It’s pretty hard to keep anything a secret in what is possibly the world’s most popular ski area, but I think I stumbled across one today – Chez Pépé Nicolas.
Chez Pépé Nicolas is a traditional Savoyarde mountain restaurant above Les Menuires that very few skiers know about, even saisonnaires. This may be because you can’t actually access it directly from any of the pistes – led by local resident Caroline Sayer our group of seven had to make a short traverse from the bottom of Montalauver drag-lift, cross a road then drop down a short steep slope to get to our lunch, but hey, a bit of adventure improves one’s appetite.
Our brief off-piste excursion was certainly worth the effort. We received an effusive welcome from owner Eric Jay, whose grandfather Nicolas bought the traditional alpine chalet, in which Chez Pépé Nicolas is located, in 1957 to raise cows and goats from which to produce traditional Tomme de Savoie cheese (which features in many of the restaurant’s dishes).
I enjoyed a croque monsieur Belleville which, at 21€, wasn’t cheap but it was unlike any croque monsieur I’ve ever had, consisting of a superb combination of polenta, turkey and Tomme de Savoie – the ideal fuel for the cold, overcast day we were experiencing.
There was a definite feeling of exclusivity about being one of a small group of diners in this hidden corner of the Three Valleys, the irony being that there were pistes within a few hundred metres of us – yet none of the hundreds of skiers whizzing down them were aware of this cosy, traditional little mountain hideaway.
It’s not a situation that’s likely to exist for long however. Once word gets out I’m sure there’ll be no end of skiers wanting to check out Chez Pépé Nicolas and, if you don’t mind a short hike up a steep slope from the blue Boulevard Cumin piste, you don’t even need to test your off-piste skills to get here.