Ab Fab’s Val d’Isere venture might have seen Patsy stick to the chairlift with her bottle of bolly, but there are plenty other options available. Whether you’re after a warming glass of mulled wine, a nifty Jäger or a hot chocolate, the legendary Dick’s Tea Bar caters to it all.
These venerable stalwart of watering holes (there’s also a Dick’s Tea Bar in Meribel) opened back in 1979 by Dick Yates-Smith and had undergone several further transformations before two young entrepreneurial regulars, Seb Hall and Alex Fateh, took to the helm. They saw Dick’s as integral to the respective resorts but figured the latest breed of so-called “alpine nightclub bum” needed more from their favourite pit stop. So they gutted and re-kitted the veteran drinking dens, giving them a modern sheen and a few luxury extras.
Dick’s now has its own shuttle bus, collecting and dropping off skiers between the ski run and the bar. They provide slippers and ski boots on arrival. There’s one room available for earlier après ski sessions before the late night shenanigans kick off in the second. And everyone from The Nextmen to DJ Yoda, Krafty Kuts and Tim Westwood have been booked to play. They’ve even got a four-litre champagne cocktail that comes in a ceramic ski boot.
In only their second season, Dick’s is pulling back that ‘King of the Alps’ handle, attracting attention from a range of different celebrities (Heston Blumenthal and Sarah Hardy included).
With its winning combo’ of chic accommodation (there are several luxury chalets in Val d’Isere), numerous restaurants and a hip, notorious nightlife, not to mention the skiing and snowboarding, Val d’Isere attracts more than just your hardcore pisters. And Dick’s Tea Bar owner, Seb, knows it all only too well…..
You’ve recently refurbished and re-launched the legendary Val d’Isere après ski site Dick’s Tea Bar. What new aspects can visitors look forward to?
It’s generally a lot nicer and more comfortable. The place had started to look tired over the years. So we took one season to decide what was needed and gutted it last summer. We put in new lighting, sound, furniture, bars and went for a contemporary chalet/mountain décor, which is cosy but modern. The new feel is chic alpine, but the key was to keep away from any stuffiness, we love the loose chaos that has made Dick’s what it is. The new layout and areas within the bar mean people can have their own table, waitress and security but if you just fancy a few Jägerbombs at the bar, that’s fine too.
It’s a big balancing act in the Alps and I have seen places in other resorts lose touch and go too far one way. You have to keep it fun.
You’re the first independent company to own Dicks since its original founding father back in 1979 – do you think that will make a difference to the service?
Myself and Alex are old school mates and the first independent owners since Dick Yate-Smith (it was all large tour operators in between). The business certainly has a family feel to it now and being this size means the attention to detail is back and we make sure people feel looked after. Previously it was a new manager every season and it’s hard to build such a business around a lack of continuity.
You’ve nicknamed your client the “après nightclub bum” and called Dick’s ‘the “seasoniare’s” second home’ – can you elaborate on that for us please. Describe your usual visitors.
Dick’s client base is so broad. Every week is different in terms of tourists but the one aspect that remains constant is the locals – they give the place its vibe and so we make sure they are well looked after.
As a local institution you must know all the other unique little hideouts. Please imagine you have a very special friend coming to stay for a few days – where would you take them and what would you do?
Have some lunch on the terrace of the restaurant at the top of La Tovière where the views are incredible and from here ski down to La Folie Douce for some rose and house music! At night Cafe Face, Victors and The Fall-Line are my favourite bars and I would eat at Sur Le Montagne where the two owners are lovely and the food has never let me down.
And for those hedonistic luxury-laden types, where would you suggest they stay?
Hotel-wise I would suggest Le Blizzard. It has an amazing spa, chic and cosy decor throughout and, if you are looking for quality drinks, food and service, the bar and restaurant rival anywhere in Val d’Isere. In terms of chalets I would suggest Le Chardon for similar reasons. They also have great staff that wouldn’t let you lift a finger.
What are Dick’s plans for the future?
We are looking at summer projects, not necessarily opening new Dick’s Tea Bars, but we are looking at a couple of ideas/concepts down south. A summer place would make sense as we can keep a hold of our staff and hopefully look after some of the same clientele that come through Val d’Isere and Meribel.
The immediate future is Whitecap Ski, a corporate ski idea. It’s in the baby stages but we have already helped UK agents organise three separate trips for large corporate groups this winter and would like to expand on that next year. Working so closely with everybody in resort we can facilitate trips and organise itineraries quite easily. Once in resort we act as fixers or concierge if you like to make sure everything runs smoothly as well as make Dick’s their second home.