Hidden Hansel and Gretel-style in a small forest at the foot of the Grand Montets ski slopes in Argentière, you’re unlikely to find La Crèmerie du Glacier unless you know about it. Old-fashioned simplicity is its lure and an effortless retro deco, its understated charm. From the moment you trudge up the snow-covered wooden steps and push open the door of the fairytale wooden chalet between trees, inhale the vivacious chatter of delighted diners, rosy sun-bronzed cheeks aglow from hearty consumption, you just know you are in for an unforgettable treat.
Cheese fondue comes in a rich variety of guises. The timeless local classic, fondue Savoyarde, melts equal parts of Comté, Gruyère and Beaufort in the pot with white wine and a dash of nutmeg. But for curious tastebuds keen to stray from tradition, there’s an unusual mix of vacherin and Beaufort to dip into, and a variety of cheesy fondues studded with different types of wild mushrooms.
But the real heart-breakers are the croûtes aux fromages - fiesty slices of chewy-crust bread smothered in a variety of swoon-worthy toppings and grilled to crisp but gooey perfection. Go for the classic but timeless La Bacon – cheese-smothered slices of tart salty bacon on toast, followed by a croûte dorée au sirop d’erable, golden sugary-sweet toasts doused in an outrageous amount of maple-syrup. And all the while admire the old black-and-white photographs of pioneering Chamonix alpinists on the walls, appreciate the timelessness of Grandma’s copper pots strung on the wooden beams and tin water and milk cans on the sill, and give a nod of respect to the hunt-hungry alpine hornists on the vintage, ceramic-tiled wood-burning stove.
So the snow still lingers for the moment, but the good news is that La Crèmerie du Glacier seduces with equal charm in spring and summer when its old wooden tables and chairs spill out onto the green grass outside – as has been the procedure every year since the 1950s when the chalet opened its doors to the first croûte-knowing hikers in the French Alps. Fabulous, just fabulous.
Lunch: La Crèmerie du Glacier, 766 chemin de la Glacière, Argentière, Chamonix-Mont Blanc
Overnight: A fusion of contemporary design and alpine chic at Hôtel des Grand Montets, 340, chemin des Arbérons, Argentière, Chamonix-Mont Blanc