Stay the night: No 14 Verbier, Switzerland
This refurbished Swiss hotel is leading the way with its boutique style. And the food is excellent, too, says Minty Clinch
Sunday 06 March 2011
The interiors tip of the year is that grey has consigned taupe to history. I saw it in tones ranging from bluish to silvery throughout No 14, so I know it must be true.
Until last May, No 14 was the unassuming Hotel Les Rois Mages, but a labour-intensive summer saw 30 workers ripping out and refurbishing to deliver the latest addition to the Verbier property portfolio in time for a Christmas opening.
Smart London interior designer Fiona Barrett was given the brief of making it work both as a corporate chalet and a boutique hotel. Her masterplan to divide and rule is well thought out and immaculately executed. Although there is a log fire in the sitting room, the area has groups of chairs and sofas to allow guests to choose between privacy and conviviality. Chrome coffee tables, gunmetal-grey lanterns, occasional tables made of polished, petrified wood and furry throws in wolfish shades enforce her current colour preference.
The bar-dining room is equally flexible, dominated by a large table, but with smaller ones by windows with spectacular views. The terrace, running the full length of the front of the building, is also zoned. While some guests frolic over champagne in the cedar hot tub, others can sit around the iron fire pit admiring Le Grand Combin, Switzerland's second highest peak.
No 14 has nine bedrooms, one double bunk room and three suites – one with a hot tub on a private terrace. The first thing you notice are the thick knitted wool comforters on the beds. They're a restful blue-grey and they positively invite you to get under them as soon as possible, though you'll probably have to cool the room down first. I'm assuming Ms Barrett is slim and beautiful because she certainly loves her mirrors: simple ones line up four abreast in the bedrooms, while Baroque ovals dominate the landings. The bathrooms are stylish, but fall short in terms of convenience. If you want to shower, you have to stand under the rainforest head before you can reach the controls, almost guaranteed a hot or cold drenching. If you prefer a bath, the taps way down the tub are awkward and too tiny to turn off with your feet. Toilet wise, the flush is behind the seat so you have to put it down to reach it. The rooms have televisions and sleek iPod docking stations.
The food and drink
The kitchen is in the capable hands of 29-year-old Dan Cox, previously head chef at the Michel Roux Jr temple of gastronomy in Parliament Square. His menus are cutting edge, with lots of beetroot and goat's curd to balance foie gras and smoked veal. Dish follows impeccable dish, but the portions are small enough for a greedy person like me to go the whole hog. Freshly squeezed juices, smoothies and tropical fruit give the illusion of a healthy start to the day, even if you then opt for full English. Dan is a canapé maestro as well – missing his hot oysters during the cocktail hour would be a mistake.
No 14's efficient taxi service takes skiers and boarders up to the Medran lift station on demand, giving rapid access to Verbier's world-class slopes on Mont Fort and Mont Gelé. The resort has at least half a dozen alternative ski schools, all offering free-ride tuition and adventure guiding. No 14 uses Powder Extreme (powder-extreme.com) on a regular basis, but my favourite is Warren Smith (warrensmith-ski academy.com). Back at the ranch, Alex Main, the resident masseuse is available in the spa. After graduating from Loughborough University, she stayed on to practise her trade on the British Olympic team and the Springboks. No worries if your physique falls short of these sporting gods: she's much too polite to mention it. Afterwards you can put in a few lengths in the indoor pool under the sightless gaze of spooky driftwood statues from Malta.
Families welcome. Wi-Fi available. There is a lift but the steps from the car park make wheelchair access difficult. No dogs.
From £125 per person per night. Four-night stays from Sunday to Thursday cost from £500. Prices include breakfast, afternoon tea, gourmet dinner with a wide choice of wines, champagne and spirits and driver on call.
No 14 Verbier, 14 Rue de la Velle, 1936 Verbier, Valais (01608 674011; verbierexclusive.com).
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