How did Fish & Pips all begin?
Philippa my business partner and I have been in each other’s lives forever. Our dads were best mates, so we were on bucket-and-spade holidays ever since I can remember. After university, we decided to do a winter season before looking for proper jobs in London. After some Cordon Bleu training to help us get work in the Alps, Scott Dunn took us on at one of its large, luxury chalets in Méribel. We ended up winning a Chalet Team 2004 award and realised we were rather a good team…
What made you think you could make the business work?
We’d seen a gap in the market: it was for a small, personalised and expert ski business that treated its guests as individuals and offered a luxury experience at a more accessible price point. With a friendly, professional approach to service, a team with a zest for life, a love of food and a background in hospitality, we had the foundations of Fish & Pips.
Over a decade on, after a lot of hard work, today we’re one of the leading small, specialist ski companies in the UK. We have 13 high-end chalets in Méribel village, a loyal customer base and an evolving product that caters to 1,400 guests each winter.
And you have 13 chalets all in one place?
All right in the village because we think it’s one of the prime locations in the Trois Vallées. It ticks so many boxes: the best bakery, the best après bar; Restaurant Savoyard… but the stand out for us is the access to the slopes. Chairlifts are within a few minutes of all our chalets; there’s never a queue and you can bypass the traffic at the main ski area in the Chaudanne and be up at the summits in no time. And then there’s the village’s home run, The Lapin – a glorious blue run that is generally in pristine condition because it’s north facing.
Tell us a bit more about the chalets themselves…
They’re all special but for different reasons: Chalet Baita for its cosy, stylish interiors and Hypnos beds; Chalet Marmotte for its second-to-none access to the piste and chairlift; Chalet Cerf Rouge for its rustic luxury and spacious bedrooms. They all offer something slightly different in terms of style, size and price, but each one is superbly located with the same level of service and creature comforts throughout.
We offer three different levels of service:
Catered is the whole hog: six days of catering including breakfast, mountain snacks, afternoon tea, kids’ tea, canapés and four courses with limitless access to our drinks list, a host and chef to look after your every need, as well as a morning and evening driver service.
Serviced is new this year. It’s a middle ground, like self-catered but with a daily clean, daily chalet ‘reset’ (dishwasher loaded, bins emptied, recycling out, top-up of basic provisions), bottle of Champagne on arrival, evening driver service, and loads of optional extras like a set-up shop, breakfast hamper, chef for the night if you’d like one and wine.
Self-catered is exactly what it says, with the option to upgrade to any of our other services. All of the above come with pre-holiday and in-resort concierge, driver service and lots of little F&P extras.
We’ve heard the food is one of the key things that make Fish & Pips unique?
We’ve always been proud of our food and continue to strive to be at the forefront of chalet cookery each year. Since we started, we’ve printed two Chalet Cook Books and opened the Abinger School of Cookery in Surrey. And Adam Byatt from Trinity in Clapham is an ambassador for us, training our chefs and endorsing their menu plans. Each of our chalet chefs liaise with guests before they arrive to tailor a menu to their specific needs.
You mentioned 1,400 guests a season, who are they?
A real mix. We get a fairly even split of family bookings (older children in the peak holidays; under-fours in January and March) and adult groups (couples, small groups, whole chalet bookings) who tend to be off peak to make the most of the quieter slopes and lower price point.
The common denominator is they tend to be people who care about location, food, feeling valued and accessing luxury at a reasonable price point.
You said you think Méribel is a prime location. How so?
It’s a charming Alpine village of wooden and stone chalets with an unpretentious attitude and easy-going vibe. It also happens to be right in between Courchevel and Val Thorens, so you’ve got unbeatable access to the whole Trois Vallées. After 14 seasons I have never got tired of the terrain. The variety of skiing is unrivalled: green runs sculpted to suit beginners’ needs; blue runs that go for miles with precise pisting to keep them smooth, long and challenging; red runs to challenge the legs; and black runs that’ll keep you on your toes. With the right guide, you can also have an epic off-piste experience. There is also plenty to do as a non-skier, from paragliding and dog sledding to scenic walking and mountaintop lunching.
And the après-ski?
There is an astounding variety of places to wine and dine across the Trois Vallées. In Méribel itself, Clos Bernard is nestled in a clearing in the woods just above the Altiport. You can get there by skis or by horse and cart. Brochettes from the open grill, hearty salads and fondues are just some of the dishes you’ll find on the lunch menu. Adray Telebar is another lunchtime institution much loved by all. It’s the easy go-to if you’re looking for good service, consistent cuisine, French charm and a sun trap.
For dinner, La Fromagerie does the best fondue in the valley. The signature ‘From Tom’ is delicious – just be aware you’ll leave smelling of stinky feet. Chez Kiki does the best chateaubriand in the area on an open fire. Mr Kiki’s tarte au pomme – with flambéed calvados – is also wonderful.
As for evening entertainment, the bar scene in Méribel is right back on track now. The legendary Jack’s has just reopened and you could quite literally roll down there from another local institution, La Rond Point. Then there’s the Lodge du Village. Pile onto the heat-lamped terrace and listen to some of the best Alpine bands out there. Crowd-surfing and balcony diving are pretty regular phenomena there.
For more information, visit FishAndPips.co.uk