Michelin-starred chef Phil Howard is to open a new restaurant in the French ski resort of La Plagne. He explains what drew him to the Alps.
Where does a Michelin-starred chef go on holiday? For Phil Howard, the answer is clear – it has to be the Alps. More specifically, the French resort of La Plagne.
Check our new development in La Plagne Montalbert: Le Snoroc
Having earned two Michelin stars in his 25-year tenure at The Square in Mayfair, Phil opened a new restaurant, Elystan Street, in 2016. This season, he’s swapping the London fine dining scene for Alpine cuisine as he launches another restaurant, Union, in the village of Plagne-Montalbert. Opening for dinner in the evenings, with just 35 places, it’s set to be an intimate affair.
“Through a menu of simple, tasty dishes made with seasonal produce, my aim is to create a restaurant that is known for the quality of its cuisine and service, maybe even as being the best restaurant in Paradiski,” he says.
Shared between La Plagne and Les Arcs, the Paradiski area gives access to 425km of pistes, ranging from snowsure glacier skiing at 3,250m (10,500ft) down to snaking tree-lined runs 2,000m below – plus ample opportunity for backcountry adventures. And it’s not just the quality and quantity of skiing that keeps visitors to La Plagne coming back year after year. From quiet, traditional hamlets to purpose-built resort centres, the network of 11 linked villages offers something to suit visitors of all kinds.
Here, Phil reveals what drew him to La Plagne, and why the resort still holds its appeal for him after more than a decade.
Where do you stay when you’re in the mountains?
“We have a property in Montalbert, one of the villages which connect into La Plagne. It’s at 1,350m [4,400ft], whereas all the high-altitude resorts are about 2,000 [6,600ft]. It has direct access to the ski area but it’s within the trees, it’s much smaller, it’s very villagey – that’s why we like it. We’ve been going there for about 10 years.”
What first attracted you to La Plagne as a resort?
“As good skiers who have kids, we were looking for somewhere we could go often, over many years. We needed somewhere that was affordable, within relatively easy reach of Geneva, and which had a huge ski area with a great variety of skiing – which the Paradiski has.
“It’s got high altitude with guaranteed snow, great vertical drops between the highest points and the lower villages, fantastic off-piste, great touring potential. There’s a huge amount to offer to keep somebody entertained who’s going to ski there a lot over a long period of time.”
Has opening a restaurant in the Alps been different from your experience in London?
“From an operational point of view, it is small-scale compared to the team of 30 staff I have here at Elystan Street, and I had 50 in previous restaurants. Something I’ve had to spend a lot of time doing over the summer is sourcing ingredients because great food stems from great ingredients – that’s just a fact.
“There are lots of restaurants doing the local food repertoire, the tartiflette and the fondues and stuff, and I don’t intend to try and do that same repertoire of dishes and better it. I want to do something that is slightly different. It’ll still be 95 per cent French food – that’s where my training is, that’s the food I love.
“I certainly intend to use all the local ingredients, and it’ll be rigorously seasonal – you won’t find a tomato, a pepper, a courgette or an aubergine on the menu. It’ll all be seasonal, simple, accurate and delicious, with something for everybody. I’ve always liked the idea of feeding hungry people, and skiers certainly always have hearty appetites.”
Phil Howard’s restaurant, Union, opens in Montalbert on 16 December.