Le Grand Bellevue, Gstaad: A new kind of luxury

The star of the Bellevue is its extraordinary subterranean spa

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The Independent Travel

I'm not sure what was more embarrassing – being met by a 1962 Bentley as I stepped scruffily off a train in that day's ski gear, or being dropped off at my hotel after a journey of approximately 20 seconds. Had the gleaming car been any fatter, I could have got in on one side and out the other without my driver needing to start the engine.

But this is how they roll in Gstaad, and the bizarre procession to the Grand Bellevue, my home for two nights, gave the driver time to drop a name synonymous with this Swiss resort. The Bentley once belonged to Roger Moore, who used to have a home here and would clink martinis with Liz Taylor at the castle-like Gstaad Palace hotel.

There is knowingness in the despatch of the four-wheeled relic because the Bellevue's new owners are trying to steer Gstaad, or at least their rarefied corner of it, in a new direction. Daniel and Davia Koetser, a 30-something couple with roots in Switzerland and Britain (Eton in his case) met at the Bellevue, one of the "big four" five-star century-old hotels in Gstaad. They spent their first night of marriage here before dashing to the airport in the Bentley. After a career in high-end hospitality, Daniel returned two years ago to refurbish the hotel completely.

From the upholstered old benches and life-size plaid camel in the lobby, the style is grand palace-meets-Soho House. A see-through fireplace leads the eye through to a vast sitting room, where Al Copley, the New York bluesman, has been brought back to Gstaad to play piano. There's a fine afternoon tea of mini madeleines and macaroons. Bird-print wallpaper from east London's House of Hackney sets the tone, as does a 17m-long Chesterfield in the bar on the other side of the lobby. Beyond it lies the low-key, high-end restaurant (left) where burgers share acres of white linen with foie gras, if that's your thing. A tiny, steamy chalet out front is the place for fondu.

There's a sleek nightclub downstairs, a cinema, kids' room, and a ski room that opens on to the underground garage (you'll probably be chauffeured to the slopes) but the star of the Bellevue is its extraordinary subterranean spa with interconnecting aromatic saunas, salt rooms and ice caves.

Location

The hotel stands surrounded by its own park leading to Gstaad's boutique-lined promenade. I can't remember a ski resort with fewer ski boots on show. Fur's preferred, and people-watching is a joy. Skiing is optional, so there are miles of uncrowded pistes that are ideal for families and intermediates.

I was in town with Camel Snow, the newish bespoke ski holiday operator founded by two waterski instructors from Cornwall. Charlie Toogood lives and teaches in Gstaad all winter, and is the perfect guide to the enormous Alpes Vaudoises if you can nab him. We also explored the hotels freshening up the mountain including the wonderful Saanewald Lodge above Saanenmöser.

Comfort

In the main building, 35 rooms are topped by a vast split-level penthouse. Two newer chalets add 22 rooms. These (relatively) cheap rooms offer loads of carpet space and most have balconies. While the decor is more restrained than in the main areas, there's no skimping on luxuries.

Le Grand Bellevue, Hauptstrasse, Gstaad, Switzerland (00 41 33 748 00 00; bellevue-gstaad.ch)

Rooms ****

Value ***

Service *****

A week in Gstaad, with four nights at Bellevue from £1,500pp with Camel Snow (camelsnow.com)

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