I knew that our visit to The Cambrian was going to be special as I flicked through the Evening Standard on the easyJet flight to Zurich and chanced upon a listing of the hottest Alpine hotels for this winter. The Cambrian in the Swiss resort of Adelboden topped the list and provoked one of those wonderful moments of feeling that I was in the right place at the right time.
Adelboden is a substantial but picture postcard Swiss resort located more or less equidistant from Geneva and Zurich. As the name implies, it is in the German speaking part, but the locals seem to slip effortlessly back and forth between Swiss German, proper German (of the kind l recognise from O level c1980), French and excellent English – in a way that is a mystery to anyone brought up in Britain. And all with that lovely Swiss charm and good manners.
The main street of the village is charming and compact, and at one end, near to the Poste, sits The Cambrian with the very best views in town. Previously known as the Grand Hotel Regina and dating back to the 19th century, it was entirely renovated and reopened in 2007 by its Welsh owner (the word Cambria being the Latin for Wales), and is now unquestionably the most chic address in Adelboden.
The welcome is warm, the décor a fusion of Swiss tradition and ultra-modern. And it works. The rooms are spacious and fairly minimal, but with touches of warmth such as the embroidered cows on the cushions, bed linen of what felt like a 4 figure thread count, and tasteful gifts of chocolates and fruit make the interior feel truly luxurious.
The views from the bedroom window can only be done justice by experiencing them – a perfect vista of glistening Alpine peaks, beneath which the Men’s World Cup downhill run can be easily spotted and mentally noted as one for later.
But first to breakfast, and nothing to disappoint in the quality and choice of the buffet, service and naturally a window seat to further whet the appetite to get outside and explore. The dining room is a perfect place to enjoy the early morning sun, or if you prefer you can step out onto the terrace and inhale the mountain air.
An easy flat walk through the main street to the lift station and then a double cable car arrangement which goes down to the main departure point (Oey cable car), from which the majority of the skiing can be accessed. Fabulous weather and spring snow were the icing on the cake for two superb days during which time much of the skiarea can easily be covered. Naturally this included the aforementioned Men’s downhill run, though I doubt Marcel Hirscher (winner of the 2014 race in just over 52 seconds) will be quaking in his boots at the somewhat gentler route taken down by the tourists. Just standing in the starting box and looking out at the route ahead is enough to confirm why most of us will never make downhill racers!
Worth a detour is a 15 minute bus journey and cable car to Engelstilalp and the the Fondue Iglu restaurant – quite literally a multi-room igloo complete with ice sculptures and chilly seating for around 50 diners (rugs supplied). A tourist attraction but quite unique and reminiscent of the Ice Hotel – something that really has to be experienced but probably just the once. Apparently they have cinema evenings too!
For après-ski (also snowy days or those guests who prefer to spend a little less time on the slopes), a stay at The Cambrian is not complete without spending at least an hour in the luxury spa. The outdoor jacuzzi with room for at least 20 guests looks straight out across the mountains, and by now tinged pink with the setting sun and rising moon, it’s an atmospheric and very romantic place to linger.
A fabulous indoor pool is complemented by the sauna and steam room area, but be warned that nudity is obligatory, although towels are allowed. The Europeans of course are usually much less phased by ripping off their towels than the Brits, although the corporate all-male group of British salesmen (allegedly on a work trip – how do I apply?) did not hold back! For those who require further pampering, a range of treatments are on offer, again ideal for non- skiers or taking out some time from the slopes.
Suitably relaxed, it was time for dinner, a lovely 4 course set-menu served in the dining room, overlooking the jacuzzi. Starting with an amuse bouche of asparagus foam, then a delicately prepared Caesar salad accompanied by the tastiest local bread. There followed a white fish, basked with fennel and a main course of pork steak a la Forrestiere complete with red currants. The highlight was the German wines served with the meal. We chose a Riesling that was excellent, fresh and citrusy, quite unlike the sweeter varieties exported to Britain.
Adelboden is a place to which I long to return. It has the very best of Switzerland, where the summer walking experience is reputed to be even more enjoyable than the skiing. Come back in the summer, everyone exhorted. And clearly we must – so much to still explore, and now that I have been thoroughly spoilt at The Cambrian, there really is only one place to stay.
For further information about Adelboden, please visit www.adelboden.ch/en/
• The Cambrian is offering double rooms from CHF115 (approx £75) per person including breakfast and spa until the end of the winter season, subject to availability. Specific ski packages can be found here.