France: A taste of Courchevel
Travel writer Sophie Ibbotson visits French ski resort Courchevel to check out the local culinary scene.
You come to the French Alps the first time for the skiing, but return again and again to Courchevel for the food. The resort is a cluster of six pretty mountain villages, and it happens to have one of the highest concentrations of Michelin starred restaurants in the world: 12 stars for a permanent population of 2,419 people!
Gourmandes will be in their element. The surrounding Savoie region is renowned for its cheeses, saucissons, and grapes, so you’ll want to choose some local wines to accompany your meals. Whatever your budget and preferred style of dining, in Courchevel your taste buds are in for a treat.
The grand masters of Courchevel’s culinary scene, chefs Michel Rochedy and Stephane Buron have earned two Michelin stars for Le Chabichou, and also oversee its more wallet-friendly sister bistro, Le Chabotté.
The chefs pride themselves on inventive menus, exquisite presentation, and discrete service, and the recipe works: they’ve been delighting celebrities and other discerning guests since the 1960s. The appeal for skiers is that both restaurants are right on the slopes in Courchevel 1850, so you can ski in, ski out from lunch!
Hot on their heels and bringing a youthful flair to his cooking, François Moureaux is the toast of Le Praz. His Restaurant Azimut has a welcoming, laid back atmosphere which puts guests at their ease, and a menu which showcases the very best of Savoie’s ingredients.
Set price menus here start from a competitively priced €55 and include delights such as marinated trout with sorrel, roasted breast of veal shoulder with liquorice cream, and a melt in the mouth chocolate tart with local honey. The waiting staff have a sophisticated understanding of local wines, including sparkling wines, so you will imbibe as well as you dine.
If Savoie has a local speciality, it is fondue savoyarde. The best restaurant to try anything cheese related — raclette, tartiflette, and, of course, fondue — is Le Petit Savoyard in Courchevel 1650.
Plan ahead when you’re going to dine here (which I highly recommend), and don’t bother with breakfast or lunch beforehand: the dishes are so hearty and delicious that you’ll want to be as hungry as possible when you arrive in order to do the meal justice. The homemade bread is as good as the cheese.
When you’re on the slopes, you may not want to stop for a big meal, and then a drink and a snack is exactly what you need. Fahrenheit 7 is right by the lifts in Courchevel 1650 and has a gorgeous terrace which is sun drenched for most of the afternoon. It is hard to beat stretching out on one of their deck chairs with a glass of Aperol Spritz or a sparkling wine in hand, and you might well fine that 3pm turns rather too quickly to 6pm, by which time the daylight has gone.
Thus far I’ve described some of the big name culinary sites, plus those within easy reach of the piste. I’m at pains to mention my hidden gem, however, in case it suddenly becomes overbooked and I can no longer get a table. But I’ll let you in on the secret.
Ride the mountainside escalator down from the ski lifts in Courchevel 1650 towards Aquamotion, and get out half way. Immediately to the right is Le C Residence, one of the resort’s newest and most luxurious apart-hotels. Its ground floor restaurant, Bistrot Le C, often has live music in the bar, and the menu is a culinary treat.
Every dish is presented with imagination; the baked cod atop a seafood risotto is served within a whole artichoke, and looks like a fine work of sculpture. Pacing yourself enough to have space for dessert is a challenge (you might well be defeated by the mouthwatering homemade bread), but if you can squeeze in a Religieuse (essentially a tiered praline profiterole) or even a morsel of sorbet, it’s the most wonderful end to the meal.
Dining in Courchevel is far from calorie free, but if you spend your days exerting yourself hiking, skiing, or mountain biking, you deserve to feast come nightfall.
Top Tip – Accommodation
To book an apartment in Courchevel at Le C Residence, visit alpine-residences.fr or call +33 (0)4 79 08 91 80.
Top Tip – When to go
Courchevel is a year round destination, but many of the restaurants featured are only open during the ski season between December and April.
Images courtesy of Courchevel Official, Alpine Residences, and Maximum Exposure Ltd.