Credit: Experimental Chalet
Despite the need for caution (and dare I say a little bit of skill), the roads in Switzerland are amongst my favourite in the world –most probably because these are the passes I grew up perfecting my gear changes on. However, I do believe there is something special about these roads; the look and feel of them is quite unique, perhaps helped in part by the mountainous backdrop.
If you drive up a switchback road in Switzerland with the sun shining on an early spring morning, you will hear the birds singing - there is something truly special about this place. The destination I am driving to is quite picturesque itself, the Experiemental Chalet in Verbier. As I’ve recently mentioned (@8js_official on Instagram) during my stay, I was simply in awe of this boutique hotel. Call it cinematic artistry, the Art Deco design mixed with the exceptional professionalism of the staff evoked images of the Grand Budapest Hotel and Wes Anderson movies. What a wonderful experience! Despite being married and now with a family of my own, I still like to think I am young at heart, and the exercise of dreaming a little whilst staying somewhere different is still one which excites me!
It’s an intriguing place to say the least. The Experimental Group, known for its success in Paris, New York and London have renovated an existing property here in Verbier; you can feel the history of the building all around you. The hotel carries a lot of character, such that it’s the kind of building which would attract your camera lens, even if you’re not a blogger.
The lobby –especially the pigeonholes for the keys –the staircase, lift, hallways and the rooms themselves, leave you imagining a life for yourself carefully balanced between vintage chic and modern comfort. Just picture yourself living within a Slim Aarons photograph taken in the Alps and you’ll start to understand what I mean. I began to daydream, imagining a bygone era where as I walk down the stairs wearing a velvet bathrobe, the FT in one hand and a negroni in the other, guests would quietly ask “who is this gentleman”, to which a butler called Gerard would answer; “Oh that’s Mr. Prost, he’s been living in the west wing for the past 8 months. Made his fortune in textiles so we believe...”
In this maze of wood and felt, comes a door with three majestic letters on it; SPA. For the keen skier or simply the 8JS Driver’s Club member looking to unwind before dinner and after a long day on the road, this oasis boasts a sauna, steam room and a long menu of massages. The best is yet to come. Down the glass veranda – heated by a rustic fireplace – is the jacuzzi, and simply by knocking on the window alongside, you’ll be able to order your favorite cocktail.
The Experimental Group is renowned for its cocktail bars and signature restaurants. The bar of the Experimental Chalet Verbier is cozy with a well-lit fireplace, tastefully decorated, and has an extensive tailor-made menu of cocktails prepared with in-house ingredients, such as home-made grenadine for instance. As some of you may know, I am really big on Negronis and Old-Fashioned drinks. Up here, a twist on the heavy bitters Old-Fashioned is the “Sea-Salts”. A drink for the stronger palette, “Sea-Salts” is a blend of cocoa-infused Bourbon, Ardbeg dashes, salted maple syrup and bitters. Strong bite, salty mid-section and a warm ending.
The list of new finds on my end is extensive, and you’ll have to indulge in the “Bee Sage”, my favorite drink of the day. A carefully selected assemblage of Gin, rosemary infused honey, yellow Chartreuse and lemon. This results in a fresh and fruity alpine drink you can enjoy at any time of the afternoon, evening or night. Best to do so if you have a room – when you drive, never drink! Bernie said so himself...
“Frenchie”! My French half awakens, I have heard about this restaurant through very close friends, and I am eager to discover what it’s all about. Gregory Marchand, executive chef of all Experimental Group’s “Frenchie” restaurants definitely knows the element of surprise. The menu is a blend of French classics with some alpine influence, served using the freshest ingredients a resort like Verbier can offer. Pure bliss. I would strongly recommend the Gnocchi served with wild garlic. In addition, the hot broccoli ordered as a side dish alongside the beef is superb!
Once finished with dinner, covid rules obligate you either go back to the bar or head upstairs.... We did the former! In normal circumstances however, it is important to note that the Experimental hosts the oldest club in Verbier. The Farm Club is an absolute landmark of the resort, having hosted some of the most exuberant parties. We’re looking forward to getting back up there, equipped with a mask, plexiglass and 2m distancing to find out what a full Experimental experience is like.
I must add one final note. Above all the decoration, furniture and exquisite bar menu, it's the staff and the people you encounter which engrain in your mind most of all. I must thank the friendly staff – smiling behind their masks all the time I might add – as they were truly exceptional in making our stay as comfortable as possible.
Shall we plan an 8JS cars and coffee up there this summer? Late August seems like a good time of year...