Continuing from my previous post on my stay at Hotel Pashmina Le Refuge in Val Thorens, this one will cover the half-board program that was included in my room rate. Many European ski lodges offer what is called a half-board whereby breakfast and dinner is included. My guess is that older ski areas have typically few lodges and skiers would rarely get out of their lodge after the skiing ends.
Inside Hotel Pashmina, there are 2 restaurants, one is the Les Exploratuers which offers a haute-cuisine experience in the high altitude. The other is Le Base Camp, a casual full-service restaurant where breakfast is also served at. Both restaurants are located on the 3rd floor above the spa and the latter is where the half board dinner package is served at.
Aside from the main restaurant, there is a comfortable music lounge and bar area between both restaurants. On some nights there are live music but it was nothing too crazy. There are also TV and fireplace in the lounge creating a comfortable space for after dinner drinks.
Day 1 Dinner
How the dinner for half-board participants work is that they get to choose from a daily selection. There is an additional a-la-carte menu available for other guests as well. The 3-course set dinner is worth EUR 55 per person and that does make the half-board seem pretty worth it, as it is less than that in terms of additional cost. Menu for the first night has an Asian theme with Asian-style dishes occupying 2 out of 3 starter choices and all the main course. I had the skipjack tataki which is really like a tuna tataki dish. It was wonderfully seared while the accompaniments and presentation would not be out of place in a high-end Japanese restaurant in Wall Street.
For the main course, I had the crispy pork belly. This dish was a bit underwhelming for a main course with a small morsel of pork belly served on several spoonfuls of rice. Once again the presentation was faultless, but the portion was a bit small, and I left wanting for more of the crispy and melt-in-the-mouth pork belly.
Considering the light portion of food for the first 2 course, I was still a little bit hungry. That was when the dessert buffet really came in handy. Instead of creating dessert courses for one, the restaurant allows guests to partake in a dessert buffet that includes tarts, mousses, assorted sweet treats with a chocolate fountain as well as a selection of cheeses. This made the set dinner absolutely worth it as the restaurant does its very best to switch the selections daily.
Some of the tasty desserts I enjoyed were the meringue, berry tarts and chocolate cake. On one of the days, they even have profiteroles. As someone who rarely eat cheese, I also tried some of the cheese and enjoyed them with the dried fruits.
One note I had was that the restaurant can get busy and there are limited seating spread over 3 tiers of floors so guests seated on the upper and lower tiers can find some service to be slower. However the service by the attendants were near perfect as they always try to accommodate your wishes and remembers your name after the first night.
After dinner, I tend to bring my drinks to the lounge to just sit down and relax. I should also note that drinks are extra and not included but prices were reasonable and cheaper than a lot of high-end restaurants.
Moving on to the next morning, I was one of the first to arrive for breakfast and the server immediately recognized me and motioned for me to sit anywhere I please. I was really excited to get skiing for the day for sure so I was up early. There was a breakfast menu on every table where guests could order eggs made to their liking along with choices of coffee. It is always nice to have a choice of latte, cappuccino and mocha for breakfast.
Breakfast was served in a buffet style and it was very generous for a ski lodge and on par with luxury properties worldwide. Expect a wide variety of pastries and danishes. There are even special danishes from day to day so it makes for a refreshing breakfast that guests can look forward to. Another nice feature is a boil-your-own egg station with a timer and recommended time for the way you like your egg. As I like it half-boiled, it was a feature I enjoyed daily too. More breakfast buffet could do with something like this.
For beverage choices, there is a Nespresso machine along with servings of hot chocolate. And the juice bar includes freshly squeezed juices along with the unique Alain Milliat juices, a beverage that is sold during dinner as well.
For those who like a simple breakfast of toast, they even have small jars of Nutella, a fine selection of preserves and honey. The continental selection was thus far of a high quality.
There are also cheese and cold cuts which is a feature in all European breakfast.
For a warm and filling breakfast, there are bacon, scrambled egg and sausages.
Then to end the breakfast on a light or sweet note, there are fruits and yogurts with berry compote.
Day 2 Dinner
For dinner on the second night, I had a beer for a drink since they are one of the cheapest beverage on offer. No kidding here. Though if you really want to save, tap water is available free of charge. Perhaps it was a weekend night when my paid rate was slightly higher, and I noticed a wonderful spread from the menu.
