Looking for restaurants in St Martin de Belleville? Want to know places to eat in the French Alps? Check out our ideas for eating and drinking in the area…
The best restaurants around St Martin for finer dining…
At this three-Michelin star restaurant in the neighbouring hamlet of St Marcel (take a taxi or walk there in around 20 minutes from St Martin de Belleville along a pretty mountain path), chef-owners Rene and Maxime Meilleur take local culinary traditions up dizzying notches.
The ultimate in alpine chic, the décor is Savoyard charm at its most indulgent, with vintage cowbells strung from chunky timber rafters, stunning custom-designed green and gold pottery from La Poterie du Lac in nearby Annecy, wide wooden floorboards and little milking stools to rest your bag on (or ski gloves – many guests come for lunch, straight from the slopes).
Our meal started with three amuse-bouches: an oyster with lemon yuzu and sea water, an exquisite waffle disc topped with Beaufort cheese and specks of salty, cured Savoie ham and a tiny, bitesized tartelette filled with Chambery vermouth and topped with a mackerel-like pâté of pike fish with lime zest. Next came the bread trolley (go for the potato version, dense and soft with a hint of baked spud) with three different butters (one a cooked butter made with milk from La Trantsa – see below). Then, in an ironic nod to the restaurant’s beginnings as a raclette and fondue restaurant, 40-odd years ago, a souffle-like puff of warm, creamy cheese and onion ‘raclette’ topped by bacon nuggets.
Don’t fill up too early, though. You’ll want to save space for mains such as fera, a local white fish, sandwiched between slivers of salty, softly crunchy ‘batter’ and served with shaved, chicory-like puntarelle, its crisp, bitter freshness the perfect foil for the soft, subtly flavoured fish and the richness of an accompanying Rousette butter foam.
Also for what is, arguably, the star of La Bouitte’s show – not just a cheese trolley but a four-story cheese “chariot”, its 40 cheeses all from the Savoie or Haute Savoie regions and including six different types of tomme alone. Served with a tiny, perfectly steamed potato, choices might include a creamy goats’ tomme, a Reblochon-like Tamie, made by monks, and Bleu de Termignon, an inkily dark blue cheese with that tell-tale sweetness that’s made by hand from the milk of just 18 cows.
Post-cheese comes a pre-dessert of gentian and carrot juice with a little cup of sweet carrot crisps sprouting from chocolate soil. Dessert itself is just as show-stopping; a signature pudding called “Le Lait” that uses cow and sheep milk from the Belleville valley in five different ways: meringue, ice cream, a frozen disc, biscuit and mousse. There’s also a sixth way: a dulce de leche-style warm sauce. It’s delicious – just how a cloud of snow would taste in a fairytale.
If you have room for an espresso, order it. Among the vast array of petit fours it will come with is the house speciality: a trio of “biscuirons” served in a little wooden treasure chest. They look like macarons but they’re something the kitchen has invented – tiny meringues sandwiching delicately flavoured creams such as orange blossom.
The most photogenic of the village’s more formal restaurants, family-owned Le Montagnard looks every inch the well-kept farm dining room (appropriately so since, when the restaurant is closed, front of house Valentin goes back to the family farm to make tomme). Whitewashed stone walls and traditional timber floors are cosied up with rustic wooden tables, little brass lamps and walls hung with antique skis.
The food is in keeping with the rustic setting, albeit far more sophisticated than your average farmhouse lunch or dinner. Typical meals might start with an amuse bouche of smooth cauliflower and dill soup before moving on to a ‘perfect egg’: creamy spinach with a 64-degree egg, a crunchy cracker with a hint of white truffle, and chunks of Savoie ham and cheese.
The standout dish, however, is the local pork, served just pink with a sliver of crisp, smoked bacon, little nuggets of sharp Granny Smith apple and towers of polenta, crunchy on the outside but soft and nutty within.
Finish with a scoop or two of homemade ice cream – genepi, perhaps, or myrtille sorbet. The wine list is worth delving into, too; if it’s on the list try the Altesse, a creamy Savoyard white.
L’Etoile des Neiges
Smart and sleek, with pale, caramel-coloured leather seats, a mezzanine dining area and a dramatic 360-degree fireplace in centre stage, L’Etoile serves a refined take on traditional French cooking (if you’re after snails, frogs legs or coquilles St Jacques, this is the place to find them in St Martin de Belleville).
