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Restaurant Mont Blanc: fine dining, Savoie-style

My parents took me on my first skiing holiday to the Alps when I was just five years old. Looking back on it, I can see how ludicrously privileged this was, but at the time it just felt normal – not to mention cold and exhausting. For two weeks every winter, my tiny child-body in its tiny-but-still-heavy-and-unwieldy ski boots would lug a pair of 80s planks around while someone yelled at me in heavily accented English to “Benze kneez!!!” While it was a couple of years before the skiing part actually became enjoyable, I was down for the food from day one: steaming dishes of fondue and tartiflette for lunch in a mountain stübli, followed by mugs of hot chocolate after ski school. And every morning my dad would step outside our hotel, breathe deeply and extol the virtues of the “Champagne air”…

Because of the pandemic, I’ve not experienced that Champagne air, nor the calorific but heavenly Alpine food, nor the pleasure of peeling off those damn ski boots after a day spent carving and gliding down the mountain, in a couple of years. And while I recognise that this is the most luxury of luxury problems, my annual Alpine trip has been one of the things I’ve missed most. So when Mr Foodie and I were walking the dog one day during semi-lockdown, and happened to spot a restaurant called Mont Blanc in de Pijp, and saw both the menu and the interior of said restaurant, I made a mental note to book a table as soon as omicron allowed. Visit and you’ll see why.

Mountain chalet interior at Mont Blanc
Inside, restaurant Mont Blanc is like a Swiss chalet (albeit a very fancy one): everything smells of pine wood, there’s a roaring log fire, leather sofa, sheepskins on the lounge chairs by the entrance… It’s the perfect spot to decompress after a hard day’s skiing (I mean, home-working) with a glass of bubbles and some amuse-bouches before making your way to your table.

Polenta-chip pine cone

Said amuses included some fabulously presented polenta chips served via pine cone, with a dip of fresh goat’s cheese and pine needles. Tartiflette bitterballen were a cute nod to traditional Savoie cuisine and the restaurant’s Dutch location. Little wooden spoons of trout wrapped in I-remember-not-what were morsels of deliciousness that perfectly accompanied the last remnants of our Champagne. And tender cubes of Arctic Char came nestled in a richly green, vegetal dressing.

The humble-no-longer leek

A note on the crockery: a lot of it must be customised. When we sat down, there were little Mont Blanc shaped white dishes in front of us. We were given what looked like a peppermint, which was then soaked in warm water to reveal a tiny towel with which to clean our hands. Covid-friendly and a very thoughtful touch. But the rest of the tableware was stunning too: black and brassy cutlery, wooden bowls, stone orbs and white plates studded with tiny mountain ranges. The dishes alone must’ve cost a small fortune.

We plumped for the five-course fixed menu, the first of which involved the humble leek – elevated to new heights with trout roe and smoked hay. Growing up, I was never a huge fan of leeks, but now chefs are finding weird and wonderful ways with them and I can’t get enough of it.

Oeuf en meurette

Next up came a take on oeuf en meurette: a rich bowl of slow-cooked egg yolk with an onion purée and a decadent reduction of Persan – a Savoie red wine that paired perfectly with the Pinot Noir we drank with it.

Perhaps my favourite course was the fish: a medley of crisp-skinned perch (I think?), tiny sweet crayfish, creamy bisque and Swiss chard. There was also a herbal note that set it all off perfectly, but I couldn’t identify what it was – something approaching shiso perhaps…

Our last savoury course was essentially a chicken fillet – but not the dry, tasteless version that you might fear. Served on a bed of cabbage and Albufera sauce, this polderhoen was moist and flavoursome and covered in shavings of black truffle. The truffle theme continued with a small mound of chicken rillettes coated in a foie gras mash and more truffle – pure decadence.

Truffle-tastic chicken

Throughout the meal, we’d been eyeing the cheese board – which was essentially an entire wooden stretcher laden with Savoie cheeses. It was hard to choose, but I narrowed it down to a slice each of reblochon, morbier, hard and soft goat’s cheeses and a strongly veined blue. Outstanding – as was the Persan I drank with the cheese (perhaps the same red wine from the reduction earlier). After a small palate cleanser, dessert was the famous Mont Blanc: a meringue and chestnut extravaganza that was brought to life with zesty orange and a theatrical crack of meringue crust.

Dinner came to €185 per person, including the five-course menu with wine pairings, an extra cheese course, the bubbles to start and a tip. Clearly you’re not going to spend that kind of money every day, but I’d urge you not to wait too long before you splurge. The night we visited (a Thursday) we were the only customers in the restaurant: there were more staff working than there were customers eating. Even with that price tag, this is by no means a sustainable situation. By that logic, Mont Blanc is going to go one of two ways: either it will fall victim to this post-pandemic world of high commodity prices and cautious customers, or the word will get out and it’ll have a Michelin star within a year. I very much hope for the latter…

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Mont Blanc (French)
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