Café Pension de Savoie
The historic café / restaurant La Pension de Savoie opened its doors for the first time in 1815.
Today the fully restored Pension also has a restaurant offering a menu defined by regional flavours.
Café Pension de Savoie,
Place de l'église,
0033 (0)4 50 73 31 02
La Pension de Savoie welcomes you from Tuesday to Sunday lunchtimes in the bar or in the walnut panelled dining room.
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New Lease of Life
Franck Patelli and his wife Annette knew they had found just what they had been looking for when they saw that one of the oldest bars in France was on the market in the most historic part of the village of Abondance, Haute-Savoie.
Franck Patelli and his wife Annette still can’t quite believe that they now own one of the oldest cafés in all France. Franck steps out from behind his brand new zinc-topped bar in the Café Pension de Savoie and greets us with a warm smile and a firm handshake. We select a corner table, order coffee and discuss the newly restored interior.
When the café came onto the market it was in a sad state of repair. No-one knows when the interior had last been redecorated, let alone modernised. The inadequate kitchen and the shabby restaurant dining room would need complete refurbishment to come up to today's high standards. The Patellis had already built a good reputation and a faithful clientèle for their previous restaurant in Châtel, further up the valley in the Portes du Soleil ski area, and now Franck wanted a new challenge. As soon as he and Annette saw that the café they knew they had found just what they had been looking for.
Franck has restored the bar to retain as many as possible of the original features. The café is of great historic interest, and situated in the most historic part of the village close to the Abbaye d’Abondance, so there were considerable restraints on what could be done. Rising to the challenge, he replicated faithfully the original layout (with the addition of one or two decorative additions, such as the cattle heads around the edge of the counter) right down to light fittings specially replicated by a company in Paris. The hard work meant that the café wasn’t out of action for long. Soon the regulars were back, sitting in the same places, if not the same chairs.
Franck and Annette had bigger plans, however, and as soon as we finish our coffee he shows us around. He’s clearly a man who gets things done and knows exactly what he wants. We follow him from the bar through a newly-replastered corridor past new cloakrooms equipped with gleaming basins and immaculately tiled surfaces. “They’re a bit different from the old ones...” he observes with a knowing smile. The implication was clear enough: one of the oldest bars in France was also going to have some of the oldest toilets.
We continue towards the far end of the building, surprised by its sheer size. It’s also full of surprises, none more so than the old dining room, complete with a wooden vestibule to keep out the drafts. Walls are panelled and the room receives shafts of sunlight from tall, south-facing windows. When they first saw it particles of dust danced in the light but everything else was still untouched by time since the last diners had departed. Franck describes his plans to create a bright, welcoming restaurant against what seems an impossible deadline, but after seeing the ultra modern kitchen and stores, fully equipped and ready for use, we have no doubt that he’ll make it on time.
Annette arrives with the children, and is soon enthusing about the prospect of finishing the restaurant and opening for business. Franck and Annette are justifiably proud of this historic building in which they have invested so much of their future. We look forward to returning to see how their commitment and sheer hard work have been repaid.
© Roger Moss
We visit an old mountain chalet near Abondance which has been eclectically furnished and equipped as a holiday retreat.
The classic Alpine chalet has become an instantly recognisable icon of mountain living. How did these practical mountain dwellings become so desirable ?
You can taste the rich mountain pastures in the celebrated cheeses of the northern French Alps.