Stay the night: Chalet Shemshak, Courchevel
It's not cheap, but gourmet food, a pool, and your own driver all soften the blow, says Minty Clinch
Sunday 20 February 2011
Chalet Shemshak is a journey down a very distant memory lane for Ardavan Farmanfarmaian.
It is named for a ski resort in the Alborz Mountains to the north of Tehran, a place he hasn't seen since he left his native Iran when the Shah fell in 1979.
Now a London-based entrepreneur, he built Shemshak, as a labour of love, with an eye for the finest materials and a passion for the sleekest electrics, some quite challenging for non-techies. Stick your toe out from under your duvet and sensors illuminate the way to the bathroom. Do they also self-extinguish? Yes, but you need to know that when they flash up at 3am.
Even in Courchevel 1850, where eye-popping, all-inclusive chalets are a dime a dozen, this is an outstanding property. The linking theme is lustrous Norwegian oak, polished to a rich silvery patina. It is used throughout for floors, doors, walls and high arched ceilings, but it is at its most impressive as a double-level, four-sided chimney breast over the log fire that divides the sitting and dining areas. On one side, massive white couches invite guests to lie back and watch the less fortunate riding the gondola. On the other, the dining table sits a dozen or so with room to spare.
Chalet Shemshak has four double rooms plus a family room with a double bed and three bunks. The master suite and the family room have bathtubs, the remainder state-of-the-art wet rooms. Generous portions of Jo Malone product tempt guests to soak or spray at considerable leisure. Nor is it so easy to leave your bed, given immaculate linen and goose-down comforters on top of the mattresses. Meanwhile, HD flat-screen TVs provide vivid access to the outside world.
The food and drink
Martin King, a young chef from Galway who trained at the Lanesborough, masterminds whatever food his guests request with confidence and understated charm. Even in 1850, where meals out can be awesome, Martin's seven-or-eight-course feasts stand up to the competition. And when you pay ¤61 for a small mushroom risotto with a single slice of black truffle in Courchevel's luxury Kilimandjaro restaurant, eating in is a bit of a bargain. If you don't fancy the full monty, Martin's cottage pie with frozen peas (my request – he did wince) is equally delectable. Perrier-Jouët is Shemshak's champagne of choice, freely served whenever there is a need for a cork to be popped, and the extensive wine list provides plenty of scope for dithering.
With direct access to the Trois Vallées 20m from the ski-room door, there's really no excuse for lounging around. With 183 lifts serving 600km of groomed pistes in Courchevel, Méribel, Val Thorens and their satellites, visitors are spoilt for choice. Building your day around a top lunch spot is very "Courch". This year, Il Strato, the modern Baroque hideaway in 1850 owned by the Rossignol family, is providing competition for La Bouitte in St Martin de Belleville. After you breathe a sigh of relief when you finally take off your ski pants, you can recharge in Shemshak's spa, complete with dark-blue mosaic swimming pool and treatments with Spa Physio. Once a week, the chalet staff provide a "wow" event for the guests: ours was a snow cocktail bar on the terrace and a private firework display. Pure magic.
Families welcome. A lift links the four floors and one bedroom is equipped for guests with disabilities. There is also a wheel-in wet room. Dogs are allowed, but a signed waiver is required. Wi-Fi available.
From £17,500 for 10 adults and three children at Chalet Shemshak for seven nights including accommodation, breakfast, afternoon tea and a choice of evening meals (eight courses if wished). There is a wide range of fine wines and complimentary Perrier-Jouët, and there's a spirits bar and a driver on call. Flights and transfer are not included.
Chalet Shemshak, Lotissement des Chenus, 73120 Courchevel 1850 (020-3393 0833, consensioholidays.co.uk).
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