500-year-old tradition-steeped hotel meets design hotel. Even if these two hotel concepts seem quite different, they do have one major thing in common: The Ultsch family’s warmth. Thanks to Harald and his wife Sonja-Sophie, and their children Florian, Fabian, and Valentina, you’ll feel right at home throughout your stay – be it on the breathtaking rooftop terrace on the 12th floor of aDLERS or in the comfy Tyrolean parlour at Schwarzer Adler. In their interview the family of hoteliers tells us about the interplay between modernity and tradition and they explain, why Innsbruck can keep up with big metropoles – not just on a culinary level.
L.L. / Mrs. Ultsch, you and your family have been in charge of Hotel Schwarzer Adler for the past 5 generations. How important is it to you to continue the family tradition?
S.U. / When you build up a business it is nice, of course, to see it continued. Our two sons both work in the hotels. Our daughter is still at university but she also works in the hotels. So, it seems we’ve done much right. Florian and Fabian are extremely enthusiastic and have lots of new ideas for the business. Fabian as a host and head of gastronomy and Florian as business development manager. We are as successful as we are because we all work together and the kids work with us. But of course, we would never force Florian, Fabian, and Valentina to follow in our footsteps.
L.L. / The Boutique Hotel Schwarzer Adler looks back on a 500-year history. What facets of this history are still visible today?
S.U. / Actually, you can see it in many details in and around the entire hotel. In our vault cellar that we like to rent out for events. In our traditional Tyrolean parlour, the items and pictures on display. In order to show the long-standing tradition and history to our guests we have started laying out culture guides in every room – and they are very popular.
L.L. / In Innsbruck the Hotel Schwarzer Adler is known for its authentic Tyrolean cuisine as well as the special creations by chef de cuisine Lukas Spindlegger, the kitchen has been enjoying a great reputation since the 1970s. What is the one dish that must always be part of the menu?
S.U. / Well what always has to be on there is Sellrainer Pfandl. The history behind it goes as follows: The Sellrainer Pfandl has been a specialty of the house for decades, it’s made from beef and pork filet (originally only beef from a breed from Sellrain in Tyrol) and a blue cheese and cream sauce. In Austria you can only get this dish here, it was created by Werner L. Ultsch who is known for being the originator of ‘fine natural cuisine’. For years Werner, Harald’s brother, worked as chef de cuisine at the Hotel Schwarzer Adler in Innsbruck – before he went out into the world.
L.L. / Pfiffbar at Schwarzer Adler is Innsbruck’s most tradition-steeped bar. With its interior one gets a feel of the US in the Alps. Where did the idea to open a typical American Bar in Innsbruck come from?
S.U. / Pfiffbar is a meeting place where people get together. The inner core was restored and the 500-year-old beams were uncovered. Which means that the Tyrolean elements are still there. After Harald’s return from the Unites States however, he brought a certain American touch with him. Other highlights are the Tyrolean barkeeper and the home-made products we use for our cocktails.
L.L. / In 2013 you opened the aDLERS Design Hotel in Pema tower. On the 12th floor, high above the roofs of Innsbruck, guests at aDLERS can find culinary highlights and a bar. The motto here is: Casual dining, wining and meeting. What does this mean for you?
S.U. / On the one hand it means that there’s something here for everyone: international cuisine, inspired by Tyrolean products! A casual atmosphere at the bar with a small menu. Breakfast or brunch, lunch, dinner or a simple snack – everything’s possible.
On the other hand: Simple and clear interior design, a coherent concept, Tyrolean hospitality. In short: The choice of meals and drinks available seven days a week surely has something for everyone! Be it for breakfast or brunch in the morning, a drink at the bar, a small snack in the afternoon or a nice dinner in the evening.
L.L. / The aDLERS restaurant was awarded 86 points by the Falstaff restaurant guide. What are your quality standards with regards to the ingredients you use and the way you prepare the meals?
S.U. / What is extremely important to us is using regional products from the area and Austria. Local suppliers play an important role.
L.L. / The panoramic view you can enjoy from aDLERS restaurant is unique for a hotel in Innsbruck. When is the best time to enjoy the view?
