Ski-eat-ing in Espace Killy
So when you go skiing, you get thin.
Just humour me with this OK, because I did come back from 10 days of being on my feet nearly all day (which is like 90% more than I do usually) and I had gained three kilos. That's 300gms per day. It's pretty gross, but as it piled on so quickly, here's hoping it will drop off quickly. Ha ha. #WhatWouldKarinaSay?
Espace Killy is not a place I’ve marked on my gourmet bucket list as a mecca of any kind, but last week we discovered that there are some gems tucked away amongst the snowy peaks. And they beckon and call for you to hunker down in the warmth, particularly when the snow is whistling across the tops of the mountains horizontally and freezing any exposed skin. Luckily I had my number one tastier with me last week, and our round up is as follows:
An extension of Folie Douce smack bang in the middle of the resort, you can’t miss La Fruitiere. Just listen out for the booming beats of the Folie Douce and you’ll find it. Having said that, don’t just pitch up and expect a table, because you probably won’t get one.
We were first introduced to La Fruitiere by Madam Harris and CVL, on a once in a lifetime skiing trip to Meribel. It paints a certain picture if I tell you that instead of skiing back to the chalet after that lunch at La Fruitiere, we took a helicopter. On that occasion. With those two.
On this occasion, we did manage to ski home but with an adjusted centre of gravity after our extreme indulgence. La Fruitiere oozes cool modernity in a rustic chic setting with gorgeous waiters buzzing around in their dark blue boiler suits holding laden trays high above the babbling heads of their diners. We were shown to a table on the upper level, just on the edge of the railings above the stairs, with a bird’s eye view of the constantly emerging dishes from the kitchen. After feasting our eyes on these potential choices, we settled on a shared starter of Reblochon lollipops with bacon. We barely had time to put the milk bottle to our lips (every table comes with a gingerbread flavoured bottle of milk) when our giant cheesy lollipops arrived with a flourish and garnish of delectable cheesy juices. The Reblochon oozed out of it’s breadcrumb shell like glistening fatty lava, and was chased with the deliciously fresh house wine. The bacon is chunky, as you’d expect, and the combination just about sums up Alpine cuisine: cheese & bacon being stalwarts, usually found chaperoned by potato. After this indulgent starter, we moved on to pastures … ahem … even more heaven like. Wiz chose the special of the day – a filo pastry parcel of black pudding, foie gras and chestnuts with a juniper berry jus, and a token green salad side. I chose my all time favourite: chicken caesar salad. Thoughtfully, the anchovies came in a spoon on the side, along with additional dressing for the greedy. It was perfect. All around us the drama of lunchtime service unfolded with whole chickens stuck with sabatiers being delivered alongside the signature bolognaise in glass jars. This atmosphere is magic, the food is sensational, and just as you’re finishing lunch you’ll hear the distinctive bass notes of La Folie Douce start up. Go. Dance in your ski boots. On the table. With snow and slopes all around you in a kind of surreal daytime disco where everyone seems high on the freezing alpine air.
Right on the edge of the Espace Killy ski area, Edelweiss is a little known gem hidden on the wooded lower slopes just off a beautiful blue run. The way down? The rest of that blue run… with a long shoost at the end – easy! And then there's the free bus to shuttle you home if it's all been a bit much.
A complete contrast to La Fruitiere, L'Edelweiss is a cosy, typically alpine restaurant with roaring fires and roaring trade. Make sure you book in advance here, there are never any spare tables. We sat in the lower section of the dining room, which offers a more intimate and tete a tete style atmosphere. At first you may not notice the interiors, but as you look around you’ll start to see how much care and attention has gone into the cosy design of this place – textures abound, whether it’s the sheepskin seat pads, the tweedy curtains, the knotted wood, the smooth metal rails or the glass fire panel, L'Edelweiss has got a certain style that can only be described as sublimely subtle arctic chic. So what did we tuck into here then? Well we started with Chignin Bergeron wine, and ploughed straight into the main course. For me, a carb heavy dish of subtle flavours (salmon and scallop linguine) and for Wiz, an off-the-charts carb feast: the mountain classic Tartiflette. I’m afraid he won. Food envy doesn’t actually describe how I felt. I was ready to try every feminine wile in the book to get a few mouthfuls of that gently simmering cheesy, bacony, potatoey love-in, and I managed – just a couple of forkfuls of potato balancing uneasily with melted cheese and bacon lardons – that was heaven. My linguine paled slightly in comparison – the scallops were a bit disappointing in size, although the balance of the dish was spot on – it just wasn’t really what I wanted. So a bad choice on my part. To finish the meal off, we chose to share a tarte tatin with home made cinnamon ice cream. This was flaky, sweet, caramelised perfection swirled together with the cold spice of ice cream. It was an unnecessary but wholly satisfactory decision, an extra layer of fat to warm us against the cold outside.
