By Jesse Wilson
For those that have spent much time in Telluride, the AAA Three Diamond-rated restaurant, La Marmotte, should sound familiar. It has been a treasured favorite of locals and tourists alike there for more than 20 years, serving up modern French cuisine in an intimate, country-cottage style setting.
Now, Denver residents no longer have to drive six hours to enjoy delicious French food in a cozy atmosphere. After years of searching for the perfect location that could emulate the intimacy and experience of the original, longtime La Marmotte chef, Mark Reggiannini, opened up a sister-restaurant, Café Marmotte, in the Washington Park neighborhood in September 2015. Now he welcomes Denver residents to share what so many visitors to Telluride have been experiencing for years.
The name “marmotte” is the French word for marmot, a small furry mammal that inhabits high elevations such as the Alps and the Rockies. Despite being named for a mountain squirrel, Café Marmotte finely balances its interior as a blend of urban industrial and classic French bistro. The dining area invites guests with a warm ambiance, while a collection of mismatched art gives off a Bohemian vibe against the orange and dark brown décor.
Like its sister restaurant, Café Marmotte sets itself apart from the masses of every day restaurants in a variety of ways, starting with the petite dining room that only sits about 45 guests at a time. And while the noise level can sometimes feel a bit difficult to talk over, the small area does make the evening feel a bit more personal and quaint. Just don’t gaze out the window too often at the Sinclair gas station that sits just across the street.
Chef Reggiannini strives to make French cuisine more approachable, and it’s clear that his attention to simplicity and flavor has paid off. While some diners may not recognize the names of every dish on the menu, they’re sure to love the flavors. Reggiannini takes the pretention out of French food by infusing it with some Colorado character. Traditional dishes such as Coq Au Vin and Braised Beef Cheeks are prepared using a local produce and meat that was grown and raised by Colorado farmers. Café Marmotte embraces seasonality and uses local ingredients that are currently in season, so visit multiple times and you’ll notice the menu changes frequently.
But what’s a French meal without wine? To accompany each dish on the menu, Café Marmotte has curated a list of fine French wines, as well as some excellent selections from California, and even a few from our own Colorado. Nearly a dozen varietals are available by the glass for about $11/glass. If wine isn’t your fancy, check out some of the specialty cocktails like the Lavender Collins, which as the name implies, is a summery take on a Tom Collins that goes great with starter salads.
Don’t skip on dessert either. You can enjoy a classic Crème Brulee, or something a bit more unique such as the lighter, but delicious Red Wine Poached Pear with Lemon Sorbet.
Entrées range from $21 – $32 and appetizers from $10 up to $24 for the Foie Gras, so it’s perhaps not every day eating, but Café Marmotte makes an excellent destination for your next special evening. French cuisine is revered the world-over, and now Denverites can experience the charm and quality of a traditional French bistro without having to cross the Atlantic, or even drive over the Rockies.
290 S. Downing Street
Denver, CO 80209