If your idea of a perfect ski lunch is a quick spag bog in the nearest self-service joint, you probably shouldn’t bother reading the rest of today’s report as it won’t be of much interest. I’ll just quickly tell you that snow conditions are good and they will shortly get better as fresh snow is falling.
If, however, you are the sort of person who likes finding out-of-the-way restaurants and appreciates authenticity and old-fashioned charm, then please do read on. Today we visited a ‘new’ restaurant, Chez Pepe Nicolas, located between Val Thorens and Les Menuires. It is, in fact, an old restaurant, having been run by Eric Suchet for the past 25 summers, however, this is the first winter is has opened. It is unique among 3 Valley restaurants for two reasons; it’s a genuine traditional shepherd’s chalet and it is located nowhere near a piste. The out-of-the-way location is both a drawback and its main appeal as a place found only by those in the know. A couple of years ago I wrote about another ‘secret restaurant’, the Cabane des Bucherons in the Courchevel valley, which created lots of interest and about which I’m still asked questions today. So, I was highly interested to try out this new word-of-mouth eatery.
Having rung the owner for directions, we set out into the unknown feeling highly intrepid. Leaving the Montaulever piste in Les Menuires, we traversed off-piste for a good five minutes, taking our skis off to cross the main road, before the chalet finally came into view. The setting is charming with views over the whole valley and we were greeted by an adorable St Bernard puppy called Happy. The restaurant is small and cosy, the interior prettily decorated with old Savoy photos and items, with hand-written sayings dotted about the walls. It is tiny, with only five tables indoors and a larger outdoor dining terrace. Eric, the owner, couldn’t have been friendlier. He explained that the chalet was built in the 1870s as a ‘montagnette’, a shepherd’s summer home and has been in his family for generations. He named the place after his grandfather Nicholas, who used the chalet to look after his cows and goats and to make local Tomme cheese. He introduced us to his team and taught us a few Savoy dialect words and generally made us feel as if we were his honoured guests.
The food is local, traditional and made with ingredients sourced in the valley. Savoy cuisine is hearty, unpretentious and simple, so after our tartiflettes, duck with tagliatelle and pork with pasta, we were all too full to sample the tempting-looking cheeses or desserts. Eric’s home-made genepi was all we could manage instead, and this gave us courage for a slightly wobbly descent back onto the Boulevard Cumin piste below.
If you fancy an authentic Savoy lunch (or dinner) then it’s worth making an effort to find this place. The best way to find it is to take a guide or, if you are confident finding your way off-piste, then ask Eric for directions. If you really don’t want to ski off-piste, then you can get to it instead by walking uphill for ten minutes from the Boulevard Cumin. Remember to book – tel 06.09.45.28.35. You may well find me there, snuggled up in one of the sheepskins-lined chairs on the terrace, enjoying an afternoon away from it all…