Chez Pépé Nicolas – 3 Vallées Lunch on the Mountain

• Authentic • Fondue Beaufort • Alpine Chalet •

Chez Pépé Nicolas was the best choice we could have made for dining out on the slopes.  You won’t pass by here on your normal ski day, which makes it even more worth the detour down Chasse (which is quite an adventure if there isn’t enough snow).  You’ll reach a wonderful secluded alpine chalet with spectacular views of the valley.  It’s located just between Les Menuires and Val Thorens.

“At Grandpa Nicolas” is a family owned business.  Originally Nicolas Jay bought the alpine chalet La Chasse to raise cows and goats and produce Savoyard tommy cheese but eventually his grandchildren took over and formed today’s restaurant.

The day we decided to dine here turned out to be very fitting.  Just before lunch we treated ourselves to the steep, narrow, mogul covered gully aka Grand Couloir.  My dad was taking pictures – they had to look good – but I tried a bit too hard, lost a ski and ended up tumbling, bouncing and sliding through 500m of moguls.  I still wonder how nothing happened, except me getting an upper-body work out that resulted into two days of sore muscles.  But so be it.  It made me look even more forward to a relaxed but extensive lunch and some cheesiness to glue me back up from the inside.

Starting with the traverse to the chalet this lunch spot kept on impressing us.  The authentic interior reminds of the old barn house it used to be: traditional, cozy and cute, with sheepskin rugs, wooden baskets, tea kettles, picture frames, logs and bundles of sticks.  Still the sun lured us to the patio.  Around a corner with an antique radio station, rustic trunks and an old laundry line, we chose the bench offering panoramic views of the surrounding Glacier and Peclet Polset.

Already the caramel-chocolate Infusion* was a hit. Unlike some of the other mountain chalets, they have fair portions.  I got a little tea pot that served two large cups of tea.  But now to the food:  As an appetizer we had the regional onion soup, poured at table side over french croutons and grated Beaufort (a creamy and strong alpine cheese from the region).  Our plat principal was their specialty Fondue Beaufort Savoyard.  I had never been too fond of fondue, but luckily I wanted to try it anyway.  This was the first of the cheese pots that I could appreciate to its full extent.  The creamy and rich flavor perfectly complemented its white wine finish – I feel like I’m becoming a real fondue fan now, the Beaufort seriously makes it unbeatebly luscious.  With it came an abundance of fresh green salad, garnished with some seeds.  The amount was ideal, as it filled you up without discouraging dessert.  We were decisive on which one to take here: rissoles, tartelette aux myrtilles, farçon.  That was Le Dessert Bellevillois so it didn’t matter that we had no idea what to expect – it was local, and unique to Chez Pépé.  The Savoyard rissoles are little, puffy, baked pastries filled with a pear compote; they were crunchy, crispy, perfectly sweet and dusted with powdered sugar.  Next on the platter was the wild – they truly tasted like they were just gathered in the back pasture (forget the snow) – blueberry tart.  Last but not least was the little glass jar of farçon.  A warm soft creamy mush; just like bread pudding with juicy raisins and some unidentifiable flavors.  The mix of all three desserts in combination with one another was great.  Especially the wild tart accompanied by the warm farçon.  I’ve been thinking about this lunch every day since – it was too terrific to be forgotten!

The other little hut aside the restaurant is their boutique with local products and their cups and and bowls to be sold.

An unbeatable atmosphere, scrumptious meal and authentic, funny and friendly service – we couldn’t have wished for a better outing!

*Infusion: aka tea that isn’t literally tea = herbal tea; the French are pretty precise

Where? 73440 Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, France (I don’t think this can help you much in the winter 🙂 )

Skiing directions: from the peak Col de La Chambre, ski towards Val Thorens or Les Menuires towards the Lift Plan de L’eau till you get onto the red slope Chasse, signs point the way from there … If there’s little snow, you might have to walk bits across the muddy bridge and trust your orientation, because it will be hard to find.  Good luck!

When? 11:30-23:00 (reservation highly recommended)

Tel. Number: +33 6 09 45 28 35


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