Somehow, some how, we made it to Chamonix last week. After spending a gruelling 16 hours at Gatwick Airport due to flight delays (I think I topped up my frequent flyer points from the number of loo visits I made) and then being cancelled again at the end of the 16 hours, we somehow managed to make our way to Stansted Airport, and then to Chamonix, albeit 27 hours later than planned.

We were all cranky and tired and quite possibly very smelly, but arriving in Chamonix was like one of those lightbulb moments. Not so much like we had a great idea, because believe me, our brains were not thinking, but more like ah-haaaaah… ahhhhhhhh (that’s the glorious sound of me realising something).

The wondrousness of the place, the snow capped mountains and seemingly endless runs of white powder ~ it is seriously mesmerising and a natural upper like you can’t imagine. After the 27 hour commute, we arrived and literally picked up our skis and hit the slopes straight away.

Chamonix is a gorgeous little town, and was in fact a proper town before it became a ski resort. They have all kinds of regular shops with a slight skew towards over priced ski gear (which we didn’t like very much) and a surprisingly unhealthy obsession with cured meats and cheese (which we liked a lot).

We booked out trip through Alpine Elements and stayed at their chalet which is located in the village a stone’s throw from the first Chamonix ski lifts. I mean, check out the view from our place:

Anyway, before I go on, I should warn you that this post is going to suffer from a little A.D.D. I have so much to say, but y’know, I’m totally aware that people don’t like anything “below the fold” and that sucks for me because I think everything below my first photo falls below the fold”. But herewith is my declaration to persevere and blog about the trip anyway, and if you’re real good and read to the end, you’ll maybe see some food photos. Maybe.

Oh who am I kidding? Definitely.

So the streets of Chamonix are littered with various shops composed of say 45% ski stuff, 45% meats & cheese, 5% cakes & yummies and  a supermarket called Super-U. Super-me! I love it 🙂

Although most of our meals came as part of our half-board, we did manage to sneak in some additional deliciousness, in the form of crepes (a la David, otherwise known as the gnocchi man):

… our second third desserts at La Potinière. What?! It was Saturday night!…

… and even some macarons, including an aphrodisiac macaron which I’m sad to report, did not work.

Actually speaking of our half-board, I have to say, the meals were surprisingly good. Breakfast came continental as well as cooked (pancakes, bacon, sausages, eggs, everything), afternoon tea cakes included coffee cake, lemon drizzle cake and brownies and dinner was actually pretty darn smashing.

Saturday night was my favourite by far: bacon & brie salad to start, confit of duck for a main, and chocolate tart dessert.

While the half-board food was a lot better than the stiff-bread dry-chicken meal I’d expected, we were also glad when the chef had a night off and we were sent out to fend for ourselves. We’d asked for recommendations from the chalet staff, but they pointed us to places that I’m assuming they thought were cool ~ places that did fusion Thai for example which is uh, no, not what we were after.

Wandering around the village, we stumbled onto a quaint little restaurant that looked traditional enough and decided that right there was where we’d park our tired butts and dig into a serious feed. What a gem of a decision.

Le Maison d’en Bas was nothing short of phenomenal and right here, right now, I want to say that if you’re in Chamonix, go there.

It wasn’t just that the food was incredibly tasty, but this tiny cosy little place (hosted – and probably owned – by a lovely middle aged French woman who speaketh no English) pulled out star quality service, so much so that we were actually profoundly bowled over. This ain’t no London service, that’s for sure.

As we sat and perused the menu we were served an amuse bouche of what I think was celeriac purée topped with bacon bits and shallots. That was followed by a shared platter of cured meats and cheese – and what you can’t see in the photo is that the meats and cheese covered a delicious treasure trove of herbed potato cubes. So sneakily divine!

We also ordered two French onion soups to share amongst the four of us, and the nice French lady split them into four little bowls and I think she even gave us extra croutons 😉  The soup was awesome. Rich, tasty, flavoursome – not just bits of onion in beef stock but actually tasted like sweet onion in a broth.

For my main, I had the beef tartare, and yes someone rightly pointed out that I seem to be having a lot of tartare lately. What can I say? Once you go rare, you don’t go back. You go to raw tartare. YEAH.

