With two American friends in town, who were specifically requesting a 'Chamonix cheese-fest', it seemed appropriate enough to head to Le Monchu - as 'Le Monchu' is the local dialect word for 'Tourist'. Coined in the 1800s it is a corruption of the word Monsieur and can still be heard in conversation amongst Chamoniards. Set just off the main (tourist) sqaure, just next to the Casino de Chamonix, Le Monchu is a very reasonably-priced Savoyarde restaurant, offering all the usual suspects (Fondue, Pierrade, Raclette etc) and a few specialities as well.
We took a 7.30pm sitting (fearing that gorging on cheese for 2 hours from 9-11pm might inspire some lively nightmares), and were given a table right next to the window which made for a great people-watching spot. It didn't take us long at all to decide on a Raclette (for 2) and a Reblechonnade (for 2) which were served with potatoes, cuts of cold meat, sausages, pickles, pickled onions, and bread. We also ordered and endives and walnut salad, just to be on the safe side.
Bulky contraptions, which wouldn't look out of place in a Saw movie, were effortlessly plonked on our table by dainty waitresses, and then the star of the show - the cheese - arrived. The raclette cheese was like an enormous, glistening, edible Trivial Pursuit wedge, and the Reblechonnade came as two rounds of cheese in perfectly-sized mini frying pans (about 15cm across and 2-3cm deep). Both require some management (I would say DIY experience is more handy than culinary training, however), in order to keep the cheese bubbling, melting and dripping without actually burning. As always, the Savoyard experience lends itself to a group experience - cooking, sharing, feeding, squabbling, leaning over each other and generally a 'your-plate-is-my-plate' vibe, and Le Monchu was no different. Eventually we managed to make our way through everything on the table, and reclined in the sweaty, cheesy heap that sounds so dreadful to someone who has never cheesed it up in the Alps, and so wonderful to someone who has!
The whole feast, including a couple of bottles of house red, and a few scoops of sorbet shared between the 4 of us, came to a very reasonable 35€ a head. A special thank you has to go to the always-wonderful Anna and Katie, who insisted on picking up the 'tab', which I guess is a sign that they approved!