Two vegans walk into a bar… no, not a joke, just the start of a lovely lunch at MBC Chamonix.
MBC (Micro Brasserie Chamonix) is a Canadian run bar, famed for it’s home-brewed beers, massive burgers and lively apres-ski. Not necessarily the kind of hip and healthy establishment where you might expect to find many vegan choices on the menu. In fact, at first glance there aren’t. The first few pages are full of typical bar food such as fried chicken wings and nachos slathered in grilled cheese, as well as Canadian specialities like poutine and the Crazy Canuck burger.
Keep going, keep going… stick with it and you’ll come to the veggie choices. Yes, choices! Not just one (which I don’t think counts as a “choice” if it’s all you’re offered) but four of them! The veggie burger is freshly made in-house from a blend of tofu, mushrooms and herbs; the patty itself is vegan and our server reassured me that there are no sneaky ingredients such as egg used to bind it together or butter in the bread bun. The disclaimer at the top of the page rather confusingly says “suitable for vegetarians but not vegans”, which is why I felt the need to double-check but apparently this statement only applies to the toppings, all of which include either cheese or creme fraiche, which you can omit if you don’t dig dairy.
We opted for the Veggie Classique with house salsa (foregoing the lime and coriander creme fraiche) and the Veggie Tapenade with black olive and sun-dried tomato (skipping the manchego cheese). All burgers are served with either salad or fries, so we went for the connoisseurs choice of criss-cross fries and then ordered an extra salad to share.
You can’t come to MBC and not sample their beer, homemade and brewed on the premises, they have four different varieties ranging from a German style white beer to an Irish inspired stout, as well as a monthly special. They are all vegan and made without isinglass - a gelatin made from the dried swim bladders of fish, often used for filtering beer (I know, who on earth thought that one up?). Two halves of the blanche (white beer) and we were well ensconced in a sunny window seat, ready for a long lunchtime catch-up.
Our meals arrived pretty quickly and piping hot; two big burgers, each topped with a sliver of gherkin and surrounded by a mountain of criss-cross fries. The mixed salad was plenty big enough for two people to share as a side dish - lettuce, tomato, red onion, cucumber and carrot in a sweet light maple dressing that complimented the flavours nicely.
Veggie burgers are often one of two things - dry and crumbly or soft and mushy - and either way they usually fall apart at the first bite. These did pretty well though, the mushrooms gave them a nice juiciness when you bit into them and the tofu made them firm enough to hold together. I don’t know what herbs and spices they used but there was quite a red tinge to them that makes me think paprika maybe or tomato puree…
I was impressed with the tapenade; being vegetarian it didn’t have the pungent fishiness that you get when it’s made with anchovies, which meant that you could really taste the earthiness of the black olives and the sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes - it was quite roughly blended too, so it had a good chunky texture. My friend’s salsa was nice and tomatoey but didn’t pack much of a punch - her overriding impression was of saltiness rather than spiciness that overpowered the other flavours. It is made in-house though, so perhaps it varies from day to day.
Our only other criticism would be that it would be nice to have at least one burger that is entirely vegan without having to omit items - for example swapping cheese for avocado, or using some of that delicious lime and coriander in a tahini sauce instead of creme fraiche. It would be amazing to order something just “as it comes”, knowing that you’re getting the full shebang with all it’s fantastic flavours!
Quite sometime later, we came to the end of our feast, achingly full and in the early sleepy stages of a food coma. The bill came to just 50€ for two burgers with fries, a side salad big enough for two people, and four halves of beer. If you’re on a budget (or a diet, ha!) you can order any of their burgers without fries for a few euros less.
Two vegans walk out of a bar… with full bellies and happy faces.
Location: Chamonix - Centre
Cuisine: American | Gastro-pub | International | Vegan | Vegetarian
Open Seasons: Spring | Summer | Autumn | Winter