Gourmet Bolthole: Grand Hotel Bellevue, Gstaad

Live it up with five-star luxury for three-star prices in off-season Gstaad, says Jill Starley-GraingerMention Gstaad and most people think of royalty and Rich-Listers swanning down the slopes. But when the snow has melted, the natural beauty of this picture-perfect Swiss village shines through, and you can live the life of a king for less than his ransom, even at the five-star Grand Hotel Bellevue.The star in the hotel’s gastronomic crown is Prado, one of Gstaad’s gourmet gems. The Michelin-starred chef Richard Mebkhout took over the kitchens in November 2006, bringing his distinctively French style of cooking, with plenty of rich creams and whisper-light mousses. Our meal started with raw and cooked asparagus tips served on melt-in-the-mouth poached eggs, and a refreshing broad bean soup over spring onion royale. Mains were a cassoulet of morels, where the earthy mushroom flavour shone through, and a delicate seabass with ratte potatoes and cream of caviar. Swiss wines are typically high quality, and the peppery Didier Joris Syrah Prés des Pierres 2005 that accompanied our meal was no exception.We took our digestifs in the seductive piano bar. Although the hotel exterior maintains the original Swiss palace-style façade, the interiors are full of red and black Philippe Starck furniture and contemporary artworks. Our spacious double room had a small, private balcony, enormous bathroom and hi-tech entertainment systems I couldn’t quite get my head round. We decided to let the staff manage the technical side and watched a DVD in the hotel’s private cinema instead, a few steps away from the spa, where we’d spent the afternoon trying out the seven different saunas. Sometimes it’s easy to forget your name doesn’t start with HRH.Foodie diversion: Cheese lovers should worship at the impressive underground Käsekathedrale (cheese cathedral), where local cheeses are stored wine-cellar style until ready for sale. (00 41 33 744 11 15; www.molkerei-gstaad.ch)Details: From £176 a night, including spa access (00 41 33 748 0000; www.bellevue-gstaad.ch)Come here for: majestic mountains and sophisticated pampering < br>