Aptly, for a restaurant that serves out-of-this-world food, the decor is distinctly other-worldly.
I’m in France’s Courchevel 1850 ski resort, dining at ultra-luxury Cheval Blanc Courchevel hotel’s three-Michelin-starred ‘Le 1947 a Cheval Blanc’, the figures referring to the most prestigious vintage of Chateau Cheval Blanc wine (and not, as I mooted beforehand, the cost of a meal there in euros).
It’s a three-Michelin-starred restaurant that screams to be plastered liberally all over your Instagram feed. Before a single dish is served.
It’s like the set of a Star Trek episode, to be frank.
Guests sit around striking round white tables on modish white chairs with white faux-fur rugs draped on them, and beneath huge porcelain ‘lampshades’ with diameters even larger than the tables.
MailOnline Travel’s Ted Thornhill dines at ultra-luxury Cheval Blanc Courchevel hotel’s three-Michelin-starred ‘Le 1947 a Cheval Blanc’, pictured. Ted describes the restaurant as having a ‘sci-fi vibe’
We’re told that these are partly decorative, and partly an acoustic device that helps direct conversation between guests but tempers the wafting of chit chat – and the inevitable exclamations of joy at the food – across the room.
The staff uniforms – arrestingly chic white and red outfits – add to the sci-fi vibe.
Wonderfully, the restaurant – overseen by creative culinary powerhouse Yannick Alleno – has a kitchen so open that as you enter, you practically get to mingle with the chefs, with guests filing past the end of the kitchen and around a circular prep station to get to their tables.
Head chef (in Mr Alleno’s absence) Vincenzo Tirelli greets my banterous party of four with a warm smile as we stroll to our seats.
He looks very young – and we wonder jokingly if his mum knows he’s out cooking meals for people (though for the record, he’s actually 29).
The table is almost bare, save for a mesmerising cluster of glowing tree-like lights in the middle, cone-shaped earthenware cups for water and paperweight magnifying glasses – for perusing the paper a la carte menu.
But it’s the tasting menu, presented snow-globe style in a square Perspex block packed with glitter-y water that must settle before it becomes legible, that gets our vote.
Then it begins, a four-hour-long culinary odyssey that wows, that surprises, that intrigues. And occasionally confuses – there are a few comedy close calls when we reach out to put something in our mouths thinking it’s a dish, only to discover it’s a decoration of some sort.
Cheval Blanc Courchevel, above, sits in one of France’s most prestigious ski resorts – Courchevel 1850
The ‘Transalpine Walk’, above, is ‘incredible’ – around 40 separate vegetables and fruits gathered over the course of an entire year that represent all four seasons in the Alps
Lamb chops from Sisteron – ‘the Pearl of Upper Provence’. These are served with a sauce made of shallots, confit lemon, black pepper and oyster juice that’s been whipped with hay butter; plus lettuce with basil and seaweed
There is also a hypnotic pleasure to be had from watching the waiting staff glide around the restaurant, self-assuredly laying out dishes and explaining the ingredients.
But it’s the food – and wine – that takes centre stage, and there are a bewildering number of acts.
We’re served two bottles of outstanding wine, a Chablis by renowned producer Gilbert Picq and a Fugue de Nenin Pomerol red from 2016, an excellent year.
The menu lists six main dishes, but there is a huge supporting cast of extra bites, nibbles and curiosities.
And the standard? As you might expect, consistently between very good indeed and absolutely divine.
One delight is a little cup of quince and pepper extract that has an astonishingly intense flavour. Then there’s the gorgeous homemade vanilla butter, the out-of-this-world smokey bread, presented before being sliced on a gnarled block of wood, and the dough balls placed on the table that we’re told will rise before our very eyes and be fashioned into brioche bites later on.
Le 1947 a Cheval Blanc’s homemade bread is sublime, with a gorgeous smokiness. Before being sliced and served it’s presented on a gnarled piece of wood
Ted is all smiles as he prepares for his Le 1947 feast
The ‘Transalpine Walk’, meanwhile, is incredible – around 40 separate vegetables and fruits gathered over the course of an entire year that represent all four seasons in the Alps.
This edible ‘walk in the woods’ looks like a work of art on the plate – and the flavour experience is unique to each diner, with the ingredients mixed in myriad ways from person to person.
Another ‘lean back and sigh with contentment’ moment comes with the ‘Ennobled Consomme’, made from beef, caviar and winter vegetables such as Jerusalem artichoke, beetroot, carott, celeriac and onion. And served in a small bowl.
This is magic-potion-pleasant, immediately ranking among the best flavours I’ve ever tasted.
Two main courses follow, and both impress.
Le 1947 a Cheval Blanc is overseen by culinary powerhouse Yannick Alleno
Pictured left are dough balls presented to Ted’s group that were later made into brioche bites. Ted enjoys Chablis from renowned producer Gilbert Picq
There’s char cooked with Colonnata lard, laid on top of the fish like a veil. And there are two melt-in-the-mouth lamb chops from Sisteron – ‘the Pearl of Upper Provence’. These are served with a sauce made of shallots, confit lemon, black pepper and oyster juice that’s been whipped with hay butter; plus lettuce with basil and seaweed. A waiter finishes the dish off by serving two nutty oysters from France’s Belon River, enveloped in a Villeroy sauce that’s been ‘breaded’ with minced mushrooms and onions.
Gourmet cheeses arrive before desserts of caramelised butternut squash ravioli with honey butter, and jelly flavoured with fir extraction, coffee and warm chocolate cream.
I just about manage the exquisite hand-crafted chocolates before raising the white flag and exiting past a still-joyful Vincent in a deliriously euphoric daze – almost as if I really had been to another world.
It’s 415 euros (£371) for the tasting menu, 195 euros (£175) for the classic wine pairing (without the cheese) and 230 euros/£205 (with the cheese).
Rating out of five: *****
Full review of Cheval Blanc Courchevel to come. Ted is hosted by the hotel.
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