At the top of La Motte, just before the Cable Car to the very peak, Le Panoramic is in an unassuming building that looks pretty average on the outside. But you will go past it at the top of the Vanoise chairlift or the funiculaire Grande Motte, and after the icy cold wind has whipped into your ski jacket through any tiny opening, you’ll be gasping to warm up with a chocolat chaud. And that’s when you’ll discover Le Panoramic.
We went to Le Panoramic for a chocolat chaud. But we booked lunch on the spot. How would we spend the next two hours in this filthy weather characterized by low, flat light, and horizontal sleet. It was tempting to lounge around on the super comfortable sofas in Le Panoramic, next to the open fire, and with the most enormous Beethoven dog I’ve ever seen. Yes, I could happily spend a couple of hours here. And I didn’t even need to worry about a blood sugar dip or lack of energy, for the clever people at Le Panoramic have thought about that and provide you with a small molehill of multi-coloured meringues and marshmallows to munch your way through. Having had a look at the menu though, we realized we did need to work up a bit more of an appetite, and that involved getting outside and tackling the slopes. After a couple of hours of “let’s go all the way down and then back up again and hopefully it’ll be lunchtime by then”, it finally was lunch time and we joyfully returned to Le Panoramic. It says something about the standard of a place when you are invited to remove your feet crunching ski boots and don the house slippers for lunch. We paused: is it worth it knowing that you have to get the damn things back onto your feet after lunch? Hell yes! How many places have you been to where you can slop around in slippers for a couple of hours? The ski boots slipped off with the greatest of ease (perhaps it was the promise of lunch), and we settled in hoping the weather would remain our excuse. Fortunately it did. Already on the table was a saucisson and opinel knife, inviting a taster. The saucisson went down a treat and soon Sandra was by our side taking our orders. We hadn’t had escargots yet, and now was the time. Six as a starter, and Wiz was prepared to relinquish one. Although a slightly raw deal, I was saving some space for pudding. The escargots came with shells full to the brim of herby garlic butter, and a cooked snail carefully pulled out with the escargot fork. They were perfect, not in the least chewy, and in the main garlicky. Next came our main course – wood fired scallops (which I watched being cooked through a window to the kitchen) with a potato gratin, which can only be described as food for the gods, and a perfectly dressed green salad. These scallops were large in size yet delicate in flavor. With slightly charred edges, they carry an interesting flavor alongside the sublime gratin, which had overtures of chanterelle and hazelnut. It was simply magical. We ate slowly, savouring every bite, for this was by far and away the best lunch we had found on the mountain so far. Later, Sandra invited us to finish the meal with a pudding selected from the display of pastries near the bar area, and we duly obeyed her command to do this, and made our choices. Wiz went for a walnut toffee number together with lemon meringue pie, whilst I chose the old favourites of raspberry and chocolate together, all accompanied with a subtle yet sweet Sauternes. We sat a while longer, whilst the multi cultural table beside us swirled their 26 year old red and chewed on a barbequed shoulder of lamb.
Located on the Verte piste on the way down to the La Daille area of Val d'isere is Le Trifollet, we had skied past a few times, on the way down the slope to La Daille .
We stopped in here mid way down a thigh shuddering red run, with the promise of “bar and pizza” on the signage. It wasn’t exactly what we were after, but the place looked welcoming. It has not managed to bag the best place for the sun, so their roaring trade takes place on cloudy days, which was when we chose to visit. As a result, we got a little table by the door; there was no space on the balcony upstairs. A charming Bourdeaux boy served us, regularly interrupted by a more aged character who took orders and promptly forgot them before "Bordeaux" came rushing back to take them again, secretly so that “aged” wouldn’t be offended. Wiz went for one of his favourite piggy meals – the Toulouse sausage with mashed potato, whilst I decided to try a regional speciality – the Beaufort Tart with green salad. It did not disappoint. The tart is like a well risen soufflé on a thin crusty base, with a loud cheesy flavor though not very heavy. This unexpected result makes it quite the treat, and every mouthful was delectable. Wiz’s piggy was served in a petit Le Creuset still bubbling from the stove, and was also delicious. We skipped pudding, but all in all I would rate this as a safe bet though not especially gourmet.
Le Trifollet - 04 79 41 96 99
La Datcha is near the bottom of the Glacier Express chairlift; it's easily recognized with an outdoor terrace and warm, cosy indoors serving food and drink throughout the day.
Great for a chocolat chaud on the south facing sun trap of a balcony, not so hot for lunch. It’s a self-service place, with enormous choice, which should instantly bring up the red light. We decided that today’s motto was going to be Liberte, Egalite, Frugalite, so it was time for a more restrained approach to lunch. Having been earlier for the chocolat, we skied three more runs and summoned up a substantial appetite by going over to the utterly freezing glacier, and returned ravenous. I went for the onion soup and Wiz for the crochiflette (SP!). Mine was tasty but not blow your socks off tasty, whilst Wiz’s was more carb fest ski sustenance style, with a bit of flavor but more about the weight in your stomach and release of energy. Very mediocre, but recommended for your frugalite days. Or if you’re not into that approach, just save it for the balcony and chocolat chaud.
La Datcha - 04 79 06 21 14
At the base of the slope in Tignes Les Brevieres, L'Armailly was recommended to us as a great lunch stop, but as we are based in Les Brevs, we decided to try it out on the chalet staff day off…
Incredibly underwhelming. The setting seems perfect, and the menu looks good. But our experience here was far from what we expected. Wiz went for poulet with a chanterelle sauce, and I for breaded goats cheese with green salad. We were served incredibly quickly, and by the end of the meal I believe that not much care or attention went into our food – it seemed to be a race to get it out as quickly as possible. My goats cheese was tasty, but dry and the green salad was delicious but both lacked a certain je ne sais quoi to bring it all together – a sauce perhaps, or some melba toast, just something that would set it apart from being a couple of bits of cheese dumped on some greenery. Wiz’s chicken was only half cooked and we could only surmise that it had been flash fried on either side, before being smothered in chanterelle sauce, but when cut into the middle was completely raw. We didn’t send it back as by the time Wiz realized, he said he was full. We did, however, point it out to the waiter, who looked a little perturbed and then skittered off to the kitchen. For pudding, we decided to try what was promised as ‘traditional tiramisu’. Well my mother makes a far better tiramisu and she lives at least a couple of thousand miles further from Italy, the home of this pudding. What came was an unnecessarily enormous portion of cake layered with cream and custard, with two pitiful pools of thin, tasteless, custard either side. No sign of any coffee soaked sponge fingers. It was as underwhelming as a slushy piste on a crisp sunny day.
If, like me, you’re left rapt with wonder at the engineering of the funival from La Daille to the top of Rocher de Bellevarde, then going up and down it for half the day will mean you are conveniently close to Les Tufs for an indulgent midday break.
After yesterday’s AK approach (aka hit and miss) to food, we were in need of betting on a sure thing, as those across the Atlantic would say, and I’m happy to report that Les Tufs came up trumps. Standing at the bottom of the slope, and just one dangerously easy parallel turn away, is the delightful Les Tufs. In the sunshine I imagine this eatery boasts one of the most colourful and heavily populated crowds of vin chaud drinkers in the valley. With our thin(ning) African (read: alcoholic) blood, we usually opt to be inside, unless it’s a scorcher and even then we get a bit nervous of peeling skin, so this occasion was no different and we settled into the bustling yet chic greige space. A charming waiter (most of them seem to be) recommended a delicious bottle of wine, and we chose: scallops from the specials board for Wiz and a Caesar salad for me. In contrast to other places we’ve eaten, lunch arrived in a leisurely manner – and the lack of rush made us feel a lot less harried than usual. We ate slowly, savouring each mouthful. Wiz’s enormous scallops wallowed in a bed of ‘fondue of leeks’, a silky partner-in-taste to the fishy star of this show. Meanwhile before me lay a quite astonishing plate of salad, sufficiently greased by a generous amount of dressing, but scrumptious in flavour. No less than three covers took place on the table next door whilst we lounged around letting the snow melt of our boots and the feeling return to our toes. The curse of the sweet tooth could not be escaped, and we had a scoop of ice cream each, which was presented beautifully with a large disc of snappy thin praline. Highly recommended.
Nestled in the heart of Tignes Les Brevieres, this feels like the genuine article. Large wooden trestle tables, low slung windows with snow half way up them, and a slightly frosty French welcome. It’s all too perfect.
Our final lunch. We practically had tears running down our cheeks. We spoke of plans to buy a chalet. Our depressed hysteria ran to such extremes of fantasy – anything to feel a guarantee of return. Nonetheless, we still had to eat. The first, and utterly unforgettable thing that hit us as we bent to enter La Sachette was the completely heartwarming smell of a beef bourgingon that has been simmering away for most of the day. Warm red wine fumes swirled invisibly around the room, seeping into every ancient wooden crevice, and instantly grabbed us with its tentacles and hauled us inside. Although we were sorely tempted to order just that, in the end we went for a ‘light’ lunch of Beaufort Tart (again) for me, and pizza for Wiz. What was especially pleasant about La Sachette was the little extras thrown in. First, we were given a shot of warm vegetable soup; a perfect way to shake off the last vestiges of snowy cold, and then a plate of beautifully plump, shiny olives was delivered along with fresh crusty bread. The pizza and tart that followed could have been pedestrian in comparison, but they were both full in flavour, and my tart in particular was accompanied with a delicate green salad topped with a single, but beautiful red beetroot crisp. Accompanied with a sore head (from one too many falls in the powder that morning) and a bottle of wine, it was a perfect last lunch before departing from the epic and heady heights of the Alps.