Over 300 years ago, a modest bathhouse was built on the site of today’s luxury Lenkerhof Hotel. One of the strongest sulfur springs in Europe promised cures for many aches and pains, but also for serious illnesses. Today, the subtle scent of sulfur in the spa area of the Relais & Chateaux hotel is sometimes reminiscent of the time when bathers were drawn to Lenk.
Seclusion as a guarantee of relaxation
Lenk is an insider tip because the place is remote and really only known in Switzerland. And indeed: from Bern, you initially still drive south on a highway. But then the road along the river Simme becomes narrower and narrower and almost at the end of the dead-end road you reach the village and the hiking paradise Lenk. The winter sports area of Adelboden is known as the venue of the annual Ski World Cup. It can be easily reached from Lenk via ski slopes. The source of the Simme River is a natural spectacle, as it springs from a single crevice in seven places. The spa area of the hotel picks up the magic number again, because here in the 7Sources there are also seven different saunas.
However, no one regrets the remoteness here, because it is intentional. In a primal vote typical of Switzerland, the citizens of Lenk decided a few years ago against a tunnel that could connect their valley with the southern canton of Valais. And vacationers also benefit from the isolation. Many hours away from the urban hustle and bustle, one can forget time and experience every moment more intensely.
95% of the guests at the Lenkerhof are Swiss. Just under half of them come from Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland. In contrast to more sophisticated resorts, there is an unagitated serenity in Lenk; both among guests and hotel staff. Those who vacation at the Lenkerhof don’t have to flaunt their status. Everyone is served with equal attention.
The Lenkerhof’s path to becoming a five-star hotel
The owner family Opprecht thoroughly renovated the house from 2000 to 2002 and established its orientation as a five-star hotel. The venerable hotel got a youthful ambience and was also designed a bit fancy in some places. One might expect that the guests should feel comfortable as a matter of course. But time and again, one encounters the unexpected. In dealing with the staff, for example, it quickly becomes apparent that here each of the 120 employees should let his or her personality shine through and be ready for serious conversations with the guests.
Throughout the house, in addition to exhibitions by guest artists, there are always paintings signed JO. All of Jürg Opprecht’s works are for sale, and the proceeds go to a foundation he established to support small entrepreneurs in emerging countries with microloans.
130 guest beds and seats in the gourmet restaurant
At Hotel Lenkerhof, guests have a choice of 10 suites, 30 junior suites, 32 double rooms and 8 single rooms. Part of the gourmet concept is that a seat is reserved for each guest in the gourmet restaurant.
With their high window fronts, the two Alpine Selfness Suites allow a panoramic view of the Wildstrubel massif and are generously equipped with a steam bath, whirlpool tub and cozy living area.
Everything for a restful night at Lenkerhof
So that in the comfortable beds and the healthy mountain air also the night’s rest contributes particularly well to the recovery, the Lenkerhof provides a choice of different pillows on which the head can be bedded.
For selection in the pillow menu are the
• Pillow Bene lined with duck feathers and combined with a neck roll made of virgin sheep’s wool
• Wellness pillow with medium-hard to hard viscoelastic foam, also called memory foam
• Elite pillow, a bolster filled with duck feathers
• millet pillow, filled with millet chaff
• synthetic pillow filled with synthetic absorbent cotton
Plenty of space to enjoy, socialize or just relax
If you add the children’s restaurant “The Little Prince”, the Relais & Chateaux Hotel Lenkerhof comes to three restaurants. A large terrace, the lobby area with the bar and the two gourmet restaurants “Spettacolo” and “Oh de Vie” offer plenty of space to retreat once in a while or to get into conversation with other guests.
Every day, the chef manages over 1000 dishes
Every day, including the 30 different types of cheese buffet, there are 16 dishes on the á la carte menu, which, by the way, is included in the half board for 130 hotel guests. During the peak winter season, the menu is repeated every two weeks, and every week in the summer. This helps to ensure that no guest is served the same thing twice during their stay. Stefan Lünse has been head chef at the Relais & Chateaux Hotel Lenkerhof since 2014. He pays attention to the high quality of the products used and buys them from local producers whenever possible. However, this basic principle does not prevent him from sourcing fresh truffles from Western Australia and the small Bonnotte potato fertilized with algae from France. Fresh herbs and flowers are harvested daily from a small bed in the hotel park.
Stefan Lünse is on the road every Sunday with his mountain bike. If guests want to accompany him, they will enjoy some personal insider tips. He takes me by car to the Pöris Alp to Franziska and Christian Zurbrügg. They are up here 100 days a year and since one week they have their grandchildren visiting, who are allowed to live here like Heidi. And the goats are also important on the Pöris Alp, because their milk is used to make the fresh goat cheese for the breakfast buffet at the Lenkerhof.