Presentation is classy without being fussy and, while fish eaters are catered for with local trout in a white wine sauce, it’s the meat dishes that shine. Choose from slow-cooked rack of lamb with thyme, pan-fried quail with port gravy, beef fillet cooked with morels or the house speciality, calf’s liver with garlic butter.
Best slopeside restaurants in St Martin de Belleville…
Open daily during the ski season (daytime only), Le Corbeleys is accessed via the top of the gondola that sweeps up from St Martin de Belleville. Sit inside the pretty stone and timber chalet, jostling for space among hungry skiers, or if it’s sunny, grab a table out on the terrace to enjoy snow-speckled mountain views while you eat.
One of the most established piste-side restaurants, Le Corbeleys was founded by the current owners’ grandparents and it’s still a family enterprise. If you fancy a burger you can get one here but the focus is on home-cooked Savoyard favourites; think croziflette (tartiflette where the potato has been substituted for crozet, a kind of French buckwheat pasta), goats cheese quiches and charcuterie plates.
Desserts are a highlight. If you can’t decide what to have the Gourmandises du Pepe Tantin offers a bit of everything from farçon (an eggy pudding laced with raisins, rum, milk and saffron) to rissoles (hot sugared pastries) and mini blueberry tarts. Best of all is the simplest offering: a dessert of creamy La Trantsa sheep yoghurt drizzled with honey or blueberry coulis.
Best farm-to-fork experiences in St Martin de Belleville…
La Ferme de la Choumette
You can ski straight in to this traditional slopeside restaurant, set on a working farm just above St Martin de Belleville. Known for its wood-fired cooking (simply seared steaks and lamb are what everyone comes for, along with farmhouse cheese platters), it’s especially good for family groups, with a dedicated children’s menu and tables beside big windows that look straight into a real-life nativity setting: a hay-strewn stable in which some of the farm’s cows, sheep and goats are kept.
With its intimate cheese knowledge (milk from those cows goes into a deliciously nutty tomme de savoie made – and sold – on site plus a local, co-operatively made Beaufort cheese), it’s little surprise that La Ferme de la Choumette serves a superior fondue. The house speciality, tommiflette, also makes the most of the hyper-local produce (think tartiflette only made with tomme rather than reblochon).
With a sunny terrace overlooking Le Cochet mountain and the ski slopes that wind back into St Martin de Belleville, the farm is a popular spot for an afternoon vin chaud but it’s open at lunch and in the evening, too, for hearty farm-to-table dinners (if you like the sound of that look out for L’ Auberge Le Chantacoucou, in neighbouring Le Châtelard, also; a homely little spot farmer Bernard Souchal serves his own meat as well as cheeses).
Also in the hamlet of Le Châtelard, local farmer Serge Jay and his British wife Suzanne keep a herd of 65 sheep from whose milk they make a tomme-style cheese much loved by local chefs (La Bouitte’s Meilleurs among them). Join them for a tour and tasting (it’s possible to add on a spot of snowshoeing in the mountains first if you want to earn your lunch, or book in for an overnight stay at their cosy Alpine-style B&B) and you can try various versions of the finished product, from a soft, mild, creamy three-week cheese to one that has been aged for three months and is harder, saltier and deliciously nuttier.
The couple also make serac on request. A local delicacy, and one that conjures much nostalgia, it was eaten years ago in the summer months when people were up in the high pastures with their sheep. Made from the whey that’s left over from cheese-making, it’s bit like ricotta or scrambled egg in consistency and flavour and is eaten warm with chunks of bread broken up and mixed into it. You can then add salt or honey depending on whether you want to steer it towards something more sweet or savoury.
If you’re self-catering ask Suzanne if you can buy some of their yoghurt to take back to your chalet. It’s the best you’ll have tasted, thick as a midwinter snowdrift but creamy and with just the right hint of sharpness.
Best pizzas in St Martin de Belleville…
O P’tit Snack
For sit-down pizzas there’s cosy La Voute, on the village’s main square. Its pizzas aren’t as good as the ones at this little take-away joint close to the village bakery, though (which also stretches to a couple of diner-style tables if you want to eat in).
