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Where To Eat And Drink In Alpine France

When we think of holidays in France we usually think of a food and wine filled weekend in Paris, lounging around by the sea in Nice or Biarritz, maybe a Michelin-starred city break in Lyon, but unless you're an avid skiier the chances are you probably haven't considered venturing to the Savoie, just over the border from Switzerland at the base of the Alps.



Here you'll find Alpine towns like Grenoble, Annecy, and Aix-les-Bains (called the riviera of the Alps), and cuisines spanning French (from Burgundian escargot to juicy Côte de boeuf), Swiss (all the fondue) and Italian (freshly made pasta and pizza in every town - you'll be less than two hours from the Italian border everywhere you go). Here's where we went, and what we ate, on one of the best food trips we've ever taken...


Chambéry


We were based in the countryside (there's lots of it around here) and our closest town was Chambéry, a 15-minute drive away. It's a typically quaint French town, with loads of restaurants, shops and a market to pick up groceries, as well as museums and historical monuments, including the former home of the writer Jean Jacques Rousseau.



Marché Des Halles, Chambéry


The central market in Chambéry is open from 07:00 - 12:00 Tuesday - Saturday, and while not as sprawling as some city markets, it has everything you'll need for self-catering, including fresh French vegetables, meat, fish, terrines, and more local cheeses than you can imagine exist.



Boulangerie Hexagone, Chambéry


One thing you won't have to look far for in Chambéry (or France in general) is bread, pastries and patisserie. Bakeries seem to be on every corner, but we recommend a stop at the seven-day operation Bourlangerie Hexagone, for sandwiches on freshly baked bread, Marie-Antoinette brioche buns, and creamy tonka bean flans.



Don't miss "the Brexit" - ham, egg and cheese in a buttery croissant-type pastry, and the display cabinet is also filled with pizzas to eat in or take home. There are a few seats outside, and serviceable coffee if you want to sit and eat, and it's a great one to have in your back pocket if you haven't made a lunch reservation, because restaurants fill up fast around here and most will wave you away if you haven't booked in advance.



La Mezcla, Chambéry


Rustic bar and bistrot La Mezcla specialises in no fuss cooking at prices that can't be argued with. A set two course lunch is €18, with three courses €22, and the short menu isn't lacking in interest. We loved the cream of leek soup with two pieces of blue cheese flan sat in the middle, the "butcher's piece" steak with chips and mushroom sauce, and the chestnut and chocolate meringue for dessert.



Staff are charming and happy to speak English, the place is busy and buzzy, and the wines were good too. They don't have a website or online booking so call to make a reservation.



Italoria, Saint-Alban-Leysse


Things we were told about Italoria, the restaurant in the Hôtel L'Or du Temps, a 15 minute drive from Chambéry: "They don't take reservations." "Get there at 12pm or you won't get a table." We lucked out with a very dull and rainy day, so showing up delayed (and panicked) at 12:30 resulted in success, and much sighs of relief as we had no back up plan.



At only an hour and 20 minutes from Italy, at the base of the Bauges Massif, it's as close as you can get to the real deal without crossing the border. Fresh pasta, pizza, Roman pinsas, risotto, meat and fish dishes are all on the menu, with daily specials, and a deep-fried burrata salad that was a revelation - why have we never seen this before! Get the pinsa with minced beef and mustard cream, the fettucine with duck ragu, and a glass of Montepulciano to wash it all down.



Cedric Pernot @ Au Fidèle Berger, Chambéry


Part patisserie, part chocolate shop, part historical monument, Au Fidèle Berger is the oldest shop in Chambéry and has been a pastry shop since 1832. Pâtissier Cedric Pernot moved in in 2011, and his creations will have your head spinning from side to side from the second you walk in. Entrements, petit gâteaux, macarons, chocolates, pâte de fruits - if you don't walk out of here laden down with boxes and bags we'll be worried about you.



Les Caves Du Château, Chambéry


Chambéry has more quality wine shops than you'd expect in a town of its size, and local Savoie wines proudly take centre stage everywhere. Les Caves Du Château specialises in the natural variety (our favourite), and lovely staff are only too happy to tell you about their favourites. Try local white grapes Jacquère and Altesse, or the local red Mondeuse, or treat yourself to some grower Champagne at relatively (in comparison to Ireland) knockdown prices.



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