Published on Friday, December 16, 2016

Catered ski holiday, MasterChef-style

Bev Fearis checked out the latest addition to the Hip Hideouts' collection of luxury catered chalets in Val d'Isere.

It would be hard to top the location of the Kilco Penthouse. It's just 100 metres from the new Solaise gondola and the Olympique, two of the main access points to the resort's vast ski area, which links with neighbouring Tignes to give 300 km of pistes. But it's also just off the resort's main street, within easy staggering distance of the bars, restaurants, and nightclubs but without the risk of being kept awake by late night revellers.

First impressions
We were met at Geneva airport by Snow Drone, the private taxi firm used by Hip Hideouts. Our six-seater people carrier had wi-fi, seat-back movies and Paul, a friendly and careful driver. We arrived in the dark and made our way up in the lift to the penthouse chalet. Built in 2015, the penthouse is owned by the famous Killy family, who have superb taste in interiors and a great eye for quirky, contemporary art. Dimly lit and with a log fire burning, we immediately felt at home. I wanted to sink straight into the huge L-shaped sofa, covered with soft fleecy throws and fur scatter cushions, but it was time for dinner.

The bedrooms
There are five bedrooms, four of them leading from the double-heighted living space and the fifth - perfect for children - is on the mezzanine level. One has a bath and the others have walk-in showers with Aesop toiletries, but not your usual miniatures. These were full-size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion, face cream and lip balm. We made use of it all and, needless to say, found room for what was left in our check-in luggage. The bed was super comfy and there was plenty of storage space for our thermals. There were a few issues with the water pressure, but it was the first week of the season and I'm sure these have been sorted out by now.

Wining and dining
This is where Hip Hideouts stands out from other chalet companies. Its chefs have a minimum of five years' experience in five-star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants or super-yachts and, despite the tiny kitchen, managed to create dishes worthy of top London restaurants. Forget the usual casseroles and lasagne, we enjoyed the likes of king crab avocado roll with Romescu sauce for starters, main courses of squid ink agnolotti with gorgonzola, prawns, chanterelles, and espuma of pear and celeriac, topped off with a desert of banana parfait, caramel sauce, caramel jelly, frozen banana slices, salted caramel mousse, peanut brittle, peanut brittle ice cream - all served on a slate tile. I felt like I was in an episode of MasterChef, especially as our chef came out for every course to tell us what he was serving. Breakfasts were just as wonderful, and changed each day, making it a joy to jump out of bed in the morning. Bowls of delicately sliced fresh fruit, thick creamy yoghurt, fluffy scrambled eggs, chorizo, avocado, Spanish omelette, flaky croissants and delicious bread from the local bakery - just what you need to set you up for a day on the slopes. On one evening we also had champagne and canapes and on another gin cocktails. The wine changed every night too.

The service
Our hosts, Christian and Giacamo, couldn't do enough for us, but also quickly felt like friends. Christian, from Valencia, was the front man, with a great sense of humour and a gift at remembering names and our likes and dislikes. He quickly learnt how I liked my tea, that I preferred white wine to red, and that my husband liked to get straight into the steam room when he got back from skiing. Special mention also needs to go to Snowberry, the ski hire company used by Hip Hideouts. I've never had such a thorough examination of my feet for a ski boot fitting - they even measured my achilles - and the result was the most comfy pair of boots I've ever hired. They were brand new too.

Leisure time
Well, of course, we spent most of our time taking advantage of the fantastic snow conditions, which came early this year, even by Val d'Isere standards, but after a day on the mountains it was great to come back to the steam room at Kilco Penthouse. On one afternoon, we booked a massage with Destination Pamper, who came to the chalet and pummeled away some of the aches and pains. In such lovely surroundings, and an abundance of good wine, it was tempting to stay in every night, but we took ourselves out on a few bar crawls and enjoyed some live music. We had plans to go clubbing, but apparently the clubs don't get going till 2am and we were in bed by midnight. Too much mountain air!

Christian and Giacamo are natural hosts and I'm sure they'll make lots of friends this season. Within a few days, I felt like I'd known them both for years and wanted to introduce them to my friends back home. I also loved the lighting in the penthouse, especially the showpiece solar system chandelier (pictured here).

As with all new properties, there were a few teething problems, mainly with the showers, as already mentioned, and we had a few power cuts too.

These chalets aren't cheap but guests - who come from all over the world - come back time and time again, which is testament to Hip Hideouts' winning formula of choosing great properties and hiring the right staff.

From £15,000 a week, for 10 people. High season £35,000.

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