Food and Drink in Bordeaux
With its Atlantic coastline, Bordeaux is obviously a great destination for lovers of what the French call fruits de mer. Seafood includes huitres du Bassin d'Arcachon (oysters harvested off the coast of Arcachon, a nearby seaside resort). So, if you love shellfish, you'll be in heaven. Crabs, clams, scallops, mussels and whelks abound in the teeming Atlantic waters.
But the Bordelais also love their meat dishes, and if they can find a way to combine them with wine, so much the better. Check menus for entrecote bordelaise -- ribeye steak cooked in a delicious gravy made from butter-fried shallots, herbs and bone marrow combined with a hearty dollop of Bordeaux wine.
Prefer your meats spicy and cold? Ask for le grenier Medocain, a selection of charcuterie sourced and flavored in the Medoc region. If you're feeling adventurous, whistle up a plate of le salmis de palombe (stewed pigeon). Les cepes de Bordeaux (mushrooms baked with olive oil, shallots, parsley and garlic) make a delicious side dish.
For dessert, ask for canneles -- soft, round fluted puddings made with rum and vanilla. And if you can manage it after a "grand bouffe," try noisettines du Medoc (roasted hazelnuts rolled in spiced sugar) with your coffee. Yum.
If you're happy to combine a pot luck lunch with shopping and sightseeing, the area around Saint-Pierre in Old Bordeaux is a good hunting ground for restaurants offering inexpensive feasts in a lively environment; prix fixe menus start around 15 euros for three courses.
Le Gabriel: A stylish restaurant set in the central pavilion of the magnificent Palais de la Bourse, opposite the water mirror, Le Gabriel has an alfresco dining area, so you can enjoy all that wonderful architecture as you eat. The restaurant offers three levels. The ground floor serves light meals, afternoon cakes and evening cocktails, while on the first floor, you'll find a wooden-tabled bistro. On the second a grand, a Michelin-starred restaurant dishes up concoctions like whole grilled sea bream with orange and rosemary and green pepper salmon tartare with sour cream. (10 Place de la Bourse; +33 5 56 30 00 70; open noon to midnight)
La Tupina: Eat locally sourced food in cozy surroundings in Old Bordeaux, between the churches of Sainte-Croix and Saint-Michel. La Tupina -- which looks like a comfy old French farmhouse complete with roaring log fires and a roasting spit -- serves regional specialities like crab veloute, slow cooked lamb, spit roasted beef and pork with lentils. (6 rue Porte de la Monnaie; +33 5 56 91 56 37; open noon to 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.)
La Brasserie Bordelaise: This is a bustling eatery at the heart of the Saint-Pierre district and is popular with residents. You'll find tables made from barrels, a good wine list, fine meat and shellfish dishes at affordable prices -- and lots of laughing Bordelais. It's noisy but fun. (50 rue Saint-Remi; +33 5 57 87 11 91; open noon to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. to midnight Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday)
Best Cocktail in Bordeaux
Obviously, it has to be wine. They've been making it around these parts since the Romans introduced the idea in the first century A.D., and they are rather good at it. The Bordeaux tourist office (at 12 Cours du 30 Juillet, near the riverbank down the road from Bordeaux Opera House) runs daily tours to the vineyards that surround the city. (See More Information, below.)
Don't Miss in Bordeaux
Golden Triangle: Take a stroll around Le Triangle-d'Or or the Golden Triangle, the elegant district that sits in the heart of 18th-century Bordeaux. Bordered by three broad and imposing boulevards -- Cours Clemenceau, Cours de l'Intendance and Allees de Tourny -- and filled with magnificent neoclassical buildings and impressive squares, this area is the most stylish part of the city. It's also home to Bordeaux's most exclusive shops and -- for nature lovers -- the 69-acre Parc Bordelais, a delightfully verdant retreat from city life with a large lake, play areas and petting farm.
Le Miroir d'Eau: Residents like to splash in the vast Le Miroir d'Eau water feature, designed to reflect the magnificent facade of the Palais de la Bourse, which sits on the riverfront, a short walk from the cruise ship quay. Le Miroir d'Eau actually is a kind of gigantic puddle, perfect for cooling off in the summer months (or just for fun, anytime). If your ship or boat is in late enough, try to see this at night when the Palais is floodlit and the mirror effect at its most striking.
The Riverfront: The Bordelais are rightly proud of what has been achieved at the riverfront, and the Palais de la Bourse is not the only impressive sight. In less than two decades, derelict warehouses have been transformed into trendy shops, funky bars and interesting restaurants, and the once-depressing boon docks are now full of greenery, life and style.
Saint-Pierre: Bordeaux's medieval Saint-Pierre district lies just inland from the Palais de la Bourse. Just south sit two impressive churches, the 12th-century Sainte-Croix and the tall-spired Saint-Michel. And rue Sainte-Catherine -- Europe's longest pedestrianized street, famed for its varied shops -- runs through it. Plus, there are lots of bars, restaurants and cafes, so this is a good place to spend some time.
Wine Tours: The tourist office offers wine tours daily in the peak season from March to November and three times weekly in winter. The vineyards of Saint-Emilion and Medoc will be on the menu and are well worth sampling.
Musee d'Aquitaine: Explore Bordeaux's history, from the Romans to the slave trade, at Musee d'Aquitaine. (20 Cours Pasteur, 33000 Bordeaux; +33 05 56 01 51 00; open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Mondays)
Musee des Beaux Arts and Gallerie des Beaux Artes: There, you'll find permanent exhibitions of works from the 15th to the 20th centuries. The nearby Gallerie des Beaux Artes, features temporary exhibitions. (20 Cours d'Albret; +33 05 56 10 20 56; open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day but Tuesday)
Le Marche des Capucins: This is the place to shop for all things foodie, and while it's not pretty to look at, it's a wonderful source of goodies like fine French cheeses. (Place des Capucins; open 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and 5:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekends)