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20 February 2015

Four secret restaurants to uncover in the mountains this winter

Snow has finally covered the mountaintops.

A holidays in the Alps is beckoning. And here are four off-the-beaten-track restaurants that you simply must discover.

Before everyone else does!

Three of the Alps’ Iconic Dishes:
The queen of alpine specialities is the raclette. A typical dish of the mountains, it was initially called “roasted cheese” before the term ‘raclette’ was coined. But remember, the choice of cheese is vital. Choose a real raclette cheese from the Savoie or Valais Suisse, which are often slightly stronger in taste. Today, there exists a diverse variation of raclette cheese, including smoked cheese, with pepper or with mustard…

Restaurant Le Panoramic Tignes © Merci
By Ludovic Bischoff

Tartiflette is another popular staple dish on the mountain. Watch out for the “tourist” version, where crème fresh is mixed with melted cheese on top of pre-boiled potatoes. At the root of raclette, we find the ‘Aravis peel’, a shepherd’s dish in which there are only potatoes sautéed in a large dish, embellished by smoked ham and covered by a half reblochon. And that’s all! The ‘bonne tartiflette’, invented in the 1980s, must only contain these ingredients (although you might get away with adding onions on occasion!)

The rösti is a Swiss course that is growing in popularity beyond the borders of the Confederation. It comprises of a galette of thickly grated potatoes cooked in a frying pan. This dish demands a great deal of effort in order to be successful, according to the rules of the art and in order to constitute a compact galette. And you can add lardons, cheese, onions, or even foie gras or truffles for a ‘luxury’ version…

  • The Farçon: the best-kept secret in the Alps

    In the Three Valleys area, ski resort La Tania claims the title as “the best-kept secret in the Alps”. And it is in this preserved resort that you will find the most undetected and most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant in the French mountains! Here are two secrets kept jealously underwraps by those in-the-know…although they won’t remain secrets for long seeing as the chef at the Farçon, young and friendly Julien Machet is taking part in the 2015 edition of Top Chef on M6! An unknown world of stardom awaits this unusual cook, who started his career by taking over the family crêperie before clinching a Michel star, after just a few years in the restaurant business. And so, you absolutely must head for Farçon before the crowds of hungry Top Chef viewers descend upon it. As well as its extremely reasonable rates (35 euros at lunchtime and 58 euros in the evening), Julien Machot’ restaurant is without a doubt the most affordable Michelin-starred spot in the Alps. And also one of the most original, seeing as here you only have the choice of two menus to select from…one for men, and one for women! You have to try it. But Julien Machet knows how to play the game. As a stubborn mountain dweller, he stands by his radical decision, which allows clients to taste the same culinary products according to a feminine or masculine approach. Thus, the “omble chevalier” is cooked at a low temperature and accompanied with apples for madame, whilst it is served with leeks and bergamot lemons for the gentleman. And so it goes on. Something to experience sooner rather than later, before everybody flocks to Farçon and uncovers the best kept secret in the Three Valleys…

    Farcon website: www.lefarcon.fr

  • The Panoramic: the highest chic bistro in France

    Forget all about high-altitude self-service. At the Panoramic, in Tignes, there are no lukewarm sausage and chips but a high-end “bistronomic” experience! Winner of the Master-Restauranteur award in 2013, Jean-Michel Bouvier’s restaurant is the first to reach the true ‘heights’ of the pistes (at 3032m!). Here, everything is super cosy, padded with animal skins and warm wood furniture. This spot offers you a 4-star service, with the chance to ease off your ski-boots and swap them for a pair of soft, furry slippers. Then, take a seat in the large dining room, with open kitchens where meats roast away on the giant hearth. Already waiting for you on the table are breads and dried diots. The menu is extensive, allowing you to taste carvings of veal, milky pork shoulder grilled in the fireplace, spit-roast chicken or Breton lobster braised in the crackling fire. And how could you resist the selection of deserts, including fruit tarts, Vacherin, chocolate gateaux, mousse and various meringues that catch your eye? It is near impossible to slip your skis back and leave warm and elegant place where Jean-Michel Bouvier jovially manages a squadron of young waiters dressed as mountain-dwellers. And if you love the décor, Catherine Bouvier runs a boutique on site (the highest artisanal boutique in Europe!) in which you can hunt for durable mountain objects created by local artisans who work with wool, wood, metal, earth, wax and stone…