Order a Bellevilloise and you can enjoy the closest you’ll come to raclette in pizza form, with tomato sauce, cheese, onions, bacon, potatoes, cream, Reblochon and oregano bubbling away lusciously on a perfectly blistered base.
Best après-ski bars in St Martin de Belleville…
Under the same efficient management as Chalet Marguerite (see below), under which it is set (don’t worry, careful soundproofing means there’s no noise disturbance), this vaulted basement bar puts a contemporary spin on Alpine apres-ski, with a pared-back but cosy space that’s dominated by a striking glass boxed fire.
A chic, all-ages crowd comes for craft beers, artisan gins, hot chocolates and vin chauds and there’s a regular rota of live music. It also has a small but expertly curated wine list, focusing on French wines (order a bottle of the Quenard Chignin Savoie if you’re after a local tipple).
Lou-Bar Les Menuires
Hidden away in Les Menuires, a neighbouring ski resort linked to St Martin de Belleville by runs and chairlifts, Lou-Bar is worth seeking out. Tucked in a basement at the back of the buildings that run along La Croisette, the main drag in Les Menuires, you’ll find Savoyard craft beers behind the bar and five shining copper canteens stocked with a range of mulled wines – take your pick from red, white, rosé, cider and zante (mulled, non-alcoholic, apple juice).
Best food shops in St Martin de Belleville…
Patisserie La Rissole
Go early to get your morning baguette and croissant fix at the village bakery, in Immeuble Le Biolley, before it sells out. While you’re there browse the local sweet specialities too; morning choices include croix de savoie (custard filled, cross-shaped pastries) and brioches studded with little pink nuggets of praline rose.
Au Coin Des Producteurs
For foodie souvenirs you can’t go far wrong at this deli, set handily just alongside the village bakery. Most typical Savoyard products are in stock here, from local cheeses, charcuterie and wines to artisan ices and sorbets, handmade chocolates, jams and myrtille liqueur (great swapped for cassis in a kir).
A little further along the street that houses the village’s small 8 à 8 supermarket, this well-stocked butchers sells a wide range of local meats, charcuterie, cheese, honeys, wines and a small selection of homemade ready meals. If you buy the ingredients from them they’ll also loan you a raclette or fondue set free of charge.
Best places to stay in St Martin de Belleville…
For the full alpine experience, rent a chalet in one of St Martin de Belleville’s pretty stone buildings. One of the most central is Chalet Marguerite, a two-bedroom first-floor apartment in a complex called Alice Velut, just behind the village church and beside the local history museum (well worth a visit for anyone wanting to find out more about life in the village generations ago, or to get a picture of how so many villages in the Alps have transformed themselves from small farming communities into modern ski resorts).
Chalet Marguerite is one of several properties managed by specialist local operator Self Catered St Martin and, while other apartments in the company’s stable are more all-out stylish, compact Marguerite is just right for a small family or couple. With two bedrooms, an alcove kitchen, a little bath and shower room and a separate toilet it has all the basics comfortably covered, while wall hooks and drawers in the living room sideboard provide useful extra storage for all that bulky ski gear.
Carved wooden doors, timber ceilings and vintage ski posters give the apartment a smattering of Savoyard charm while a beautiful glass-windowed fire in the chalet’s sitting room makes a great focal point around which to unwind after a day on the slopes. The central location is also a great plus point when it comes to eating out in the evening (free car parks on the edge of the village mean you don’t have to drive unless you want to).
Guests are welcomed with carefully chosen wine and chocolate but it’s worth doing a quick stop at the Carrefour in nearby Moutiers on your way from the airport for some basic groceries as these aren’t supplied and the village shop closes early. If want to take a break from cooking, the chalet company can liaise with local readymeal company, Huski (many of whose dishes are made by COOK), to ready-stock your freezer with dishes such as beef bourguignon and tartiflette (vegan, veggie and gluten-free menus are also possible). Among its list of dishes is a useful welcome hamper that covers a full meal on your first night and everything you might need for breakfast the following morning.
We also recommend speaking to Self Catered St Martin about ski hire, lift passes and ski lessons as the company can pre-book these for guests, some at a substantial discount.
HOW TO DO IT… St Martin de Belleville is a two-hour drive from Geneva airport. For more information see st-martin-belleville.com.
Words and images by Rhiannon Batten