The beef tartare was pure velvet mixed with diced pickle and a scrumptious sauce which I can’t really identify. I don’t think I tried to identify it to be honest, I just revelled in the fact that my lump of minced raw meat was all mine, and so was the delicious potato gratin you see over the other side of the plate there.

Isabella ordered the salmon, which seemed good enough but what won the show with that dish was the mixed vegetables of leek and carrot. Simple? Yes. Tasty? Definitely.

The boys opted for the beef topped with a chunk of foie gras and lucky me! David didn’t like his foie gras so guess who got to eat it? Guess! Guess! Ok, don’t guess. The beef medallions were cooked perfectly and came accompanied with a couple of funny things: a scoop of broccoli & sweet potato mash (ok that wasn’t so funny) and a savoyard farcement which was kind of like very thin slices of bread (?), wrapped in bacon with a prune in the middle and then fried.

Does that sound about right? French people?

We finished off the meal with an obligatory crème brulee and espresso, which came with the most fragrant and delicate piece of almond biscotti you can imagine. And as if we weren’t full enough, the French lady gave us some free treats in the form of cakes and chocolates.. {heart}

Oh and another groovy thing about the restaurant (well, this isn’t really about the restaurant but we saw it there first) – check out the Evian bottles at Chamonix, there’s a little skier logo on it:

Ok so this post is definitely getting a little bit stupid crazy fracking long. It’s not like I had that much to say, did I? We went, we skied, we ate, we came home. I even skied a red run which is like OMGisshegonnakillherself. And now I’m in the midst of post holiday blues.

Luckily I’m heading to LA for work this weekend and will have a few days of play up my sleeve. Looking forward to seeing my US foodies again 😀

ps. check out my facebook for more Chamonix pics

15 Thoughts on “the snowy streets of Chamonix: dining (and skiing) in the French Alps

  1. Love that the food was great, even in a skiing town! Looks like a fun trip!

  2. Su-Lin: I think that’s the beauty of Chamonix, that it was a town before a ski resort so they actually have good quality restaurants etc. Le Maison d’en Bas was just brilliant!

  3. Shame you had such a hideous journey but looks like you had a wonderful time. I went to Chamonix in the summer once about 20 yrs ago (hell is it THAT long?!) but the only thing I remember was seeing the glacier and it being really icy cold in July!

  4. Didja know that Mrs. Tiger Woods stayed here recently? It sounds super cool. Is red the equivalent of US Black Diamond? If so, you’re a brave ski bunny! Looking forward to noshing with you next week! Have a great flight.

  5. Sarah: wow really? I kinda imagined it to be lush and green and beautiful The Sound of Music kind of hilly green during the summer.. but glaciers?? Wow! It is a beautiful place and I’m glad we made it there after all that drama!

    Yutjangsah: Did she? Like, after he cheated on her and she wanted to use up some of his dough? LOL… and no I don’t think a red is like your black diamond haha.. cos we have reds then blacks THEN black diamonds too! Besides, I fell all the way down it 😉 See you soon!

  6. You look like you had such a fab time Catty! I knew that already as I was following most of these happenings on twitter. Your drama at Gatwick still sends chills down my spine! Yummy looking food!

  7. loved reading this post babe! Looks like loads of fun and glad you made it out there after all that hassle, for lack of a better word.

  8. Mowie: I know, you were laughing through my ordeal, I could feel it from the airport 😛 tsk tsk tsk so mean! 🙂

    beth: Yes, once we made it out there it was definitely worth it. The pain was almost forgotten but we still need to get all kinds of money back from easyjet which will be a royal pain in the behind!

  9. So sad that you experienced such travel delays on the front end, but your perseverance was justly rewarded based on the photos of glistening snow and delicious food. The beef and foie gras looked divine!

  10. Global Patriot: Definitely. Once we hit the snow, all the pain was forgotten… but seriously, 16 hours at one airport is beyond painful!!

  11. Despite your long delays, it looks like your wait was well worth it. Such a beautiful landscape and great photographs, it’s nice to hear everything turned out fine.

  12. Janet: thanks 🙂 you’re right the pain was all forgotten as soon as we saw the gorgeous mountains 🙂

  13. those photos are fantastic! Esp. the top one.

  14. Looks like a great trip, am very jealous!

    But lol, every time I read Chamonix, I thought “Sham-Wow!”

    xox Sarah

  15. perry: thank you! *blush*

    Sarah: LOL sham-WOW, classic 😀

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