"Martini, please. Shaken, not stirred."
The waitress doesn't even blink. She doesn't write down the order either, having probably committed this particular request to memory a long, long time ago. Everyone here is ordering martinis, shaken, not stirred.
It's fitting to be drinking the cocktail made famous by one James Bond in this location, because it has some history. Now it's filled with skiers and sightseers enjoying a lunchtime aperitif, but a few years ago it was playing host to 600 film crew, 4000 tonnes of cinematic equipment, and the nattily dressed Daniel Craig.
Ice-Q: it sounds like it could be the villain in a Bond film, but, in fact, it was an important location in Spectre, the latest instalment of the British spy franchise. Fans would instantly recognise this mountaintop restaurant high in the Austrian Alps, a glass cube atop the summit of the 3056-metre Gaislachkogl mountain in the Soelden Valley ski area, from its starring role in the movie. Bond arrived here, decked out in mountain boots and ridiculous sunglasses, looking for Lea Seydoux's character Madeleine Swann, before engaging in a fairly destructive chase across snow and ice that involved guns, four-wheel-drives and a plane that ended up with no wings.
"People here thought they must have a new airport," says Nicole Jaeger, a Soelden Valley local, referring to the constant activity in the skies during the two weeks of filming for the chase sequence. Soelden is usually peaceful and quiet – a more affordable and laid-back alternative to the fur-coat crowds of St Anton and Lech in the more famous Arlberg ski region – but for those two weeks there was a stunt plane frequently roaring across a nearby glacier chasing a few vehicles.
The Ice-Q, however, was built for stardom. Its looks are Hollywood sexy, and the very existence of this $10-million structure is a feat worthy of filming. The building rests on three pylons that have been driven deep into the mountain, and can be moved up and down to allow for the varying levels of permafrost that cover the top of the mountain throughout the year.
However, it's what is inside that counts. While the Ice-Q was a psychiatric clinic in Spectre – a psychiatric clinic with a criminal lack of martinis – in real life it's a fine-dining restaurant with one of the best alpine views you're ever likely to see. You can gaze out across rugged, snowy peaks as far as the Dolomites in Italy and the Alps in Switzerland as you take your seat in this glass-encased cube. Skiers schuss down the slope below. The Gaislachkoglbahn gondola rolls along silently nearby. Even in a country of amazing views around every corner, this is a jaw-dropper.
The menu here is equally impressive. This is no ski-country canteen. Ice-Q was designed to rival any restaurant in Austria, and, to achieve that, head chef Patrick Schnedl had to tackle an interesting set of challenges.
Food tastes different at 3000 metres above sea level. It's also more difficult to make. Water boils at 85 degrees up here. It's almost impossible to cook a decent risotto. Eggs are hard to get right. Wine tastes different, and had to be selected by the Ice-Q's sommelier to match the altitude. Food tastes overly salty, so everything has to be deliberately under-seasoned.
Still, the kitchen staff manage to churn out dishes like truffle linguine, sole with truffled potato mousseline, dry-aged rib-eye steak with bearnaise sauce, and venison saddle with brussels sprouts and chestnuts, so these problems are clearly surmountable. The wine list, too, is impressive, with a suite of European wines that just happen to taste their finest when popped at this altitude. You can understand the restaurant's popularity.
To get back down the mountain after lunch, there are two options. The first is to strap on your skis, and tackle the descent the old-fashioned way. The second is to wander over to the gondola and ride down in gentle, heated comfort.
With an option like that, it would be a shame not to order another martini. Shaken, not stirred.
Emirates flies daily from the east coast of Australia to Zurich, via Dubai. See emirates.com/au. Transfers from Zurich to Soelden Valley take 3½ hours, and can be arranged through the Soelden lift company (see website above).
The Ice-Q is open seven days a week, year-round, from 9am until 4pm, with night-time openings during winter. See website above for details, or email email@example.com for reservations.
The four-star Liebe Sonne Hotel has spacious rooms in the heart of Soelden. See leibesonne.at
Ben Groundwater travelled as a guest of the Austrian National Tourist Office.