For a small village, there are a lot of restaurant options in St Martin. You can get a fondue in pretty much any of these during the ski season, but there is plenty else on offer. This is my personal guide, based on our experiences in 2014,2015, and 2016. None of the restaurants we have visited have been terrible, so there is little to fear. Check TripAdvisor for an alternative view, or just take the plunge and find out for yourselves. Beware that the average ratings in Trip Advisor seem to simply reflect the cost of the restaurant – the more expensive, the higher the rating.
The default option is La Voute. It’s in the square, facing the church, alongside the Mairie. Open for most of the year, it has a super terrace out front for the Summer. It has a wide ranging menu, from pizzas to pig’s trotters in garlic, via the usual Savoyarde options. It is also quite big, with a room at the back which is used when busy, so it’s a good option if other places are full. Recommended for its real-world French feel and reasonable-ish prices. With friendly waiters and long opening hours you can’t go too far wrong, even if it is arguably a jumped-up pizza restaurant.
La Montagnard is the restaurant closest to the chalet, just down the footpath opposite. It is in an old stone building, and majors on the traditional Savoyarde experience. We’ve seen it regularly full during the winter, so you should think about booking in advance. The room is rustic-quaint, with some of the tables are suspended from the ceiling on heavy chains. It is pricier than La Voute, and a bit more gourmet. It gets the second best TripAdvisor rating in St Martin de Belleville, after La Bouitte (more later on that), so my slight reservation that it’s a bit impression-driven is clearly not shared by everyone.
Le Lachenal is just behind the church, on the far side from the Mairie, next to the Piano Bar. The downstairs dining area is a wonderful old room – apparently one of the oldest in the village. Upstairs has rather too much varnished pine panelling for anyone with a ‘60s décor phobia. Their standard cheese fondue is possibly the best I can remember, but then again, I had a rather dodgy duck dish too. Our trips have always been made memorable by an amusingly combative waitress, with an entirely reasonable disdain for English idiots.
L’Eterlou is at the bottom of the button lift, facing the square. It is a basic bar, with a restaurant on top. Very much a no-frills French affair. We had a perfectly acceptable fixed menu lunch there in the Summer. In the evening you can get take–away style burgers, paninis, and chips in the bar. It’s a great option if you’ve blown your cash for the week already, or just sick of fondue. The burgers we had last were really excellent. Mind you, the extended eating area in O P’tit Snack (see the Take-away section) is a strong competitor in this market too. I love both.
OK, it’s time to address the elephant in the room: La Bouitte. This is not actually in St Martin, but just up the road in St Marcel. Fortunately, there is a door-to-door courtesy minivan, which makes the trip easy. When this was a mere two star Michelin restaurant, it was upwards of £200 per head. Now it is a full-fat three star restaurant – something about the ‘extraordinary’ things they do with fish – who knows. I doubt it’ll be cheaper. While it is an experience, it is easy to be intimidated. I had fun there, but it is one of those fussy food experiences, with people everywhere, and eggs ‘cooked at 68 degrees for 65 minutes’. If you are feeling like an expensive adventure, it is well worth going and making your own mind up. Beware of the sommelier – they are likely to recommend wine at truly (and I mean that) atmospheric prices. The wine expert in our party stood his ground and ordered wine at sub £100 per bottle, which proved perfectly drinkable!
Le Jardin de Josephine sprung up next to the Montagnarde a couple of years ago. It’s run by the La Montangade guys, I understand. While you can order the some Savoyarde fare, including a nice twist on tartiflette, much of the menu is more modern. The consistency seems to be improving as the restaurant becomes more popular, and prices are reasonable. Highly recommended for an adult evening meal.
One key consideration when choosing restaurants is how much walking up and down the hill is involved. Well, the one with least is probably Le Grenier, part of the Hotel Saint Martin. Just walk across the slope toward the bubble, bear slightly right by the magic carpet, and down to the big terrace area of Le Grenier. The menu is quite limited, frankly, but the few things that aren’t cheese-in-a-bucket are very nicely executed. I’d recommend it primarily as a decent lunch option.
This year I finally got to eat at La Ferme Choumette. It is on the other side of the main road, just above the chalet. On skis, it is just before you enter the tunnel under the road. Some people have spoken positively about the place to me, and it has the novelty feature of a gallery window looking down on to the farm’s cattle. Frankly, I was underwhelmed in all aspects.
Etoile des Neiges is in the high street, opposite the boulangerie. It’s always looked way too pricey and too empty for me to bother trying it, but again, it’s got a good TripAdvisor rating.
And now for something completely different. Ferme Auberge Chantacoucou is on the far side of Le Chatelard. You have to ring to book, it has a set menu, it’s a non-starter for veggies, and it does not take plastic. What you do get, however, is probably unique in the area. The farmer himself will serve you a traditional meal cooked by his wife, and made entirely from fresh local produce – much of it from the farm itself. His 37 cows will be under your feet, tucked up for the winter, and the attic area overhead crammed with drying saucisson. We paid for 120 euros for four, all in, a price you’d struggle to match anywhere else. Don’t expect a restaurant, just enjoy the taste of real food.