Ski Special: Le Shed Opens
You are likely to hear about Le Shed before you spot it, because the chances are, even if you are a regular visitor to Verbier, it is easy to walk straight past it. Which is unusual given that location-wise, it’s golden, situated barely a minute’s walk, even in clumpy boots, from the main ski drag up from Médran to Les Ruinettes. Le Shed’s cloak of invisibility is due largely to its snug size and placement. Tucked down the side of a set of shops devoted to real estate and apparel, it doesn’t immediately jump out at the passer-by.
Yet once you’ve clocked the place, you’ll wonder how and why you didn’t see it before. There are precious few places like Le Shed in Verbier (or, let’s be honest, in Switzerland as a whole). From outside, it looks like a classic, modern, open-to-the-elements posh burger joint. Big glass windows, simple-but-effective branding, and the promise of locally sourced burgers, ground on the premises and served with love.
First impressions are promising. A large glass door slides open, ushering you into a pocket-sized restaurant split evenly into two halves. To the left, a (very squeezy) little bar, where patrons wait to be seated in the (equally squeezy) open-plan eating area to the right of a thick internal partition. The open-plan (what else?) kitchen sits at the back, stocked with cheery-looking chefs shaping and moulding prime beef patties.
Styled by local interior designers, the restaurant is owned by a trio of Swedish entrepreneurs who wanted too open a restaurant they would actively want to patronise. (In this sense, Le Shed is not an awful lot different, and may well be modelled on, the thinking behind La Vache, a very nice restaurant located at the top of the Attelas chair life, which is owned by a trio of well-known English faces, including singer James Blunt and moto racer Carl Fogarty).
Our night out at Le Shed began really well. I saw my husband’s eyes light up as he spotted the first of many of his favourite ales, peeking out from a full range of fridges lining the wall behind the bar. St. Austell’s Proper Job, Bombardier, and Punk IPA from the Scottish outfit Brewdog, ensured that bar menu received a triple tick. Local wines were well represented, including my own Swiss favourite, Petite Arvine from Valais. In a ski town festooned with pizza shacks and fondue restaurants, here was something more modern, tailored to sharp-sweet taste buds, and filled with carby treats – manna from heaven after a long day on the slopes.
Le Shed is worth trying. It hasn’t been open long, and new places owned by new restaurateurs will make mistakes. It’s inevitable. The ones here are either visible, or creeping. The former involves the waiting time. This is a no-reservation joint, so unless you arrive very early or very late, you are guaranteed a long wait. We hung around for just over an hour – a long time for four very hungry people. This is where the squeezy nature of the bar is a hindrance: there just isn’t enough space to cope with a waiting crowd. Eventually, we wandered off to find a beer at a local pub, returning 45 minutes later, simply to avoid the crush.
The four of us took our seats and reviewed the menu, which was limited at best, especially for the rather depressed-looking vegetarian in our fold, who had to settle for two halves of charred corn starter. (You’re a burger place guys – why not offer a veggie burger?).
Our starters were very good. My husband could not praise the chicken wings with chilli, coriander and peanut sauce enough. ‘Some of the best I’ve had’, he said – high praise for an American Football nut with a penchant for super-spicy buffalo wings. The second was the corn, with a parmesan and chili topping, which was also succulent, flavourful and cooked to perfection. But sadly this is where poor service came in and ruined a potentially five-star meal.
We were offered the choice of two tables when we were seated, one only had three chairs the other was still covered with detritus from the previous patrons. No napkins were offered when the starters arrived – a major oversight when you’ve ordered sticky finger-food. Two orders of chips were delivered instead of three and there was no sign of the burgers arriving. Here though the food became an issue, the fries arrived unseasoned, (we were still without cutlery or condiments). If they were going for ‘thrice-cooked fluffy chips’, they failed miserably, at best they were crispy hollow batons cooked to hell and back.
By the time our main courses arrived, we’d been seated for 90 minutes, and the table still wasn’t dressed properly, making the place feel at sometimes something like a cross between the posh burger bar of its ambitions, and the airport-McDonald’s of its reality. It turned out that delivering food to the wrong table was a wider malaise: we belatedly discovered that our missing portion of fries was originally destined to the next table to ours. (Which, incidentally, was filled with an unhappy group of Swiss skiers, who did little but grumble about the service and the food all night). It became obvious to us after a while what the place’s problem was. It hired waiting staff based on their looks rather than their experience – always a no-no.
Finally the burgers (and fresh chips) were put in front of us. We’d ordered three of the four types of burgers represented on the menu, selecting patties layered with chèvre, Gruyère cheese and locally sourced bacon varieties. The burgers were great: succulent if a little greasier than they needed to be, but they are without doubt tasty, aided by a brioche-bun that really does make a difference. Perhaps the only downside is that at CHF24/£18/$25 without chips, the burgers are a little on the small side.
We’d run out of steam by desert, which is a shame as it looked good. Between the mistakes and the pounding music – which was just too loud, unless it was 3am and you were enjoying life in an Ibiza/Las Vegas night club – we’d had enough. Le Shed has great potential, but the many glaring and basic mistakes have to be sorted out, and quick. We will be back again at the start of next season to see if the first season jitters have been ironed out.
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