S.U. / During a beautiful dinner, right be the window – the view of the city’s lights is spectacular. And for all the early risers among you, a weekday breakfast would be my special tip. The atmosphere is simply unique.
L.L. / Both hotels are known for their rooftops where one can enjoy a wonderful view of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains. What was your inspiration when it came to designing the rooftops?
S.U. / The rooftops have been designed to match the appearance of the Innsbruck brand: Urban-alpine style! And the view of the city is part of the deal.
L.L. / Your two hotels are quite different. On the one hand, there is a house with a century-old history and tradition, on the other hand there is a design hotel that lets the hearts of lovers of modern architecture and interior design beat faster. A constant interplay of modernity & tradition. What is more your thing?
S.U. / This interplay of modernity & tradition is like Ying and Yang. The Schwarzer Adler is a witness of times long past and aDLERS reflects modern times. Although we as a family certainly spend more time at aDLERS – there’s something going on there every day of the week – the Schwarzer Adler makes us feel comfortable and very much at home.
L.L. / Sonja Ultsch, as a result of your experience in fashion, you place stylish highlights in the hotels’ interiors and the motto clearly is: New meets old. How difficult is it to combine these two components while still getting a stylish and contemporary result?
S.U. / In the case of both hotels the quality of the products and local suppliers play an important role. At Schwarzer Adler we pay particular attention to modern crystal components, comfortable beds with down pillows from producers that foster animal welfare, high-quality textiles by Backhausen and Kärtner Leinen. The metal for the washbasins comes from local metalworking shops that do not use synthetic materials or chemicals.
Hotel Schwarzer Adler has had a profound influence on aDLERS in terms of authenticity and originality. The urban-alpine design is visible in the entire design hotel. Tyrolean loden, rugs from Lech valley, granite and lamps that resemble old farmers’ lampshades.
The origin always is and will be Tyrolean Tradition which is alpine and urban at the same time. This influence was a guiding factor for the design. And the urban-alpine design is perfectly underlined by the interplay of ‘old meets new’, too. Aside from that I’m always in favour of trying out more bold design and being courageous – especially when on holiday people enjoy a timeout in a special atmosphere and surroundings.
L.L. / Comfy parlours, charming bars and fascinating rooftop terraces. What is your favourite spot in the different houses?
S.U. / Comfy parlours for dinner – in this case Schwarzer Adler is my power spot. Cocktails are best enjoyed at aDLERS Bar. And the Pfiffbar terrace is perfect for after work drinks and meeting friends.
L.L. / Florian and Fabian – you are the 5th generation that has an active part in the businesses. The Ultsch family looks back on a more than 100-year old tradition as hosts. Do you feel like the hotel business was passed on to you? Did you ever consider going down a different career path?
Fl.U. / Yes, the hotel business definitely is in our blood. We grew up in the hotel, we lived there. Which is why we witnessed the positive sides of the hospitality industry from when we were little. I never considered choosing a different career path – I am a full-blooded hotelier and I live my passion. F.U. / Well I’d say what with us living in the hotel it was definitely passed on to me. I did consider going down a different path a few times but when I was 18 I decided to stick with the hospitality industry. And it’s my thing, I fit in perfectly.
L.L. / The Schwarzer Adler has seen numerous renovations. Do you, the youngest generation, have plans and ideas you would like to put into practice in the future?
Fl.U. / In the future we would like to be the embodiment of Tyrolean hospitality. A sure partner for guests and staff and becoming even more strong in the industry. What the future will bring is something we can’t know yet, but we will keep following our goal of a clear vision.
F.U. / I have brought back many ideas from my travels and long stays abroad – we are currently in the process of realising one of them: The Afternoon Tea I have imported from London. It takes place every Saturday afternoon from 2.30 pm at aDLERS and it’s unique here in Innsbruck. But I’d say the biggest project for a family-run business is to keep growing – and to never stand still.
