I'm back from vacation and preparing to head over to Bordeaux for the en primeur tasting of the recent 2010 vintage. I've filed my stories for the April, May and June issues and gotten my desk almost cleared off. In doing so, I came across my notes on a few dining options when in Bordeaux.
As always, things can change, so call ahead for reservations or to confirm details if you do head to one of these places. And if you have thoughts or comments on these or other spots in Bordeaux, feel free to post your comments below.
6, rue Porte de la Monnaie
Now an institution, La Tupina has been serving hearty, southwest cuisine for nearly 30 years now. Bordeaux has gentrified itself around this small, cozy restaurant, but nothing inside La Tupina has changed.
The small wooden chairs, the large fireplace in the entryway where the food is cooked, the piles of aged beef and game bird beckoning to be ordered. The lamb shoulder falls off the bone, the cassoulet is a bottomless bowl, the steaks are over an inch thick and the frites are made in duck fat. The place is so friendly and casual, you’ll be just as comfortable dining alone as you would be with a large group of friends.
Owner Jean-Pierre Xiradakis has long been a champion of smaller châteaus from lesser appellations—the wine list sports many wines under 60 euros a bottle. If you don’t know the names, ask and you’ll get good advice. You can expect Xiradakis himself to be sitting at one of the tables.
7-8, Place Jean Jaures
This is another long-standing restaurant in town, though it tends to receive less fanfare from outsiders. Chef Mehdi Herrero took over in March of 2009 and he’s maintaining the classic, old school French cuisine that emphasizes rich food and intense sauces, though he does take some risks too, as with a three-way preparation of scallops that includes a crème brûlée.
The gibier (wild game) menu runs during winter, offering roasted palomb or braised civet, each getting their own dense, complex brown sauce that feels as if it had been reduced for days. Starters include a range of scallop dishes, oysters, or lobster roasted au gratin.
The wine list offers a slightly scattered range of Bordeaux, most at 70 euros or above. The ’08 dry white from Doisy-Daëne (52 euro) is a revelation; a brisk, citrus-, peach- and clementine-filled wine with the acidity to match the seafood courses and the body to handle foie gras.
Service is accommodating and friendly, the room small and charming, with window seats looking out at the palais de la Bourse. If you’re driving in to Bordeaux for a meal here, better to park on one of the peripheral parking lots than to wrestle your way into the middle of town, where traffic gets snarled.
Quai de Queyries
This relative newcomer is across the river from downtown Bordeaux, affording diners a beautiful view (particularly at night) of the gentrified quai. The menu focuses on fish, with a modern approach and accents of Asian and Indian spices. While the food is very good, the wine list makes it an even more compelling draw—well-chosen wines from not just Bordeaux, but the Rhône, Alsace and Loire, along with modest pricing.
Hostellerie de Plaisance
Place du Clocher
Located in the center of the town of St.-Emilion, atop the hill, this is the two-star Michelin restaurant in the hotel owned by Gerard Perse, owner of Château Pavie and three other St.-Emilion properties. It easily merits its two stars and challenges for a third.
Chef Philippe Etchebest puts a modern bent on classic French food—they had me at the start, a dish featuring a thin slice of truffle-infused gelatin which melts atop a cube of foie gras as a warm mushroom consommé is poured over it. Dishes are intricately composed, with flavor, complexity and nuance to match the high eye-candy level of the presentation.
Wine service is top flight—a team of sommeliers is well-versed in the list, deep in St.-Emilions of course, but many other Bordeaux, as well Burgundies and Rhônes.
Expect a lengthy dinner—the dessert trolly shows an Alain Ducasse influence in its over-the-top array of candies and treats, and you can get herbs freshly snipped for a warm tea at the end of it all. There are 21 rooms upstairs, ideal for the preferably short walk after a splurge meal here.
L'Envers du Décor
11 rue du Clocher
This is the casual ying to Plaisance’s formal yang. With a wooden chair-and-table bistro setting, this bar à vin offers a long list of local wines, with many by the glass, allied to a menu of hearty fare such as magret de canard. Open seven days a week and centrally located, it’s the perfect pit stop during a day of visits in the beautiful town of St.-Emilion.
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Glenn Keeler — OC, CA — March 4, 2011 11:32am ET
James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator — March 4, 2011 11:37am ET
Paul Lopez — Paso Robles, CA — March 7, 2011 10:57am ET
Thomas Kobylarz — Hoboken, NJ — March 9, 2011 11:49am ET
Jeffrey M Davies — Bordeaux, France — March 9, 2011 7:37pm ET
Howard Levine — Los Angeles, CA, USA — March 10, 2011 1:04am ET
James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator — March 10, 2011 8:24am ET
Rand Hoch — West Palm Beach, Hlorida — March 10, 2011 8:28am ET
Glenn Keeler — OC, CA — March 10, 2011 1:39pm ET
Thomas Matthews — New York City — March 10, 2011 2:16pm ET
Howard Levine — Los Angeles, CA — March 10, 2011 7:25pm ET
Jeremiah Morehouse — Sacramento CA — March 14, 2011 2:02am ET
Doug Zerbst — Richmond, VA — March 14, 2011 10:39am ET
James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator — March 16, 2011 12:20pm ET
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