Is Bordeaux the new gastronomic capital of France I found myself wondering as I wandered its streets. It may be known as the capital of wine in France, but with an influx of innovative new chefs, a programme of renovation to the streets and buildings which has brought a plethora of new eateries – it’s also quietly and efficiently become a foodie paradise. Dine out in elegant squares shaded by leafy trees, in brasseries and Michelin star restaurants, authentic bistros and quirky cafés. With more than 3000 restaurants it’s not easy to really know which are the best, but when the same names crop up from locals’ recommendations time and time again you have to figure they’re worth checking out – so I did!
Treats and eats in Bordeaux
The locals favourites for eating out in Bordeaux:
Locals lunch: Le Petit Commerce, traditional, friendly, great menu. Always full of French people enjoying a great value meal that tastes like heaven. 22 Rue Parlement Saint-Pierre.
Locals love: Brasserie Bordelaise “a taste of Bordeaux” is how the locals described it. There’s always a queue to get in and that says it all. It’s worth the wait, if you’re a steak frites fan, you will never taste better than here. (50 Rue Saint-Rémi)
Locals new love: 7 at Cité du Vin. The 7th floor restaurant at the wine museum is divine. Fabulous menu, brilliant wine list and absolutely stunning views over the city. It’s open for lunch, dinner, afternoon tea and any time for a glass of wine!
Locals can’t get enough of: Familia – Braserrie des Halles in front of the Cité du Vin. It’s big, it’s bold and its very Bordeaux! A French brasserie with a cosmopolitan menu. The restaurant seats 300 and the terrace seats 200, but despite this the service is efficient and friendly and the food is fab. There’s a vibrant atmosphere here and it’s a lot of fun
Splurge on a meal in Bordeaux
Wine and Dine: Restaurant le Chapon Fin had 3 Michelin Stars but they changed chefs so the stars went and now they’re working to get them back. As a result the menu is cheaper than before but the food, say the locals, is just as good. For a touch of real Belle Époque style, this restaurant which opened in 1825 is unbeatable. To know that Sarah Bernhardt, Toulouse Lautrec and the rich and famous who visited Bordeaux always chose this place and enjoyed the splendid architecture and sculptures, makes the food taste even better! (5 Montesquieu Street)
The beasts of Bordeaux: Gordon Ramsay is at the Hotel Intercontinental. Everyone I spoke to loves Ramsay in Bordeaux and his reputation is sky high. His rival chef Philippe Etchebest, who is a star on French TV appearing in Cooking Nightmares, the French-language version of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, can be found opposite at the Opera ‘LA’ Tables d’Hotes. Here, there’s a Chef hosted gastronomic table for 12 people only. It’s pricey but Etchebest is held in the highest esteem in Bordeaux, and there’s a really long waiting list. He also has La Brasserie which offers a very reasonably priced lunch.
Best for cakes in Bordeaux
Bake my day: Canéles are delicious little rum and vanilla cakes, a speciality of Bordeaux where they’ve been making them for at least 300 years.
There are two famous places to go for one of these sweet treats: Ballardin and La Toque-Cuivrée (theirs are slightly crispier). Both have several outlets in the city.
Personally I prefer the new cake in town – Dunes Blanches – cream puffs, profiteroles, the most delicious choux pastry. A speciality of Patisserie Pascal in Cap Ferret, the seaside town that’s just an hour from Bordeaux. The sweet Dunes Blanches were so good that people started to go to Cap Ferret just to buy them, so Pascal opened a shop in the city. They do a different flavour each week but ‘natural’, the originals, are best in my opinion. Soft, crunchy and wonderfully sweet, filled with cream and dusted with icing sugar. I would go back to Bordeaux for those alone.
Tip: If you want to make like a local and impress them, ask for a chocolatine not pain au chocolat for your breakfast treat!
Best for cheese in Bordeaux
Jean d’Alos’s fromagerie in Rue Montesquieu is a magnet for cheese loving locals. The staff will happily guide you on what cheese to have with the wine you’ve bought.
Where to buy wine in Bordeaux
Well, let’s face it, you really are spoiled for choice here. But, for for a memorable wine store experience, the locals recommend L’Intendant, 2 Allées de Tourny, opposite Bordeaux’s beautiful opera house. A central winding staircase leads up past rack after rack of bottles of wine, a stonking 15,000 in total, and this has to be one of the grandest wine shops in France. Prices range from affordable (under €10) to sky high but, say the locals, not a single bottle you ever buy here will be anything short of wonderful.
The Cité du Vin also has a rather fabulous looking wine store on the ground floor.
Markets in Bordeaux
Every day apart from Monday, there is a huge food market, the Marché Capuçins, on the Cours de la Marne. The week’s biggest flea market is on Sunday mornings in the square opposite Saint-Michel.
More on Bordeaux
The Cité du Vin – a surprisingly brilliant museum
Bordeaux Tourist Office: www.bordeaux-tourisme.com – stop here first for a map, to book tours and find out what’s on.
Where to stay: I highly recommend www.yourbordeauxhome.com. I stayed in the Chateau Giscours apartment in the city but in a quiet residential street and it was perfect.