Bordeaux seems to be going through a renaissance. 10 years ago it seemed to be a grimy port town that people knew of mostly for the ruby red elixir that makes the town infamous. With a mayor who realised the tourist cash they were missing out on, he set about rejuvenating the city and promoting Bordeaux as a destination within its own right.
In my limited experience of the world, I feel it’s safe to
say that the French live, breathe, eat and drink. And possibly not in
that order of importance. Following that train of thought, it would be a
little remiss to blog about the lovely Bordeaux, and omit sharing our
favourite places that we imbibed. As a tourist armed with the internet, I
can’t pretend to be any kind of authority, but after 4+ years of
blogging and calling myself a foodie I do know what I like.
We enjoyed a variety of places, from funky burger restaurants where the birthday sparklers almost took out a waiters eyebrows, to breakfast in a luxurious chateau.
Breakfast in our first hotel (above) was ok, but I wouldn’t recommend staying there or making a special effort to eat there – we walked into a Faulty Towers-esque situation where electrical wires hung from the ceiling, the hotel bar wasn’t open on a Friday night “just because” and irony of a gastronomy school located across the terrace wasn’t lost on us as the service was lackadasical to say the least. The view over terracotta rooftops and the sparkling Garonne River was rather lovely though.
Our experience as guests of Chateau Pape Clement the next day was a whole new level of luxury.
We were seated in the opulent private dining room, just the two of us.
Surrounded by silver peacocks (echoing their feathered breatheren in the garden), crystal glassware and priceless artwork (not to mention the harp in the corner) we simple breathed in the scent of our scrumptious breakfast feast.
With great leisure we enjoyed our meal as Lord and Lady of the glorious French Chateau.
We literally stumbled upon a branch of Funky Burger as we ooooohed and aaaahed our way around the city (at one point I literally said to Mr Kiwi “is this city seriously real?”) and when the Hanger set in, made our way back along the twisting lanes.
Haven read no reviews beforehand, just going on basic smell of their delicious morsels and happy looking crowds inside, we wandered in. Not out of place in Shoreditch, the vibe was hipster funk but the burgers were ridiculously good – even if I picked the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious not having a clue what it was for sheer novelty value, which the waiter made me pronounce twice (flawlessly) – it was a delicious vege burger with great fries. Perfect for walking fuel (or so we told ourselves – calories on holiday don’t count, right?)
We aren’t red wine drinkers as a rule, so effectively a trip to the red wine capital of the world seems a little pointless, let alone a luxury wine chateau, but we fell in love. Experiencing a tasting class with one of Clement Pape Clement’s wine experts was irresistible – once we pulled ourselves away from the beautiful grounds.
Château Pape Clément is one of the oldest Grands Crus of Bordeaux. His vineyard – the first harvests took place in 1252 – was implemented in the XIIth century by Bertrand de Goth, younger of a noble family from Bordeaux region. Archbishop of Bordeaux, Bertrand de Got became Pope in 1305 under the name of Clement V.
Taking us on a cellar tour of the Chateau once owned by a Pope, hence the name and ecclesiastical iconography, we learned about the processes, some of the brilliant tricks they have learned over the years and sipped a few glasses of their finest vintages.
Our favourite dinner was at L’Atelier 115 in Pessac, a small village on the borders of Bordeaux. No question.
Recommended to us by the Chateau staff, it was a 10 minute walk down the road (in fact they insisted on dropping us down and that we called a taxi back but we strolled through the dusky night air) and utterly scrumptious. In fact I would go so far as to say it is one of the best meals I have ever enjoyed.
I also have a confession to make. I didn’t make any notes and only hastily snapped a few photos whilst no-one was looking. We simply wanted to enjoy our meal in the pretty little bistro, and luxuriate in the feeling of freedom.
I do remember vividly the foie gras that I would fly back to Bordeaux for alone – the perfect marriage of flavours, the steak Mr Kiwi couldn’t resist and ate with his eyes closed, the lamb paired with a countryside pesto was served with flakes of a beautiful cheese, and the sweet chef who wandered over to our table to show us some of the glorious mushrooms they had foraged that morning (incidentally hitting all of the cuisine phrases that delight foodies.)
Dessert was a heavenly arrangement of textures – crisp airy biscuit, teasing mouthfuls of Canele, musky sweet grapes, a scattering of soft rum and quenelles of mousse.
It was with heavy hearts (and suitcases bulging with bottles of Grand Crus) that we boarded the flight back to London, but we knew a return trip to Bordeaux (for longer than a long weekend) was going to be absolutely necessary.