Schauenstein is located in the Swiss Alps, in the sleepy "city" of Furstenau, in reality an alpine village of 700 inhabitants. It is about 100 miles from Zurich, which by train can be reached in two and a half hours: from Zurich airport change at Zurich central station and take the train to Chur (the oldest town in Switzerland) then change again to reach the station of Thusis, which is a few miles from Furstenau. It is a lengthy journey but a scenic one, as the train goes past an impressive lake and then heads into the snow-capped mountains. The final leg of the train ride is the so-called Glacier Express, which serves assorted famous ski resorts such as Davos. Its name proves that the Swiss do, after all, have a sense of humour, as it should really be called the Glacial Express based on its true velocity. The scenery it passes is certainly very pretty, and you have plenty of time to admire it.
Schauenstein itself is located in a pretty 12th century building, and there are six rooms available to stay here if you wish. The dining area is split into two separate rooms, with the kitchen in between. This is not mass catering - the restaurant accommodates just 16 customers at lunch and 26 at dinner. The decor reflects the age of the building, with lots of wood paneling and impressively thick doors. The restaurant was established in 2003, the chef Andreas Camenada having grown up in this area. He worked previously at the iconic Black Forest restaurant Bareiss under Claus-Peter Lumpp.
The wine cellar has around 3,000 bottles, presented in a thick tome. There was a wide selection of Swiss wines, but also plenty of the classics. Mark-ups were relatively kind, especially higher up the price range, though the mark-up level seemed to vary somewhat. Cos d’Estournel 2005 was CHF 369 compared to a retail price of around CHF 260, Latour 2002 was CHF 689 for a wine that costs about that much retail, Etienne Sauzet Puligny Montrachet 2002 was CHF 185 for a wine that you can buy for about CHF 86, Antinori Tignanello 2001 was CHF 219 for a wine that costs CHF 108. We drank a local wine, the pleasant Donatsch Completer 2009 at CHF 119 for a wine that costs about CHF 47 retail.
The menu offers a 3 course dinner for CHF 198 up to a six course meal at CHF 245, which is what we went for. There were also a la carte choices, with appetisers CHF 48 – 98 and main courses priced at CHF 78 – 98.
Canapés included rocket sorbet with apple, with intense and well-balanced flavour (9/10). A potato and leek soup also had plenty of flavour, but was a little salty even for me (7/10). Churros were excellent, with a spicy dip (9/10), while the best nibble was lovely char, served on a cracker, simple but tasting superb (10/10). There was also a very good chickpea praline (8/10), and a little ball of goose liver with passion fruit, the latter providing enough acidity to balance the richness of the liver (9/10).
Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen, a soft, doughy white bread, served warm with local butter (9/10). Our first amuse-bouche was langoustine from Brittany, pan-fried and also served raw, with basil mousse and lemon espuma. On the side were delicate rice crisps and a lovely langoustine jelly with lime foam; the langoustines were of high quality, the lemon and lime elements providing exactly the right level of acidity but no more (10/10).
Next was a single scallop with beetroot and smoked eel, with a hint of tarragon flavour. The beetroot was excellent, but the scallop itself was the only ingredient all night that seemed merely good rather than outstanding (8/10). On the side was a scallop carpaccio with eel mousse, served on a little cracker (8/10). At this point my wife was presented with superbly tender Breton lobster with carrot and mango (10/10). I had a ham beignet with white cabbage mustard ice cream. The beignet itself was ordinary, served lukewarm, but a mustard foam was lovely, white cabbage with it very good indeed and mustard ice cream excellent, the mustard flavour really coming through (9/10).
Tuna and cucumber in various forms now appeared, including some raw tuna with avocado foam. Some tuna was seared, some served as sashimi, some marinated, each with different preparations of cucumber; all were of excellent quality (9/10). Veal tartare was next, served with sweetbread and also a deep fried piece of veal. The veal itself was lovely, but the star was a sweetcorn sauce, which had remarkable flavour and worked really well with the veal, with a sweetcorn powder adding a contrasting textural element (10/10).
Halibut with confit onions, marinated leek and potato was next, carefully cooked but not in the same league as the veal (8/10). My main course was Bresse pigeon served in two courses. The first was tender breast of pigeon served with roast apple and goose liver, celeriac ice cream, pineapple cream with a rich red wine sauce flavored with Perigord truffles. The next version was breast and leg, served with salsify and a spiced bread called magenbrod (9/10).
Dessert of marinated mango and pineapple was refreshing, with passion fruit and mascarpone sorbet, but on the side was a dish of spectacularly rich chocolate fondant (9/10 overall, but 10/10 for the fondant). Service was faultless, attentive and friendly throughout. The bill for dinner and wine came to CHF 381 each (£257). Overall I thought this was a very impressive meal, fully deserving of its recent three Michelin star accolade. Ingredients were generally excellent, the technique hard to fault, seasoning bold, and the dishes were well balanced, with appealing combinations of flavours, and some surprises mixed in with the familiar.