Epoca, Flims – a Swiss young gun
This restaurant is now closed.
The Swiss canton of Graubunden is famous for many things. The canton capital, Chur boasts a medieval centre claimed as the oldest town in Switzerland. Older readers of this blog may have grown up with the Heidi books by Johanna Spyri, set in some nearby peaks. It’s also one end of the amazing Bernina Express rail trip across the Alps into the north of Italy.
An equally delightful discovery for Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband, is that it’s home to a thriving food scene, driven largely by outstanding local produce (think cheese and sausages) and excellent boutique wineries. Hiking at altitude (around 2000 metres above sea level) gives one a very healthy appetite; there’s plenty of choice and in the summer it’s relatively easy to get around to sample the local fare.
Staying with dear friends in Chur, Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband were taken to the resort area of Flims (that’s not a typo, although auto-correct keeps trying to change it to ‘Films’), home to an extraordinary playground enjoyed year round. The upper Rhine River snakes through a stark valley (known locally as the Swiss ‘grand canyon’) and is a top spot for hiking, biking, swimming and picnicking in the summer. In the winter, well, it’s ski central and the restaurant we were sampling this particular evening has to be accessed via an underground passage (or on skis!). The Waldhaus mountain resort is home to Epoca, self-described as a ‘gourmet’ restaurant and headed by young gun chef Pascal Schmutz. This 29-year-old wunderkind has been wowing Swiss diners for a fair number of years already.
The restaurant is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass, offering panoramic views of the mountains and the resort’s grounds (complete with resident, grazing goats). On a particularly fine summer’s evening we were shown to the terrace for champagne (a delightful Veuve Clicquot) and nibbles. It was a lovely selection – small pieces of pork lurked beneath a mustard foam, a small gravlax tart with herbs and cheese, a local cheese infused with bergamot and a local sausage with fennel and lemon. Yum.
Next up was ‘the tomato – Bloody Mary, whey, bruschetta’. The Bloody Mary was prepared at the table (see the picture of restaurant manager Silke above). It was essentially a fresh tomato and raspberry sorbet with basil-infused vodka and a tomato consomme. Very clever and slurped down with gusto. Alongside this was another attractive plate, the bruschetta. Local ham was served with tomato and mozzarella on a crouton of white bread. Delish.
Time for dessert. First up was a sweet bonus – pistachio and basil ice cream with kiwi fruit. It was relatively light (and exceedingly green). This was followed by the advertised dessert ‘the grill – strawberry, vanilla, cheesecake’. This was grilled strawberries with smoked raspberries and dollops of ice-cream, ‘cheesecake’ and dark chocolate mousse. The cheesecake was almost chewy and not an unwelcome texture.
Before we headed back onto the winding mountain roads to head back to Chur (about a 40 minute drive, made slightly longer on the way there because of road works – apparently there are two seasons in Switzerland, winter and road construction), we had a selection of petits fours, some madeleine lollipops and a selection of chocolate truffles infused with a local liqueur, ‘rotwein’. Enough!
This was a lovely treat and the scenery is beautiful – especially in summer where the days are long enough to be able to enjoy the panorama. There’s a lot to be said for local knowledge because there is almost zero chance for the average tourist to be able to find Epoca. The food was very good and the service personable and delightful. It’s just such a shame that it’s a long way to go for any repeat visit!