Whether you have just embarked on your ski trip to the Alps or you plan to breeze into the oxygen-thin Les Trois Vallées mountains soon, my tips on where to eat and drink in the best and biggest resort in the French Alps will widen your horizons of pleasure when swooshing down the slopes.
Les Trois Vallées French Alps

Mountain wines served within Les Trois Vallées

More likely than not, mountains in the winter equal cold. If you don’t want to tun into an icicle you can master the cold in between your runs with hot drinks. Tea settles you quickly but does not stay in your blood stream for long, and if you are not really a chocolate addict then you best get some alcohol – a steaming cup of mulled wine (in France vin chaud).
The mulled wine’s spices, its sweetness and an immediate warming effect stretching to your frozen fingertips can serve as a happy hormones releasing ‘first aid’. Most winter travellers whether in the mountains or in a freezing city appreciate the cosy warm cup of this magic brew.
Its drawback is, that it is not the best friend of food. Imagine a bowl os soup or gooey hot fondue with mulled wine! Not for me, thank you. With a quick lunch in a mountain hut or a dinner at a cosy restaurant it is better to have some wine.
Mulled wine at Casserole
In the Savoy region of the Alps you can go local as it is a wine growing area itself as well as near to Burgundy and Rhône with the world’s best wines reachable within hours. The Three Valleys (Les Trois Vallées) and other ski resorts around Albertville, the location of the 1992 Winter Olympics are surrounded by vineyards mainly in the warmer lower altitudes. These Vins de Savoie are often very pleasant, easy to drink and affordable. The whites are wonderful and to be drunk young. I like the Chignin Bergeron, Les Damoiselles, intriguing with its fruity and round flavours. I haven’t found any red Savoy wine that would cling to my palate, so stick to local whites for lunch when in Les Trois Vallées.
Most mountain restaurants, even the fanciest, have local wines on their list. We sipped on the crisp and fruity local white Chignin Bergeron at a cosy familiar Restaurant Le Montagnard in St Martin de Belleville. Serving hearty specialities from the Savoie, if you are a cheese lover, your taste buds will go crazy, when you dip into the baked Beaufort cheese with home-made pasta, potatoes or vegetables. The Tartiflette is typical for Haute Savoy, and a must try.

Dine like a king in Les Trois Vallées

Many restaurants in The Three Valleys have extraordinary wine lists, you would not expect in the rough of the mountains. The French are famous for their Michelin Guide, and you will find even two and three Michelin starred restaurants high up in the mountains.
In Courchevel 1850, my favourite and the most diverse village in Les Trois Vallées, there are now many Michelin-starred restaurants.
The most established is the two Michelin Chabichou lead by Chefs Michel Rochedy and Stèphane Buron. Their wine list is breathtaking. Located inside a small hotel of its namesake, you need to dress up a bit for this remarkable dining affair. In the spirit of the mountains the dishes are heavier, but not as hearty as a cheese fondue feast. Booking ahead is essential.
Three Michelin star Amouse bouche
For the real luxury lovers there is the three Michelin starred Le 1947 Restaurant at the spectacular Cheval Blanc hotel. As the LVHM owned hotel’s name suggests, this restaurant has an unbeatable collection of wines from the Château Cheval Blanc. The 1947 is often considered as the best vintage so far for Cheval Blanc, so the restaurant sealed the importance of this year in its name. The light bites and fine diners will particularly enjoy the concept of the chef Yannick Alléno at this restaurant. It is a very VIP hideaway for many affluent connoisseurs since there are only five tables sharing the open plan space with the kitchen. If you have never had a bottle of Cheval Blanc you have a rare opportunity to try a glass here, lately the superb 2005 was poured.
Bresse chicken at Le Strato's gastronomic restaurant
There are other Michelin stared restaurants in Courchevel. All are located in the new luxurious hotels as the owners want to emulate on the Cheval Blanc’s success. The gastronomic restaurants at the K2 (two stars Michelin) as well as Le Strato (sister restaurant of the famous Provençal Oustau de Baumaniere) hotels are both worth exploring if you are a real gourmet. The creamy Bresse chicken at Le Strato pictured above and the superb cheese trolley at K2 make for a food lover’s paradise. You can also eat very well at the more casual restaurant at the K2. Some fuss-free preferring guests tend to be more keen on this option, and they have the same cheese trolley!
The "Casual" restaurant at K2

Mountain atmosphere

More traditional mountain food is offered at O’Bôya (former La Chapelle), a good place for grilled meats. The steaks, delicious lamb chops and veal lure you right from entering as you face a real stone grill sizzling with top quality cuts. Ideally accompanied by a nice bottle of Bordeaux (although Burgundies up to DRC are also available) will relax not only devoted skiers but all salivating carnivores with deep pockets. Perhaps unfortunately, with mostly the stellar priced Grand Cru picks from Paulliac and Pomerol, the owner might detract an average (not a millionaire) customer, but there are also more reasonably priced Argentine Malbecs on the list that will do then job.
Cosy ambiance at La Cendrée
The best Italian food and thin crust pizza is at La Cendrée, a lively but not too ostentatious dinner spot we annually return to. Consistently serving top quality Northern Italian fare from juicy Ossobucco with Milanese saffron rice, Vitello Tonnato (thin veal with rich tuna sauce), beef piccatta, a wide variety of homemade pasta to the sublime creamy tiramisu. Truffles can be shaved on anything, and the white truffle pizza is a perfect start me up for the feast to come. The wine list has mostly French selections, but the Italian pages show off the country’s vinous elite. Barolo, Barbaresco, Sangiovese but also Chardonnay and Cabernet blends from Gaja, Antinori, Sassicaia and other Italian food matchers star in the carte des vins.
Le Mangoire Courchevel 1850

