You mention Bordeaux and you immediately think of one thing. Wine. And why not. The city is surrounded by some of the very best wine in the world, whether you look to the left bank or the right bank. My first experience of this was in 1977 when working on a campsite on the coast and on rainy days thought it a mighty fine idea to organise a wine tasting trip for grumpy holidaymakers. They weren’t grumpy for long after a visit to Chateau de Pez just outside St. Estephe. For the first time in my life I was able to tell the difference between the years rather than the colour.
The global thirst for wine has grown somewhat in the 40 years since then as has the status of the world’s wine capital – Bordeaux. Apart from the airport that is which still remains a complete mystery to me as it has no connection whatsoever to the one thing that Bordeaux is famous for. Elsewhere the city has been transformed in recent years with improved infrastructure [a great tram system], funky new hotels, the Cite du Vin and when you combine this with a student vibe, great shops, the Gironde river and of course great French food then you have a real destination.
Where to stay:
Bank in the middle of town opposite the Opera House and probably the most traditional of the luxury hotels in Bordeaux.
Le Boutique Hotel
Mixing tradition and modernity, Le Boutique Hôtel Bordeaux is a peaceful heaven in the heart of the city. In addition, you can discover the secret wine bar in the hotel’s garden where you can taste some of Bordeaux’s finest grands crus in a romantic and relaxed atmosphere.
One of the hotels belonging to Le Millésime hotel group, La Course’s guesthouse is spectacular. Each of the five amazing rooms and suites is unique, and will transport you from the present day back to the past, then the future, learning about Bordeaux’s history.
La Villa Bordelaise
A peaceful haven close to La Victoire, a place where the arts are celebrated, this eco-friendly guesthouse has named all its rooms after cultural figures who have stayed in Bordeaux, such as French writer Michel de Montaigne and the Spanish painter Goya, who spent his last days in Bordeaux.
Mama Shelter is the embodiment of coolness and functionality. Head up to the rooftop with your friends for some great cocktails while enjoying the breathtaking views over the city.
Basic but good value apartment hotel near Victoria. Secure parking and a 10 minute walk to great bars and restaurants in this student part of the city.
Where to Eat:
As the name suggests, Septième Péché, or ‘Seventh Sin, is an invitation to indulge. Once behind the red curtain of this sparsely decorated yet intimate restaurant, get ready to savour a menu of natural products transformed into audacious works of art by German-born chef Jan Schwitalla. Awarded a Michelin star in 2011 at the young age of 29, Schwitalla’s signature dishes include Oeuf Ozen, an egg cooked at 64° served with truffle and water cress coulis and a vélouté of artichoke. His re-visited black forest gateau is far from traditional, and expect to find potatoes that resemble stones thanks to a thin film of culinary clay among the appetizers. No wonder the Septième Péché is just a stone’s throw from Bordeaux’s museum of contemporary art.
Cafe du Port
The Café du Port is an ideal setting for a sumptuous waterside meal while enjoying panoramic views of the city’s bridge le Pont Saint Pierre, Saint Michael’s 16th century spire, and the rippling waters of the river Garonne. The menu is based on seasonal products and sud-ouest cuisine, including oysters, a wide range of shellfish, foie gras accompanied by a carefully selected wine and a side of beef with the famous sauce bordelaise. The cheese board comes from the celebrated master of cheese, Jean d’Alos, whose cheese cellar in the Chartrons area of the city is a temple for any cheese connoisseur.
Situated in the heart of Bordeaux and one of the oldest brasseries in town, les Bordelais (the locals) have been coming here for some 100 years, and not only for its gastronomy. Every Thursday evening trendy locals gather for the Sweethour, a version of happy hour, which finishes on the brasserie’s dance floor. Friday night is cocktail and tapas night. But on any day of the week Pompon will welcome you to savour a hearty lunchtime or evening meal. No airs and graces, just good food and wine in a friendly atmosphere. Look out for Bordeaux’s traditional cannelé among the selection of mini-desserts that come with the café gourmand.
Le Vin rue Neuve
Tucked away in the heart of historical Bordeaux and near the mediaeval Grosse Cloche belfry, Le Vin rue Neuve is an upbeat restaurant in a 14th century building run by epicureans Antony and Stéphanie Barcelona. Le Vin rue Neuve’s chef Djodje Ercevic works with local produce and encourages diners to follow his gourmet instinct by proposing a carte blanche. A large selection of wines served by the glass gives you a free rein to move from vintage to vintage as the meal progresses.
cafe Andree Putman
A lovely space with vaulted ceilings opening out onto a magnificent rooftop terrace on top of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Set in a converted warehouse, the interior design bears the signature of the late internationally acclaimed Andrée Putman herself and the walls boast works by English artist and sculptor Richard Long. Open only during the day.
Bistro Regent La Victoire
Great value steak frites in this small chain of eateries. You simply choose the type of meat you want and it comes with frites and salad and very well priced house wines.
An Asian eatery in the old part of town if you want a break from traditional French food. Great value and speedy service so not a place to loiter.
Bar St Christophe
A traditional old bar with a limited menu but full of atmosphere and only seats around 12 people. Worth waiting for though.
And from our friends and relocation experts at Bordeaux life here are some additional brilliant tips
Le Petit Commerce
Fresh seafood and fish restaurant ( they also do meat well). Original, local and a great people watching spot.
22 Rue du Parlement Saint-Pierre
Large but traditional, well prepared dishes at a fantastic price. Huge restaurant on the Quai de Chartrons. They recently moved here from their previous small 25 seat [endless waiting list]location in town to a spacious 50+ and dancing space on the Quai.
29 Quai des Chartrons
Le Oiseau Bleu
Slightly pricey but worth every penny. À contemporary modern ‘resto’ that was in the fancy Chartrons Quartier and has moved to a larger site on the Bastide side. A short walk from the tram so really convenient.
127 Avenue Thiers
The best oven fired pizzas in Bordeaux outside Italy!! 10 places only. First come first served. Allow for waiting and queuing for a take out to go down to the Quai to eat whilst piping hot!
3 Rue de la Cour des Aides
Pub HMS Victory
A brilliant English run pub showing ALL sports. A definite feeling of home from home. You are always welcome! Kids and dogs and even Welsh [!!] welcome!
3 Place du Général Sarrail
New Pitta Felafel and hummus ‘resto’ – fantastic fast and healthy food. Great prices. Awesome for lunch.
36 Rue des Ayres
Fufu Japanese noodle bar
Japanese all-day ramen noodles! Great to sit counter side and watch everything being cooked. Great for kids.
37 Rue Saint-Rémi
Alchimiste for Cocktails
Next door to Le Petit Commerce. One of the first cocktail bars in Bordeaux and remains one of the best!! Very cosy and excellent tapas also available.
16 Rue Parlement Saint-Pierre
La Pelle for Coffee
Great coffee in Chartrons. Owned by two Italians who are passionate about their coffee and cakes! Well worth the walk there from wherever you stay!
29 Rue Notre Dame