    The Panoramic website: www.jeanmichelbouvier.com

  • Stüva restaurant: the stomping ground of the gifted young chef who put the Tirol on the map

    The Austrian ski resort of Ischgl is the epicentre of gourmet cuisine in the Tirol Alps. Here, there is an astonishing concentration of top restaurants. And amongst all these places, there is one that stands out from the rest, thanks mostly to the talent of its young chef, Benjamin Parth. An undeniable genius in the kitchen, this 26 year-old, has already won three “toques” and received 17/20 from the Gault & Millau guide, which covers the whole of Austria. This is a momentous achievement for this cook, the youngest distinguished Austrian chef, who has literally spent his life behind the stove, searching, inventing and testing all sorts of cooking and preparation methods. Like all those that inspire him, Benjamin is not at ease in the public eye and in life in general. But when he takes command in the kitchen, he excels himself and exceeds the boundaries of creativity. Surrounded by his entire family who own the Yscla hotel, in which his restaurant Stüva is nestled, Benjamin Prath pushes his own limits on every level. And you wonder whether, at such a young age, if he will be able to reach new heights of excellence and originality. His cuisine mixes French and Asiatic influences, as well as Tirol gastronomy, all with panache and a disarming simplicity. Still relatively unknown beyond his surrounding area, Benjamin Parth deserves to be swiftly discovered before his reputation explodes before the eyes of the world…

    Hotel Yscla website: www.yscla.at/en

  • Try the most palatial raclette in Paris at the Park Hyatt Vendôme

    Do you have a burning desire to try a warming raclette? Provided that you don’t have to leave Paris? In that case, head for the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme to savour the most exclusive raclette in the capital. For this 5-star hotel has installed a real Swiss chalet on their outdoor terrace. Until 1st March, guests are welcomed every evening to try a “raclette palace”! Up to 8 people may take a seat around a beautifully dressed table with overly rustic but nevertheless sophisticated crockery. Animal hides cover the chairs, lighting in subdued and the music brings an alpine atmosphere…the setting, it has to be said, is undeniably successful. Having just sat down, you forget that you’re in Paris altogether. The refined and felted décor is an invitation to journey far away. The “Fleurier chalet”, which derives it name from Jura Suisse, a small village, where Chopard watches are manufactured, is decorated with tools and memorabilia of the famous watchmaker. The menu begins with a Bagne soup and a running egg yolk, appetisers that set the tone and reawaken the taste buds. The meal culminates with an iced mango and passion fruit Vacherin created by pastry-chef Fabien Bertea, who has the prowess to offer a light desert after a dinner comprising of cheese fondue and charcuterie. This is an extremely successful feature, created by the man who has just been announced as ‘Pastry-Chef of the Year’ by travel guide Gault & Millau 2015. And there is so much more to see between these two courses, including the famous raclette overseen by the Hyatt Vendôme head chef, Jean-François Rouquette. The cheese is a raclette from Saint-Nicklaus in Switzerland. This covers a layer of new potatoes. And all is accompanied by a carefully selected charcuterie platter. But this little alpine adventure within the Péripherique will set you back 175 euros, not including wines! Add on an extra hundred euros and you can experience the ‘luxury’ version with black truffles grated over your cheese fondue. Is this really reasonable? Probably not. But it captures the spirit of the hotel!

    Park Hyatt Vendome website: www.paris.vendome.hyatt.fr

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