With their highly developed palates, surely Bordeaux’s winemakers must be just as fussy about food as they are about their wines. NATASHA HUGHES gets some top tips on the restaurants to be seen in published in Decanter magazine June 2008
Pierre Lurton Château Cheval Blanc
The first place that springs to mind is La Tupiña because I love
its authentic cuisine. It’s the kind of place to go to for simple dishes prepared from top-quality ingredients. The personality of the owner Jean-Pierre Xiradakis is
another factor – I enjoy his company, and he really knows his wines. Of course
you can’t go to La Tupiña too often or the pounds would just pile on… If I’m looking for something a bit simpler, maybe somewhere to go with my children, I often end up at Chez Greg, in front of the Grand Théatre. The food’s really varied – you get everything from sashimi to fish tagine (the one with dorade is particularly good). It’s not pretentious at all, although it is a bittrendy and can be noisy. I’m also very fond of l’Estacade, partly because of the food but mainly
because of the extraordinary view that it offers over Bordeaux’s Place de la Bourse and the river.
Jean-Christophe Mau Châteaux Preuillac and Brown
La Table du Lavoir is one of my favourite places to eat. The food is excellent, good value and,unusually (but most usefully on occasion),it’s served rapidly. It is also a good place to meet friends in the wine business – both intentionally and unintentionally. The Michelin star that has been awarded to Le Saint James suggests the food should be outstanding, and it is. I find it remarkable. The service is also top class and the wonderful view completes the experience. Now that so much work has been done on the quais in Bordeaux, the view from the Right Bank can be stunning – and it’s even better if viewed over an apéritif at a table outside L’Estacade. I enjoy going there both at lunchtime and in the evening – it has a light, airy atmosphere, and both the food and wine list are really good.
One place I’m very fond of visiting is Au Bonheur du
Palais in Bordeaux. It’s a good Chinese restaurant with a wine list that’s pretty exceptional for Bordeaux in that it also features wines from the Rhône, Alsace and elsewhere. Their young Chinese sommelier is brilliant – she gives great advice on food and wine matching. The best bistro in the Médoc has to
be the Lion d’Or. It’s all to do with the fact that it’s run by someone who really understands food and knows how to master the region’s traditional dishes. It’s always a real pleasure to eat a good pot-au-feu or a lamproie à la Bordelaise. And, although it’s a bit cheeky of me, I’d have to recommend our Café
Lavinal in Bages. It’s been a huge success, mainly because it offers real food at sensible prices.
Allan Sichel Maison Sichel
Brasserie l’Orléans is a Bordeaux institution that fell out of favour because its new owners tried to cut corners. It has now been fully restored and has a great atmosphere and good-quality brasserie food. The Auberge’Inn is slightly off the beaten track. It’s owned and run by a young couple: he’s in the kitchen and she’s front of house. The menu changes regularly, so new and inventive dishes appear all the time and, because it’s always full, booking is advised. L’Entrecôte is totally unbeatable for steak and chips. The sauce covering the meat is to die for… and a well-kept secret. Any number of people have tried to guess the recipe without success. The wine choice is simple, but does the job. It’s a very popular place with the locals, so it’s normal to find yourself having to queue for a table.
Jean-Michel Laporte Château La Conseillante
I like Les Marronniers for its cosy ambience and its terrace, which is particularly pleasant in summer. It’s the local ‘canteen’ for any number of the region’s winemakers: everyone knows everyone else. The owners are young, dynamic and friendly. They don’t serve haute cuisine here, but the food is always good – and always good value. As for the wine list, it’s a roll-call of the region’s best.
The most important thing about l’Atmosphère is, as the name suggests, its
laid-back, friendly vibe. It’s just the place to take friends for a relaxed dinner,
and the bar’s always buzzing. The food is simple and good: fish, meat and even
pizzas cooked in a wood oven. Don’t miss the crème brûlée. The exemplary
wine list runs the gamut from simple wines to first growths. Thierry, the owner,
really knows his stuff, so let him help you pick the right bottle for your meal.
Le Pavillon des Boulevards offers a change of register: it’s got a Michelin
star. The décor is pleasant: both modern and warm. Service is spot on: focused
and attentive without being stiff, and the sommelier is absolutely top notch. I
take all my important négociants there because I’ve never yet been disappointed. I could recommend anything on the menu, but I particularly enjoy the smoked scallops with star anise and the roast rack of lamb.
Jacques Lurton consultant winemaker and owner, Variety Club
Near to where I live, there’s a restaurant with a great ambience, modern décor and a warm welcome. The menu is very original, all the result of the owner’s imagination – I particularly like their salmon tartare and their tiramisu with fresh fruit. It’s called l’Atmosphère. I usually take my own wine along, but the list is pretty impressive in its own right. If my wife and I are eating out in town, we really enjoy eating out in brasseries and often go to Le Noailles to enjoy a good plateful of veal liver, lampreys or – if they’re in season – cèps. We’re also very fond of Le Français, which is just in front of the Cathedral. It’s a superb traditional brasserie where, in winter, we like to tuck into a pot au feu or a steak tartare with chips. In summer we enjoy eating in the local guinguettes [a guingette is an informal open-air café which is usually located on
a river bank – they don’t tend to have a phone or take bookings]. We particularly
enjoy stopping by in Castillon la Bataille, where there’s a guinguette on the shores of the Dordogne – here you can tuck into a good salade landaise or a plateful of merguez sausage, and wash it all down with a carafe of simple wine from the local cooperative.
Lard et Bouchon has a dynamic host in its owner Emmanuel Emonot, Bernard Loiseau’s former head sommelier. The music is great and the wine list really isn’t bad either. La Poudette offers great food at mates’ rates. The ambience is so relaxed you feel at home. There’s a good wine list, too. La Cape may well be Bordeaux’s best restaurant. The menu’s inventive, the dishes beautiful and the prices reasonable. On the downside, the décor’s a bit weird and the wine list needs some work. Le Saint James offers precise cooking with a southern accent – not to mention the best wine list in Bordeaux. The Grill du Bouchon specialises in regional products and dishes cooked in a wood oven. The extensive wine list is pretty affordable.
The Lion d’Or has a special place in my heart. It reminds me of the TV series ’Allo ’Allo!, but it’s the real deal thanks to the chef-proprietor Monsieur Barbier, who is a family friend. Plus the food there is always delicious. If you like great cuisine, Jean-MarieAmat has long been considered one of the best chefs in the region.His new restaurant, Château du Prince Noir, has just been awarded a Michelin star. And the Cochon Volant is another typically French haunt that serves classics like steak frites. It’s open until 4am, so it’s a great place togo
after a big night out.
Our ‘local’ from-home is Le Logis de la Cadène. We have been going there since we arrived in St-Emilion. It has an idyllic terrace for summer dining and, in the winter, the indoor restaurant is cosy. Run by a husband-and-wife team whose family own Château La Clotte, the menu highlights regional specialties but also offers plenty of other choices. A little further afield is La Poudette. We go here for family Sunday lunch in summer. The cooking is interesting and light and the menu changes frequently. Last but not least is a recently opened restaurant called La Table in Créon. Créon’s a wasteland, so we were pleased when we heard about this restaurant and it has lived up to our expectations. Guillaume Pequinot and his partner, Laure, offer a menu of global standard with an interesting and eclectic wine list – he’s also a courtier so you get good one-off deals on crus classés.
Written by Natasha Hughes