Sissy Sonnleitner is a star, voted Austria's Chef of the Year in 1990. Yet she does not work in Vienna, Salzburg, or even a posh ski resort, but in the village of Mauthen. Find it on the River Gail, a few minutes' drive from the Italian border. Apart from inspiration derived from family holidays in France and Germany, she is self-taught. Her repertoire combines Carinthian and Friuli dishes: she fills pasta Austrian-style, with white cheese, potatoes and herbs but stuffs dumplings Italian-style, with pumpkin.
   Kurt Sonnleitner's wine cellar scores for its competitive prices and wide range of vintages from Italy, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Austria. Breakfast is served under the arches in the peaceful courtyard. The 500-year-old Kellerwand, with yellow walls and blue shutters, is the oldest building in Mauthen and has been in the family for more than 300 years. A half-way house for travellers between Venice and Vienna, it merits more than an overnight stay. Those who settle in for a fortnight on half-board are never offered the same dish twice. Bedrooms match the high standards of the cooking: Thonet furniture and Ralph Lauren fabrics with Carrara marble in the bathrooms.