The Hedonist: French Alps

What to see and where to be seen

When they told me the food at La Bouitte (00 33 4 79 08 96 77;
la-bouitte.com) was fit for a king, I thought it was an exaggeration. Then I looked in the guest book. There, in his own hand, was an endorsement of a fine night out penned by Juan Carlos I of Spain, one of the many heads of state and VIP nobility drawn by the two Michelin stars of this restaurant in the village of Saint-Marcel in Les Trois Vallées. It helps to have access to a king's counting house if you want to explore the wine list in full: there are bottles priced at €1,700, or glasses of something cheeky at €90.

There's nothing like a busy day out on skis to whet your appetite for a good night out, which in my mind comprises good food, good drink and good company. Having enjoyed a sharpener in the bar at Hotel Kaya (00 33 4 79 41 42 00; hotel-kaya.com) in Les Menuires, where we had earlier polished off a sumptuous lunch, a 10-minute taxi ride down the mountain took our group of eight to La Bouitte.

Michelin stars are hard to find in Les Trois Vallées, and when we were dropped off outside what looked like a life-sized doll's house draped with twinkling lights I wondered if there had been a mistake. However, once I'd settled into my dining chair and read the menu, my mind was put at rest. The prices were reassuringly high and the choices eclectic; I could certainly see why La Bouitte attracted VIPs such as former Formula One boss and ski enthusiast Eddie Jordan, first lady of France Carla Bruni and our own Duke of Kent.

Indeed, this was the place to come for the finer things in life. What the attraction was for Margaret Thatcher, who turned up the summer before last with two bodyguards in tow, I could not quite fathom. Paying out nearly €200 for one of the set menus would surely not have sat comfortably with her corner-shop economics.

We were sitting comfortably, though, sipping a light and dry 2005 Chignin while waiting for the first of our starters to arrive. You don't get two Michelin stars without being serious about your food – and the father-and-son team of René and Maxime Meilleur are nothing if not serious about food.

Our first starter – a platter of glasses containing a choice of different appetisers – was served with strict instructions in which order to eat them in for maximum taste. I wonder if ski champion Bode Miller did the same when he dropped in? Nevertheless, we ate as we were told, starting with the circular French fries speared on sawn-off kebab sticks suspended over a glass of mango fricassée and mayonnaise (as my dining companion pointed out, square chips simply would not have been the same).

Wine waiter Aurora kept us generously topped up with the Chignin while we waited for the official starter to arrive from the kitchen. Inevitably, the murmur around the table turned into a hubbub. I have stayed in hotels where the bathroom sinks are smaller than the bowls our next course came in. The minced trout served on diced vegetables and topped with a poached egg was quickly polished off and more wine duly taken on board.

Mesdames Chirac and Giscard d'Estaing probably have tastes honed over the state banqueting table and may well have overlooked our next course when they visited. Saddle of rabbit is not something you see on too many British menus, but the French are a little less dewy-eyed about what they eat than we are. Put rabbit on a British menu and we think Beatrix Potter; the French simply scan the menu for a complementary sauce. After a few substantial swigs on a 2007 Vin de Savoie Anbin Mondeuse, there were still three courses to go, one of which was a pre-desert selection which included a splendidly tasty sorbet flavoured with lemon and thyme. After a soufflé to finish, it was time for coffee and to reflect on what to do next.

Les Menuires isn't exactly rammed with nightlife, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Le Kube piano bar (00 33 4 79 00 65 10), which is new for this season in Les Menuires, is fine for a quiet drink. But for something livelier, we were told that it has to be Le Leeberty (00 33 4 79 00 68 49). This was also handy, because it was the only place anywhere near our hotel.

You have to find it first – stairs disappear into the darkness behind a door tucked away in the corner of the shopping centre – and when you get there it's loud. We were about six hours late for happy hour, although that didn't matter too much, as the prices cheered us up. A late-night cocktail for €5 and a medium-sized beer at €3.50 is around as good as it gets in the French Alps.

Even Clare, the only smoker in our little group, was happy as Le Leeberty has a fumoir – a smoking room – which avoids the need to puff away in a shopping arcade corridor at two in the morning. Had we the energy, we could have stayed until 4am. But hedonism can only go so far after a day's hard skiing. Liberally dosed with sambuca tots and vodka shots, we were ready for bed by three.

A Hedonist's Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits