Following up on the previous post, this review would provide details of the half board program in the Grand Hotel Zell am See where my family of 4 was staying over the weekend. As a resort comprised of 2 separate buildings, the dining room was situated on the main building which is connected by an underground passageway from where we were staying in the Casino building.
The hotel has a large main restaurant located off the lobby in the lower level. The restaurant opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is comprised of an indoor and outdoor section. For guests on the half board program, this was the only venue for meals.
Aside from the large indoor section, there are more seats at the outdoor garden by the lake. These outdoor seating spaces were by far the most popular during the warm summer months so come early to get a seat by the lake.
Aside from the restaurant, there is a bar and lounge area for after-dinner drinks and for special events. The cafe, bar and lounge is situated in one floor above the lobby of the main building. The decor in the lounge seems to be older and in a more classic style.
Breakfast at the Restaurant
For a European resort, the breakfast is as good as it gets. Starting with the cold dishes, there was smoked salmon and various hams. Vegetables on the buffet includes cucumbers and tomatoes.
There are several varieties of cheese on the buffet as well. The cheese was sliced and cut for ease of consumption.
The cereal was placed in tall cylindrical dispensers while nuts and granolas are served from large bowls. It is always nice to see a good selection of these dried foods in European hotels’ breakfast.
Condiments for the breakfast was varied as well, since there was packets of margarines and chilled butter from the buffet area beside the muesli.
Continuing the Continental selection, there was plenty of pastries and croissants along with a chocolate cake. Several basket filled with white bread and buns were placed near the toaster.
And again, the marmalade and jams choices for the bread is very good. There was apricot, blackcurrant, orange, raspberry, strawberry and cherry jams. By the side was a tray filled with small Nutella packs which is conveniently packed.
One interesting thing they had was ‘Bravocado’ which is touted as a healthier alternative to butter.
Hot dishes on the buffet had a local specialty which is leberkase, or a sliced meat patty made from beef and pork. This was placed beside bacon, sausages and grilled tomatoes. Beside the meat choices, there was half-boiled or full-boiled eggs and scrambled eggs along with pancakes.
To go with the pancakes, there was a selection of honey and even fresh honeycomb to be found beside the preserves and marmalade section.
Other sweet treats in the breakfast buffet was a fruit cocktails, and several other fruits in syrup. Fresh sliced and whole seasonal fruits were available as well. Those whole plums and apples makes for a handy snack when planning to hike or ski in the area for the day.
For beverages, guests could order specialty coffee from the waiter or they could help themselves to smoothies and a variety of fruit juices from the dispensers.
While the fruit juices were from Rauch, which is a common brand in Austria, the buffet serves some premium bottled juices also by the same company. This was served in addition to Kombucha, a healthy sour drink.
And topping it off, there was a nice selection of fine teas with plenty of pots to brew them in for the table. There was even sparkling wine in an ice bucket for guests to conveniently make their own fruit spritzer in the morning.
The food variety served during breakfast is as good as it gets in Europe and while the bacon and sausages was not fantastic, the premium juices and wide range of beverage did make it fitting for a ‘Grand Hotel’.
Dinner at the Restaurant
For dinner, the menu changes daily and there was 3 options for guests to choose from. Each option has a starter, a main course and a dessert. While the dishes are put in one option, guests could mix-and-match. Below is a sample menu for the day I stayed at the hotel and the first option has a meat main course, while the second one is a seafood main course with the third option being a vegetarian and wellness cuisine choice.
Appetizer portions are generally quite small though each portion can still be shared with someone else. In this case, it helps for couples to order 2 types of options so they can share the dishes amongst themselves. Presentation of the dishes were excellent and they tasted fine though I would not say they were fantastic in terms of taste.
After the appetizer course, diners could take the time to grab a salad from the buffet bar which is in addition to the 3-course menu. The salad bar has dishes like coleslaw, sauerkraut and potato salad. And if pre-mixed salad is not for adequate, there was plenty of vegetables from rocket to corn to make your own salad. Nuts and dried fruits were available as toppings and a wide selection of olive oil, flavoured balsamic vinegar and dressings are provided. Again, this is usually one of my favourite parts of a half-board dinner in a European resort.
Since some of my family members have a preference for seafood dishes, we usually order both the meat and seafood main course options. Thus over 2 days, I found the seafood options to be slightly better but the main course was definitely the weakest link in the whole set menu.
The roasted pork fillet served on the second night was particularly dry and tough so I just had a small bite. Otherwise the main course portion was adequate but not too large. Diners with huge appetites might be feeling still a bit hungry after this meal.
Which is why they have a good dessert selection that is quite generous in portion size too. As such the desserts can be easily shared again. It was nice there was always 2 choices for desserts, with one having a fruit as the main theme. Taste wise the desserts were just right in flavour and they were not overly sweet. This made it enjoyable and as I mentioned had fruits in some kind as the sauce or the main items, making it for a refreshing ending that acts like a palate cleanser.
Finally for those without a sweet tooth, there is always a cheese plate to choose from for dessert. This is usually served with a bun and some fruit jams.
The half-board inclusion was nice for our stay in this small town of Zell am See and the dinner atmosphere was nice with plenty of seat availability at all times. Unlike some hotels with half board, we were not always seated at the same table. Some of the food was quite tasty but there was a couple of dishes that really missed the mark, and as such I cannot recommend it for very picky eaters. However the ability to mix and match dishes from each option made it easy for guests to customize their dinner. Since the town has several other restaurants accessible by walking, I would perhaps recommend guests staying overnight to pass on the half-board menu if they are visiting on the summer. Guests could always opt for the half-board when checking in.