. Secondly, the Jagdhof hotel really made our stay in Neustift very special; I put this down to the people who built it and who work there, the friendly warm atmosphere of the hotel and Michelin standard culinary expertise coming from the kitchens. I can safely say that this is my new favourite place on the planet and as one very famous Austrian once said “I’ll be back”… hopefully very soon.
Hotel Jagdhof Pfurtscheller GmbH
6167 Neustift Stubaital