I'm back in the office this week, after spending two weeks visiting châteaus and blind-tasting a few hundred samples of the new 2010 vintage in Bordeaux. You can access all the tasting notes here; there will be an additional batch of notes posted today as well.
While my schedule was tight and I had little free time, I do actually prefer to dine alone. When I find somethng interesting, I pass it along here, so consider this an addition to my previous blog post on a few good dining spots when you're traveling through Bordeaux.
La Table de Montesquieu
Place St.-Jean d’Etampes
33650 La Brède
This place may not yet be widely popular, but that won’t last long. Dinner features a pre-set menu so you have to be willing to go with the flow. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with inventive, distinctive cuisine, such as lobster in a green curry with toasted sesame and sautéed vegetables. The ris de veau is poached in milk and then sautéed meuniere in a mix of cinnamon, cardamom and other spices and was easily the best dish I had the entire trip. The wine list is serious – lots of Bordeaux of course, but Rhône and more too. This is a serious up and comer that already rivals the best in the region.
Le Lion d’Or
33460 Arcins en Médoc
Chef and owner Jean-Paul Barbier is an institution at this old school French restaurant located on the main road just north of Margaux. Duck confit, roasted lamb or lamproie bordelaise highlight the classic, regional cuisine. The lunch crowd is blue-blazered château owners (they quickly sling their blazers over the backs of their chairs though) and the walls are covered with the lockers holding their private stock, giving the main room a distinctly clubby feel. The side room can be quiet and unassuming if you want a more sedate meal. The cellar is well stocked but there’s no real list to speak of—engage the owner and chances are he has what you’re looking for.
Le Saint Julien
11, rue du Saint Julien
33250 St.-Julien Beychevelle
Chef and owner Claude Broussard runs this quiet, white tablecloth restaurant right in the center of St.-Julien. The cuisine is classic, but fresh—an amuse bouche of miniscule shrimp are sweet and briny. Scallops are delicious and the lamb is succulent and satisfying, thanks in part to the generous side portion of potatoes dauphinoise. Prices are modest—only 30 euros for a three-course meal. The wine list emphasizes the wines from St.-Julien, along with other Left Bank properties. Or you can stop at the shop across the square and bring your own bottle for BYOB (see below).
114 Cours de Verdun
Ask the local winemakers where they go for dinner, and most of them will name this place. Bordeaux native, chef/owner Yves Gravelier has teamed with the daughter of Pierre Troisgros and is winning lots of praise for his simple yet fresh cooking, using classic staples such as rabbit, duck or pigeonneau or more inventive dishes, such as a parmentier de crab. Three courses at dinner are only 28 euros and chef Gravelier even shares his recipes.
Le Café de L’Espérance
10, rue de l’Esplanade
Located in the hilltop village of Bouliac, this is the casual establishment owned by and located across the street from the well-known Hôtel Le St.-James. The chalkboard menu is all grilled meats—pork, beef or a super tasty chicken and fries. The side salad is fresh and perfectly dressed. The chalkboard wine list features petit châteaus and modest prices. There’s a large communal table by the fireplace in one room, a casual, slightly cramped set of tables in the next room, or an outdoor seating area. There’s always a good din here as the crowd is lively. After a meal, take a few steps over the road, past the 12th century church to take in a view of the expanse of Bordeaux spread out below.
17, rue des Erables
33250 St.-Julien Beycheville
This is a small wine shop, littered with stacks of wooden cases broken open to display their contents. Isabelle Lassalle is friendly and welcoming and prices are fair. Every major St.-Julien property is available along with other left bank properties, with some good vintage depth too. The delicious Château Gloria St.-Julien 2004 is only 35 euros, for example, making it easy to grab a bottle for lunch at Le St.-Julien (see above) or for relaxing back at your hotel.