Muddy review: Hotel Kulm, St Moritz
St Moritz might be a magnet for celebs, oligarchs and tycoons, but this legendary five-star hotel in Europe’s glitziest Alpine resort is far from flashy. Muddy swaps stilettos for ski boots to discover how the other half holiday....
Getting to Hotel Kulm, set high in Switzerland’s Engadin Valley, is an adventure in itself. Amazingly, Muddy doesn’t have a helicopter or private jet, so flew SWISS Air to Zurich and from there took a scenic three-hour-plus train journey via valleys, tunnels and snow-capped peaks – slow travel at its finest. St Moritz is less twee Alpine and more contemporary than expected, and at its heart lies the Kulm overlooking the resort’s magnificent lake, an activity hub year-round from snow polo to sailing.
Think old school glamour (Audrey Hepburn) with a dash of Wes Anderson’s Grand Hotel Budapest, a pinch of modern Euro chic (Kate Moss) and, surprisingly, a soupçon of family-friendly warmth. There’s a cool kids’ club on site and families in activewear appeared at breakfast – nothing like a toddler spilling coco pops to make the atmosphere more relaxed. Decor-wise, it’s fabulous maximalism all the way with colour, texture and pattern at every turn (even the columns are covered!).
Kulm’s 160-year pedigree is unbeatable, this is the place winter tourism began when owner Johannes Badrutt bet a group of English summer guests they’d enjoy the hotel in winter too and that he’d refund them if they didn’t. They returned, stayed until Easter, spread the word and the rest is history as a steady stream of tourists subsequently arrived each year to enjoy skiing, ice skating, curling, sledding and, eventually, the first (crazy in Muddy’s humble opinion) Cresta Run in 1884.
WINE & DINE
The Grand Restaurant is, as the name suggests, pretty grand. You can imagine the balls that used to take place beneath chandeliers twinkling with Switzerland’s first electric lightbulbs as you help yourself to the breakfast buffet, a feast featuring natural treats like whole honeycomb to crack into and ginger shots strong enough to make your eyes water. Muddy got the strong impression you could order pretty much anything here and it would appear on your plate, but resisted the urge to go full Oscar Wilde (he once ordered a flock of sheep on room service) and settled for coconut milk porridge.
In winter months, K by Mauro Colagreco is the hotel’s Michelin-starred option and not to be missed. Located in a vaulted room reached via stairs lined with fabulous black and white images of glamorous guests from a bygone era, this is definitely a ‘dining experience’ – some of the seven courses even come with their own poem.
Yes, you read that right, literary food and SEVEN courses, so wear something loose and warn your dining companion you’ll be bringing your phone to the table because all the small, delicious dishes are good-looking and grid-worthy.
Kulm Country Club is another highly rated dining option. A short stroll from the hotel, it’s loved as much for its history as its great food, thanks to a star turn in the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics. More recently its had a facelift under the guidance of architect Norman Foster and now has the vibe of a chic modern mountain chalet adjacent to St Moritz’s famous winter ice skating rink. Muddy enjoyed Negroni cocktails in the bar before tucking into slices of tender tuna in the low-lit dining room, where bobsleighs hung from the ceiling above sleek-looking diners who most definitely slay.
A highlight of the hotel are the Pierre-Yves Rochon-designed rooms. After checking-in, Muddy did the cliché hotel suite celebration routine, bouncing on the bed, running in and out of the walk-in wardrobe and flinging open the balcony doors to step outside and gaze in awe at the frozen lake below and mountains above (before quickly retreating inside again because it was freezing).
Just the right combo of cosy mountain lodge and swanky Manhattan hotel, we loved everything from the wood-clad walls to the soft cushions, writing desk, fresh flowers and sexy black-tiled bathroom.
OUT & ABOUT
Hotel Kulm’s spa is a destination in its own right and offers pretty much everything you’d expect from a top class European spa, including indoor and outdoor pools, a saltwater grotto, steam baths, infrared sauna and Kneipp water path. Treatment-wise choose from regenerating, detoxifying and relaxing menus featuring products like Voya and Valmont, a Swiss skincare brand Muddy’s tried before and can confirm leaves your skin considerably brighter and softer regardless of how many Toblerones you scoffed on the train.
If you can’t decide, pick signature treatment Escape To The Summit, which includes a full body massage and hydrating facial including a collagen mask. Tip: if you’re visiting in winter, the spa tends to be quieter in the day when everyone’s on the slopes but fills up fast post 4pm, so consider taking a break from snow sports and treat yourself to some mid-afternoon pampering instead.
Whatever time of year you visit, do take a dip in the outside infinity pool. Swimming to the edge and gazing at the view is one of those pinch-yourself moments in life. Time seemed to stand still as Muddy watched faraway figures stroll by the lake, helicopters flit by like flies in the distance and clouds swirl around the mountain peaks.
Of course St Moritz is famous for sports and it would be rude not to try at least some of them while you’re there. Muddy visited in winter (the ski season runs from around December to early April) so swapped stilettos for ski boots and caught the gondola to Corvatsch for a lesson. Having not been on a pair of skis for nearly a decade we’d love to say it was like riding a bike, but the truth is it was more Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
However, three hours of skiing on blissful blue runs WITHOUT FALLING OVER was lots of fun and we built up a massive appetite so, eventually, propped up our skis by the gondola and penguin-walked (nobody walks gracefully in ski boots, not even the super rich) to mountainside Restaurant 3303 to demolish huge slices of polenta, a local speciality.
A snowball’s throw up the slope was ORMA Whisky Distillery. Yes, someone made the genius decision to distill whisky on a mountain top (it’s the highest in the world!) and you can take a tour and enjoy a tasting. Not a whisky fan? They have gin too, a sip or five of which eases the last run home (or last gondola, in Muddy’s case).
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: Couples seeking a romantic, luxurious mountainside retreat (Muddy would happily honeymoon here), families, spa lovers and groups of sport-mad friends.
NOT FOR: If you’re more of a small boutique retreat type, this grand hotel might be a bit OTT. And if you’re on a budget, you can get more for your buck elsewhere in the Alps.
HOW TO GET THERE
Kulm Hotel St. Moritz winter rates start from £730 for two people sharing a double room on a half-board basis. Muddy flew with SWISS, which has more than 160 weekly flights from six UK destinations to Zurich and Geneva; one-way fares start from £76 to Zurich. For more information on St Moritz and the Engadin Valley, visit MySwitzerland.