Starting the meal, I was tempted to try all 3 appetizers and eventually went with the oysters. It was fresh and served with bread, lemon wedges and a nice condiment. I also asked for some Tabasco hot sauce.
And the main course was very French with the duck confit being an easy choice for me. The portion was not spectacular but the duck leg was wonderfully cooked. The meat was juice and tender with a crispy layer of skin that made the dish enjoyable. the addition of foie gras and caramelized onions serves to delight the palate even further. A delicious meal and probably one of the best duck confit I had. I even finished the puff pastry at the bottom that was great to restore the calories burned during the day when I skied.
Day 3 Dinner
On the 3rd night, I noticed some recycling of the menu as the mushroom cream soup was featured once again. It did not matter though as I was keen to try that soup. Even then the other choices looks appetizing as well, so I was really having no regrets dining in the hotel once again. The mushroom cream soup has a nice presentation once again with some froth at the top. But the portion was slightly small and the tasty dish always seems to leave diners wanting for more.
What I noticed from the menu for the 3rd day was there was always a meat, a seafood and a vegetarian option for the main course and one of them likely features a pasta. I had the meat option once again, and it did not disappoint. The meat was tender and juicy and all the side dishes were perfect. Perhaps it also made sense to make a small portion since there is always the dessert buffet for diners to look forward to. With that I always went to bed with a full stomach.
Day 4 Dinner
On the last night, the dinner menu was not that outstanding and this is partially because my room rate dropped as well after the weekend. Thus I believe the hotel takes weekend days (Friday and Saturday) into account when catering for the food. However the set menu prices actually remain the same every day. For drinks, I had the wild blueberry nectar which is another of those special juices stocked by the hotel.
Starting the meal, I went with the pumpkin cream soup. A thick and creamy soup, the taste and texture was nice to the palate. Presentation of the dish was also immaculate, though the cream was a little bit too much for the portion of the soup.
As I had meat for the last few days, and the meat option in this dinner menu did not entice me, I went with the red mullet that was served over a creamy saffron risotto. I actually liked this dish as the fish fillet was thin and seared to a crisp at both sides. The portion was also surprisingly generous compared to the other main course portions I had over the last few days.
The menu for the 3-course dinner over the 4 nights varies between a slightly higher end bistro to a casual style cafe cuisine. With pretty presentation and tasty side dishes, I still rate it highly and I believed it was money well spent.
Since I have written about the dessert buffet at the top of this post, I would just post more photos of the desserts on offer at the buffet over the 4 nights. I did not take photos every day of the dessert, so these are just those on the night I happen to have my camera with me.
And even though it was winter, the hotel has a cool outdoor deck that also functions as the bar patio. Perhaps in spring time, this deck would be crowded with skiers who wish to unwind and enjoy the sunset over the Alps. There is even a view of the outdoor hot tub from this deck.
Spa by L’Occitane
For a bonus to this post, I actually did a massage at the Spa in the hotel which is branded with L’Occitane since the hotel uses its products. Comparing the prices for the massage, it was on par to a good massage in many city hotels (EUR 120 for a 60 minute massage) and might be worth it if you are spending several days of consecutive skiing in the mountains.
Like all spas, there was a reception area with a comfortable sofa for guests to wait in while the masseuse checks you in. Inside the treatment room, there is a small shower area, though it is mainly for rinsing the body rather than a full shower as it is not partitioned with the room. There is only a small curtain that can be drawn over it.
The massage was really good and probably ranks as one of the best spas I have been to as well. After the treatment, guests could choose to relax in one of the lounge chairs at the back and help themselves to assorted dried fruits and tea.
Heading to the spa is one way to unwind after a day on the slopes and makes for a relaxing evening as I munch on snacks and read magazines by the lounge. There are even thick blankets to make it warm in this mountain environment, making it all the more surreal.
Another nice amenity in the hotel is the smart TV in the room that has some free on-demand movies for guests staying overnight. I am not sure if it is a result of the half board package or an amenity for all guests though I suspect it is the latter.
For the 4 nights, the total cost of the stay came down to about $350 per night (~C$450). This might be expensive if it was just for the hotel room. However with breakfast and dinner included for all the days, I thought it was quite good value especially that I obtained an upgrade to a suite. With that, I would miss this place for sure as I had the best skiing holiday in this resort.