Bordeaux resident Jane Anson picks out the best places to go in the city, by the river and in the vineyards.
Bordeaux travel: Bordeaux city
Several of the key development projects downtown – the international wine cultural centre in the old docks and the stunning arts centre Méca in the former meat-packing district – are set to open in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The biggest opening for 2015 is the 43,000-seat Stade de Bordeaux (www.nouveau-stade-bordeaux.com). Local football team Bordeaux Girondins are now based there, and played their first match in May against Montpellier, followed by the Championnat de France rugby semi-finals in early June. Next year, key matches in the Euro 2016 football tournament will follow.
Opened in 2014 the Darwin Centre is over on the Right Bank, facing the historic Port de La Lune waterfront and housing organic food store and café Le Magasin Général (www.magasingeneral.camp), business work spaces and plenty of outside areas given over to skate parks and art installations, all with a view back over the river.
Back in the main downtown area, visitors can now get a better understanding of the role that the city of Bordeaux played in the development of its region’s world-famous wine industry. One of the best ways to do this is by taking a Wine in the City walking tour (www.bordeauxwalkingtours.com), which starts at the 18th-century Place de la Bourse, where the 1855 classification was first signed into existence, then heads down to the winding streets of Chartrons, the old wine merchant district, where you get to imagine how the area was for the 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century Irish, English, German, Dutch and Danish immigrants who took Bordeaux wine out to the world.
Eating, drinking and sleeping
Bordeaux city is hardly hipster material. We are not in Brooklyn/Portland territory here, but there are some distinctly exciting additions to the scene. Two new wine bars and shops worth exploring are the brilliantly relaxed Le Millésime wine bar and tapas restaurant (www.le-millesime.net), and L’Univerre Wine Shop (www.univerre-restaurant.com) opened in April 2014 by Olivier Beyre. The restaurant was already well known for its extensive wine list, but now the bottles are available to buy and take off-premises, with an excellent range from Bordeaux, the Rhône, Burgundy, Germany, Austria… you name it.
Food-wise, there has been a movement towards locavore (or le locavorisme as they call it in France) restaurants such as Belle Campagne (www.belle-campagne.fr) in the Old Town, opened by chefs Adrian Bacquet and Manuel Dagens, who source every ingredient from Aquitaine and southwest France.
At the other end of the scale, with influences from thousands of miles away, the city’s love affair with all things China has finally started to translate into a better selection of Asian food. One of the best is Dan (www.danbordeaux.com), a small restaurant gaining a great reputation for Cantonese food. Recently opened by Jérôme and Harmony Billot, it offers a Hong Kong-influenced daily menu and a good selection of sharing plates.
Then there’s the premium food trucks that have begun to arrive over the past year or so. This is a genuine revolution in a city better known for its white tablecloths and foie gras. The best of them are Rolling Jack (www.facebook.com/RollingJackOfficial; hotdogs and clubs) and Greengourmet Le Camion Gourmand (www.facebook.com/ greengourmet.lecamiongourmand; all organic food).
Even the white tablecloth restaurants are getting a makeover, most notably in the form of La Grande Maison (www.lagrandemaison-bordeaux.com), opened in late 2014 by Bernard Magrez and Joël Robuchon with the stated aim of achieving three Michelin stars. This is a luxury small hotel also, with individually decorated rooms and glamorous touches everywhere, from Hermès products in the bathroom to Moissonier furniture.
Located between St-Seurin and Gambetta, Yndo (www.yndohotelbordeaux.fr) is another upscale hotel, opened last autumn by Agnès Guiot Du Doignon. With just 12 bedrooms, it is set in a 19th-century townhouse with beautiful interior design, a stone’s throw from the excellent Garopapilles restaurant (www.garopapilles.com; owned by ex-Haut Bailly chef Tanguy Laviale, and in its second year).