L.L. / Mr. Ultsch, in 2006 you founded the hotel group Harry’s Home Hotels. The slogan of this group is: ‘The Impossible Hotel’. What is it that makes Harry’s so impossible? What makes it different from classic hotel concepts?
H.U. / The goal of Harry’s Home is to give business people and families a ‘home’ where sticking to one’s habits is most important. Harry’s Home is the missing link between hotel and apartment. The guest is not pampered too much or too little. They get to decide on the intensity: Support instead of service!
L.L. / Five hotels in Austria, one in Germany and from 2018 another one in Switzerland. The modular system of Harry’s Home is popular. What changes in tourism have you observed in the past years?
H.U. / Nowadays the hospitality industry needs to constantly adapt to the guests’ wishes. In the past a good hotel was mostly defined by its service, today it’s supposed to serve its purpose and a modern and responsible guest. The modular service system at Harry’s Home means that we can adapt to the guests’ different needs – and at a fair price. At Harry’s Home the guests only pay for what they really need. They decide how thoroughly the room is cleaned, whether they need a small or a big breakfast or no breakfast at all, how big the room should be and on many more extras. Consequently, it’s the guest who determines the price.
L.L. / With more than 1.5 million last year, Innsbruck saw more overnight stays than ever before. What chance do you see for the future of tourism in Innsbruck and Tyrol?
H.U. / I see big chances in terms of the accessibility at the heart of Europe, the safety, which plays an important role for travellers and in the internationally recognised brand. Tyroleans are proud of their country and that has an effect on its authenticity, of course. The location is characterised by its great quality of life and international connections, for example via big businesses and renowned universities.
L.L. / What are a guest’s expectations when they decide to spend their holiday in the heart of the Alps? And what is it that Innsbruck has to offer?
H.U. / Innsbruck has one clear advantage: The guests are offered great experiences all year round! Starting with an 800-year history, great cultural offers, highlights of modern architecture all the way to sporty activities and shopping. A city with a thousand facets. And the city’s USP – the short distance to the mountains: You can enjoy the glorious view even without hiking.
L.L. / Traditional dishes like Schlutzkrapfen, Speckknödl and Gröstl* are unique to Tyrol. Do you think Innsbruck can keep up with metropoles like Munich and Vienna when it comes to the culinary side? *A type of stuffed pasta, bacon dumplings, and roasted potatoes with onions, bits of meat and a fried egg
H.U. / Definitely! According to a new study by APA (Austria Press Agency), the holiday destinations Innsbruck and Vienna are both developing at the same speed. Innsbruck has long become a metropolis and of course Tyrolean Tradition should be reflected on the plate, too. Which is why the Schwarzer Adler has gone back to the roots and now offers traditional, authentic Tyrolean cuisine that is not just popular with tourists but with locals, too.
L.L. / Occasionally even the Ultsch family needs a break. When you go on holiday – what is it you look at when choosing a hotel?
S.U. / We look at innovative ideas. Special insider tips, no big hotels but beautiful, small and special hotels. And it doesn’t need to have five stars. A personal note is what counts. Nothing that seems artificial – the exchange with the staff is really important to us!
Wordrap with Sonja-Sophie Ultsch
Strudel or Schlutzkrapfen: Schlutzkrapfen.
This dish always comes out well: Omelette with herbs for the family Sunday brunch!
The rooftop terrace at aDLERS is perfect for…eating, having drinks, relaxing – every moment in life, really!
Family-run hotels are…guaranteed quality for every guest because there is a personal commitment to making everybody feel at home!
The Hotspot in Innsbruck: aDLERS Bar.
Innsbruck in three words: Young, fit, urban-alpine.
Harald and Sonja-Sophie Ultsch are the fourth generation of hosts at the tradition-steeped hotel Schwarzer Adler in Innsbruck. In 2013 they opened the design hotel aDLERS with its 75 rooms which impresses with its top cuisine and the unique rooftop terrace on the 12th floor. The sister hotel ‘Harry’s Home’ was founded by Harald Ultsch in 2006, its six locations in Austria and Germany are very popular. The sons Florian and Fabian already are an active part of the company business while daughter Valentina is still at university.