Party, wine and dine in Les Trois Vallées

For music lovers and fun seekers La Mangeoire still remains the best dinner bet boosting with energy until late almost every evening during the peak season. Many diners prefer the later seating around 10 pm as the place goes wild. The outstanding female singer, who has adorned the restaurant cum club with her voice for years, pulls off pop songs with a skill of an opera star. The ambiance is as chic as the trendiest restaurants in Paris. The wine list is extensive, but beware of the galactic pricing. Yet there are some other, still overpriced, but great second wines of well known châteaux. This is wiser than ordering a young vintage that needs more years to age gracefully. The food is a mix of classic (escargots – snails in butter, foie gras) and contemporary Asia meets French dishes such as the sushis or the superb avocado and salmon tartare eclaire. The ‘fragrant’ baked Vacherin cheese is simple but delicious.
The above places are mostly open only for dinner or at least more suitable after an exhausting day on the slopes. There are plenty of excellent lunch locations as well. Some are more enjoyable for a quick service aficionados, while others turn later into wild parties with a live DJ and Russian girls dancing on the table with champagne spraying all over.
In the past decade (as far as my memory goes) the Cap Horn in Courchevel has been holding the top lunch destination award in the hearts of many regular visitors. I appreciate their usually quick service, outstanding and fresh food – the generous creamy heart of burrata served for two with lush tomatoes, fresh basil olive oil, and warm olive toasts is melting on your tongue like an iceberg on a Dubai sun, the steak tartare is rich and tender, the lobster linguine pasta are a great main course, while the salads are original (most with cheese or meat) and rather tasty than waist-trimming, and their desert buffet is impossible to resist. Oh and the always warm homemade bread. Oh la laaah! You better ski hard before your lunch here. The wine list calls for a bottle even at lunch (so after ski directly to your hotel and don’t risk an injury). An exceptional choice of not only widely priced French but also some Italian and Spanish wines is worth the feast.
Courchevel: Cap Horn
Lunch at Cap Horn is also ideal on sunny days as it has two large terraces, one on the roof and another – more lively – downstairs. It is very popular so reservations are highly suggested. Their mulled wine is like a warm sangria, full of lemons and oranges. They have never disappointed.
There is a new Greek export from Mykonos. Nammos is as party savvy as its original restaurant, yet the food is just average for Les Trois Vallées and far from my favourite Greek restaurant Mylos in New York, Miami, London, Athens and Toronto.
A great alternative to Cap Horn is La Soucoupe high up on the mountains. As you get off by the end of the Planterey lift taken from Courchevel turn left and in two minutes you arrive at this cosy chalet. Many skiers like it for a warming break with mulled wine, but the grilled meats and fish are excellent. Lounging by a wooden fireplace or staring far into the blue skies and snowy peaks can make it a bigger challenge to get up than to ski down the intermediate slopes..
Blanchot restaurant and bar
Melting Cheese toast at Le Grand Lac
On the other side of the mountain in Méribel, there is a great casual restaurant Blanchot. You need to ski there or fly if you fancy as it is just next to the Altiport. Their terrace has plenty of sun for most of the day, but it hides behind the mountains late in the afternoon. A good spot for some champagne, cafe gourmand and one of their delicious deserts on the sunny terrace. The melting cheese toast and genuine hot chocolate at Le Grand Lac also in Méribel widen your options in the valley. Large open space of the inside and reclining beach chairs on the terrace cater for all weather situations.
Val Thorens has been picking up with the rest since its opening of another outpost of La Folie Douce, located as well in Méribel and other French mountain resorts (the first was opened in 1981 in Val d’Isere), its fame is ever expanding. Their exciting cabaret and designer shows under open skies attract not only teenagers but also fun seeking families.
Cabaret show at La Follie Douce
You never know what entertainment awaits you, but one thing is sure, the food is very good. You can take a tray of food out from the self service canteen La petite Cuisine or eat inside, but when the weather allows all the action happens outdoors. The more refined food serves La Fruitière, both inside and outdoors. Its burger is renown as the very best in Les Trois Vallées. The onion soup is ultra luxe. Ingredients from small local producers not just support them but assure the ultimate freshness and seasonality of the food even in the wintery surroundings of Les Trois Vallées.
Luxurious onion soup at La Follie Douce
La Casserole in Courchevel 1650 (Moriond by ski lift Le Signal) has also a very friendly staff, lovely library style interior, and a wide variety of authentic French mountain food. It’s a perfect lunch spot for families and has the most beautifully decorated mulled wine in the area.
If you stay in Courchevel 1850 and don’t want to ski far, Le Tremplin right next to the main gondola will not disappoint in particular if you are a seafood lover. My recent Lobster salad with three different dips, the thin crust pizza, roasted Bresse Chicken with its jus, were all top notch. I wish I had some space left for the dessert buffet, but it just never happens.
Lobster salad at Le Tremplin
Les Trois Vallées isn’t just the largest skiing area on the world, but also one of the best for food and wine lovers. The list of great restaurants there could stretch to a book since each year I come, there is at least one opening. Once you visit, you will be tempted to return year after year, first with your friends, then with your fiancee, later a spouse and at the end with your own children.
A complete LIST of restaurants in Méribel can be found at Merinet.com; for Courchevel look at Courchevel.com