A fixed feature in the daily routine of guests at the Lenkerhof: before dinner, the tasting of the wines recommended for the menu of the day takes place daily in the wine cellar at 6 pm.
Restaurant Spettacolo with a new menu every day
There are supposed to be worse problems than not being able to decide in view of the numerous delicacies. Then you just take all 15 courses of the day as a tasting menu. In this case, the kitchen is prepared to make the individual portions somewhat smaller. Although we have tried many recommendable dishes at Spettacolo, we will only highlight our special selection here.
Very fine as an appetizer is the Canadian lobster with sea asparagus, melons, crispbread and green herb broth. The recommended straw-yellow Chardonnay from Lake Biel convinces with subtle fruit notes.
After the appetizer, there is a choice of two soups. Light, frothy, yet intensely flavorful is the egg sponge soup with chives. Those who prefer a slightly stronger umami flavor are better off with a dashi with seaweed and pork belly, which, sliced very thinly, offers an amazing biting experience.
The intermediate dishes conclude the first part of the menu, which is appropriately accompanied by the white wine suggested at the wine tasting. With the lentil neck in the mouth, one feels transported from the Alps to the Himalayas. The intense intrinsic character of the vegetable is well supported by lime and crispy flatbread.
Before the main course, you could also opt for a slightly fruity snack. The puffed cereal along with the fruity components engages all the taste senses and creates a desire for the main course again.
Very tender is the slice of Swiss beef, on green mashed potatoes surrounded by rich Australian winter truffle, purple potato chips and croquettes. The Australian winter truffle has only been grown for a few years in Western Australia south of Perth and can compete with the best French truffles. In the southern hemisphere, comparable weather conditions can be produced at the same longitude, only at a time of year when we cannot otherwise obtain fresh truffles in Europe.
French guinea fowl comes very finely cooked in its crispy skin on mulberry compote and hummus. The special touch to this dish is the early harvested elderberries.
Oh de Vie – the Mediterranean á la Carte Restaurant
The strange name of the Mediterranean second restaurant at Lenkerhof is an onomatopoeia, and this playful attitude suits Hungarian chef Laszlo Papdi well, who, in contrast to the large Spettacolo restaurant, works his magic alone in the small kitchen. Without strictly written recipes, but with a lot of talent, real delicacies are created under his hands, and he can still tell great stories about the experience he gained with international chefs.
Even the first course combines influences from three countries. The fillet of fresh local salmon trout was dehydrated in the Norwegian way with salt and sugar, so that the layer of fat under the peeled skin can be nicely roasted. Spanish Chardonnay vinegar and olive-lime oil bathe the cucumber ragout in a delightful broth, which is then topped with a mascarpone ice cream. The wine pairing grows in Switzerland on Lake Biel. The 2017 Chasselas Selection Johanniter is a perfect recommendation.
The following cold date tomato cream soup is poured over a sorbet of red wine vinegar and is a great summer dish with its sour to slightly bitter notes. When paired with the fruity Al Poggio Chardonnay 2015 from Tuscany, it creates a subtle tension.
Laszlo Papdi prepares the pasta dough for the following dish by feel and never according to fixed quantities. Here in the dry Swiss air, he would probably add one more egg yolk than he did in England. The agnolotti, filled with wild wild garlic, ricotta, Parmesan and wild mushrooms, are folded using a technique that dates back to the 15th century. The balanced tannin structure of Le Volte dell Ornellaia 2015 from Tuscany, together with the fresh fruit notes of this red wine, complements the dish perfectly.
The quail has been cooking in a water bath at 62 °C for a while before it arrives on the plate sharply seared next to the porcini mushroom cream enriched with apple pieces and mini vegetables. The heavy Castello La Leccia 2015, aged in barrique, nevertheless allows all the nuances of the main course to come to the fore.
With a wide range of textures and flavors, the dessert adds another highlight to the menu. The tartuffo, resting on a hazelnut cream and filled with Amalfi lemon gel, gets a distinct accent from lavender flowers.
Magnificent view from the mountain restaurant Bühlberg
Simpler but also very good is Gunter Steininger’s cuisine at the Bergrestaurtant Bühlberg. We enjoyed a dinner in the evening atmosphere and afterwards learned from the German couple running the restaurant, Anja and Gunter Steininger, how much they enjoy life at 1664 meters above sea level.
Up on the alp, the hearty Swiss dishes are good against the hunger you inevitably get from long walks in the fresh mountain air.
Health and well-being at the 7 Sources
The 34°C warm sulfur water from the hotel’s own Belmen spring can be used in various ways. Enjoyed from a carafe at the breakfast buffet, it is said to activate the metabolism, thin the blood and make you hungry. However, such medicinal promises are no longer top of mind today. Seven saunas, various massages, a fitness room two pools and several beauty offers leave hardly any wish unfulfilled.
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