Bordeaux is truly something to behold and travelling in this city is an almost overwhelming sensory experience bordering on overload. The city itself is as beautiful as any, in particular the streets along the Quai des Chartrons but within those narrow winds lie some of the most enjoyable restaurants and drinking spots imaginable. Come to Bordeaux to visit the chateaux, enjoy the pastoral scenes of the vineyards and the 18th century architecture, yet it can be difficult to fall in love with grandeur. The honest, yet refined dining is what will win over your heart.
We visited the region in early April to taste the highly-anticipated 2015s from barrel and make up our minds on what we feel is a very good (if not uniformly spectacular) vintage. Each day consisted of a 7 o’clock start with an exhausting programme of tastings and visits; driving up and down the Medoc or along the rural country roads of the Libournais. As enjoyable as each visit was, we were really looking forward to getting back each night, relaxing and having a nice dinner and a couple glasses of wine (or at least wine that’s more than 6 months old!).
"As enjoyable as each visit was, we were really looking forward to getting back each night, relaxing and having a nice dinner and a couple glasses of wine..."
You can’t mention a trip to Bordeaux without starting at Brasserie Bordelaise. If it’s your first time in town, make this your first dinner destination and you’ll have had the perfect initiation. An extensive and remarkably affordable wine list accompanies a simple, effortlessly delicious menu of classics. Start with a plate of oysters and a bottle of Graves blanc before switching to a perfectly cooked duck breast with some red and you’ll be as happy as Larry on your first night in town.
Bordeaux is a city filled with brasseries and any number of them can produce a perfectly cooked onglet steak and delicious chips. However, if you long for a steak good enough to do justice to your First Growth then there is no where better than El Naciónal. This restaurant, operated by legendary Argentine chef Hugo Naón is billed as the “Classic Buenos Aires Still Life” and indeed everything here is a work of art. After a long day tasting the inky, intense barrel samples of Saint-Emilion, do yourself a favour and give into the temptation to have an ice cold Argentine Quilmes beer. Then allow the staff to lead you though the wine list and enjoy a succulent steak with the perfect bottle.
For those seeking a bit more finery, there is luxury aplenty in Bordeaux with restaurants by Gordon Ramsay and Robuchon providing the flash to accompany the glitz and glamour that has become so common in Bordeaux. Look into these restaurants if you want something truly opulent and decadent, naturally but brace yourself for the bill!
After all the labours of the day and the excess of your dinner experience, head to a small bar across the street from Brasserie Bordelaise and enjoy a much-needed beer. Whether your preference is a rich Belgian trappist number or a pint of Guinness (relatively light in this part of the world), Café Brun is the tonic which heals the wounds of the day. For as much fun as Bordeaux is, it is full-on, intense and exhausting. Enjoy your nightcap at Brun (they have a decent whisky selection as well!) and amble back to the hotel and into bed…