With its location in sleepy Surlej of the Engadin, Nira Alpina has its own in-house restaurant to cater to hotel guests and there are actually 2 dining venues at night, one in the first floor across from the ski storage room and another in the rooftop. Only the latter is open during the low winter season where breakfast is also served at. The rooftop area also holds a bar and lounge for after dinner drinks but the week I was there, occupancy was quite low and there were few guests mingling at the bar at night.
The view from the rooftop restaurant was excellent as guests can see out over to the frozen lake and the village of Silvaplana across the lake. I would try to get a window seating at the restaurant just for the views alone during breakfast though it is less of a draw at night for dinner time.
The restaurant itself has plenty of seating though because of the low occupancy, only the section in the furthest end was utilized while the foyer area with a grand piano was never open for use.
With breakfast included daily for my rate, I was up early most days so I can get up to the mountains earlier. Most days I was able to get a window seat and thus get to enjoy the marvellous sunrise over the mountains. While the hotel has a small buffet area, guests have a selection from the menu that changes daily. This is usually to be found in premium ski hotels around Europe.
The buffet spread consists mainly of continental spread. There are assorted dried fruits and nuts, cereals and condiments to choose from.
As with Swiss hotels, the cheese provided on the buffet was not bad with several choices once again and I always get small portions of them to be enjoyed with the nuts and dried fruits.
Yogurts, sliced fruits and mixed fruits are offered daily as well, allowing guests to mix and match to create their favourite breakfast pairing.
For drinks guests can choose from a nice variety of teas or order specialty coffee beverages like latte and mocha which is included.
The most impressive part of the breakfast, though was the selection of wild honey and preserves. Where other hotels use one type of bottled honey or provide at most 3 types of fruit preserves, there was 12 different homemade preserves and 9 different types of honey!
Overall, the breakfast buffet spread might not have the variety found in large upscale resorts or hotels but it does have a certain quality to it. The ability to order eggs cooked to your liking usually seals the deal for breakfast for me. Due to the limited variety, I found myself getting bored after the 3rd day so the best improvement they could do is probably to add more choices on the made-to-order breakfast menu or provide some seasonal or regional specialties to the buffet section.
On one night, I had a 3-course dinner at the restaurant. Guests could pay for a half board which includes dinner here like most ski resorts in Europe. However I did not partake in the half board. Instead, I ordered from the a-la-carte menu offering.
First up, a warm bread basket was offered to diners. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar was provided for dips. For the first course, I ordered the pork belly and it was my very tender with a melt-in-the-mouth finish that was fantastic all around. The fruity sauce added great flavour and a refreshing taste to this dish. Initially the dish lacked the pork crust pop corn and when I enquired with the server, it was served on a separate ramekin. The sweetness of the pop corn paired well with the savoury pork crust (crackling) and it ended the first course in a high note.
For the main course, I ordered a special Alpine specialty dish called Schlutzkrapfen which is a pasta filled with potato and chives. Like a ravioli, this dish has a buttery and sweet sauce which I liked. However I felt that it was too much carbs and lacked some vegetables or flavour to complete the dish. I did enjoy the dish but found it could have been better executed.
To end the meal, I ordered the Shibuya Toast which in hindsight might be too much carbs for the day since it consists of a roasted brioche as the main ingredient. I found the brioche a tad ordinary and the Röteli ice cream to be the star of this dish.
On some days when I prefer a light dinner or snack in the room, I tried their entrée like the grilled octopus which was served with vinaigrette, olives and artichokes. This dish did not lack in flavour and I found the octopus was perfectly cooked but it just was not the best octopus dish I had.
But I did enjoy the black truffle tagliatelle which was a special menu for the winter season. Drizzled with a generous portion of truffles the pasta was nicely done and this was one of my favourite dishes in the hotel. Though I could attribute that partly to my love for truffles.
Aside from dinner, the hotel has a very nice rooftop bar that serves drinks. They are best to be enjoyed as the sun goes down with the views of the lakes and the mountains. However it was pretty quiet when I visited and there was not much guests drinking here which made the atmosphere a bit lacking.
They did make for a cozy space to snuggle in for some warmth at night in front of the fireplace.
To give the hotel a review of its food and beverage offering, I would say they are average in comparison to other ski resorts I have been to in Europe. While there are some good dishes, the variety is slightly limited if one were to stay for a week or so. Which is why I had some meals in St. Moritz or Silvaplana. The dining and drinking space is fantastic for solo travellers and couples who want a quiet space to unwind though and that fits my needs as it was the tail end of my ski trip and I was a bit weary at times.
For travellers and skiers not staying in Silvaplana or Surlej, I would not suggest making the drive all the way here just to eat as I find more choices are available in St. Moritz proper.