A City Reborn: Where to Eat in Bordeaux

I just returned from another primeur week in Bordeaux. This is my opportunity to taste barrel samples of the newest vintage and to decide which wines City Wine Merchant will offer as Futures. It was a great experience, as it is every year. I am happy to report that 2016 is another special vintage, and am excited to kick-off our futures offers next week. Besides all the great wine, what struck me this year was how alive the city was.

There is no place quite like Bordeaux. It is the most important fine wine region on earth and the largest fine wine region in France. The region covers nearly 125,000 hectares across dozens of appellations, but it is the city itself that is now generating much of the food and wine buzz. For years, this city was known as La Belle Endormie (Sleeping Beauty), but over the last decade, it has been reborn.

Today, the city of Bordeaux is vibrant and sophisticated, with an ultra-modern public tram system and a new landmark museum, La Cité du Vin. It is one of the most beautiful cities in France, especially in the area along the Garonne River near the Place de la Bourse. This is one of Bordeaux's many postcard-worthy sites. It was built between 1730 and 1775, and I'm guessing that it never looked better than it does today. The same goes for Bordeaux's stunning Grand Theatre, and its central square, la Place de la Comédie.

Over the last decade, Bordeaux has become one of my favorite cities in the world, and its restaurants and markets are a big reason why. Notably, the city boasts many new acclaimed restaurants led by famous chefs like Gordon Ramsey and Pierre Gagnard. But it has always been a place where haute cuisine and cuisine bourgeoise co-exist. In Bordeaux, this juxtaposition is more a balancing than a contradiction and it is what makes eating and drinking here unique.

Where to Eat and Drink in Bordeaux

There are few cities in the world where you can eat and drink as well as you can in Bordeaux. When I travel, I always set out to discover the soul of a place through its food and wine. Here are some of my favorite spots in the city of Bordeaux.

Brasserie Bordelaise, 50 Rue Saint-Rémi, 33000 Bordeaux - When I return to Bordeaux each year for primeur week, I always make this my first stop. Crawling with wine merchants and producers from around the world, this is one of Bordeaux's great meeting places. It is also one of the top choices if you are traveling solo. Grab a spot at the bar and start by selecting a glass or bottle from the more than 700 wine selections. If you want to check out some local specialties, go for the charcuterie selection of regional pork and asparagus from Blaye. There is a seemingly endless choice of small plates to enjoy with your wine and take in the scene.

Regional pork at Brasserie Bordelaise

Regional pork at Brasserie Bordelaise

La Tupina, 6 Rue Porte de la Monnaie, 33800 Bordeaux - This is one of my favorite bistros in the world. Located on a quiet city street away from the center, this is like walking into a century-old country farmhouse. Just inside the front door sits a big open fireplace with aromas that will make you feel like you've died and gone to heaven. It is one of those places that you want to just keep ordering course after course. If you have to choose just a few things, I recommend jambon poêle (stove ham, it's out of this world!), roasted chicken, slow-roasted lamb, duck, and foie gras, of course. If you're feeling adventurous and want a true local specialty, try the Bordeaux-style lamprey. This is a local fish with a distinctive flavor that dates back to Roman times, cooked for a long time in red wine. Also, the potatoes cooked in duck fat are out of this world.

La Tupina's fireplace

La Tupina's fireplace

Chez Fred, 19 Place du Palais, 33000 Bordeaux - On my trips to Bordeaux for the last few years, I've been renting an apartment in the Place du Palais, located in the heart of the historic center of the medieval city. Ideally situated with a fairytale view of the 15th century Porte Cailhau, Chez Fred is a small sidewalk cafe with a ton of character. I tend to visit for coffee in the morning, or for an aperitif before dinner, but it's open virtually all day and night, so swing in anytime. Grab a seat outside, order an Aperol Spritz, and enjoy the scenery.

Le Flacon, 43 Rue Cheverus, 33000 Bordeaux - This is one of the best of the new wave wine bars that are popping up around the city. If you think of Bordeaux as high-brow and unwelcoming, places like this will change your perception. A list of interesting bottles can be found on an array of small chalkboards hanging on the wall, and the menu is updated often with seasonal small plates. Located in the up and coming area around the Cathédrale Saint-André. You can hop around the neighborhood to other great cafes and bistros, but with food and wine this good, you may never make it out the door.

Sunday Markets, various locations across Bordeaux - You cannot talk about Bordeaux's food without mention of the Sunday markets that take place across the city. These are some of the best markets in all of Europe, and they capture the true soul of this city. The Marche des Quais in the Chartrons district is a must-visit for foodies. This vast market along the Garonne River offers fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, crepes, oysters, bread, and pastries of every imaginable type. The covered Marché des Capuçins, on the Cours de la Marne, is another huge market that runs every day except Monday. During my most recent visit, I also discovered a great small market in the square across from the Cathedral of Saint-Andre. There were a diverse group of food vendors, along with a large flea market. For a dizzying array of pastries, take a walk around the block to Le Boulanger de l' Hotel de Ville.

A vendor at the small market near Bordeaux Cathedral

A vendor at the small market near Bordeaux Cathedral

I highly recommend visiting Bordeaux to experience it for yourself and I'm always happy to help with trip planning. If you've already had a chance to explore this great city, what are some of your favorite spots to eat and drink? I'll be back next week with some great Bordeaux Futures offers and some more thoughts about the 2016 vintage.