There are a whole host of good reasons to visit Bordeaux – fabulous architecture, half the city’s grand buildings are UNESCO listed; the world’s largest reflecting water mirror at the Place de la Bourse; the spectacular Cité de Vin museum; a seemingly infinite choice of restaurants, from the staunchly traditional to the uber-experimental; a burgeoning art scene, from myriad small galleries to the fabulous Museum of Decorative Arts & Design; excellent shopping, from high fashion to famous fleamarkets; stunning St Emilion – to name a few. But for us, of course, it is all about the wine.
As we visit Bordeaux numerous times each year, we wanted to share the recommendations we have built up over the past decade or so. This is not intended to be in any way an exhaustive guide to the region, simply some of our favourites addresses in the region; the places we find ourselves going back to time and time again.
Bearing in mind that we are (almost) always travelling for business, our requirements are focussed on location and convenience, but there is certainly no shortage of boutique glamour to be had in the city and across the wider region.
More often than not we find ourselves at Hotel de Seze ideally positioned in the Allees de Tourny. Two characterful, but slightly less central choices, are L’Avant-Scene and La Maison Bordeaux. Although not bang in the centre of town, both are still easy walking or tram distance to the centre of the city.
Outside the city, the obvious choice has to be to stay at one of the many chateaux now offering accommodation. Again, there are so many options, but a few of our favourites: Château du Tertre in Margaux, Château Les Ormes de Pez in St Estephe and Château Le Pape in Pessac Léognan are all charming.
A final mention must go to Les Sources de Caudalie at Château Smith Haut Lafitte for its gloriously indulgent Vinothérapie Spa, Michelin-starred restaurant, and cycle paths through the vineyards.
Unsurprisingly Bordeaux and the surrounding area has more than their share of excellent restaurants. Impossible to list them all, but here are a few recommendations.
Le Noailles – absolutely classic French brasserie, conveniently located in the Allées de Tourny. Our local!
L’Estacade – on the river overlooking Bordeaux so you get an amazing view of the city at night time.
L’Univerre – off the beaten track, but definitely worth the taxi ride for the epic wine list.
Moelleuses et Persillés – on the Quai des Chartons. THE place to go for serious steak, opened by a former manager of Goodman in London.
Garopapilles – with just 20 covers, a 500 bin wine list, one Michelin star and a glorious tasting menu. Be warned: only open for dinner on Thursday & Friday nights.
L’Alchimiste Le Café Boutique – not a restaurant, but if you want a proper coffee this is the place to head for. The coffee is roasted just across the river and the small café in the city centre would not be out of place in Shoreditch…
L’Envers du Decors – our new favourite in St Emilion. Perfect for lunch, epic roast chicken and frites, great service.
La Terrasse Rouge –La Dominique’s restaurant in the midst of the St Emilion vineyards has the best views in the region from their eponymous red terrace which looks out over Cheval Blanc and La Conseillante.
Le St Julien – gorgeous spot in St. Julien. Run by husband and wife team, Claude and Rosy Broussard.
Café Lavinal – a classic bistro in Pauillac from the Cazes family of Lynch-Bages fame
Auberge les Vignes – a very famous old school auberge in Sauternes which cooks steaks on vine prunings.
Inevitably the welcome that awaits a wine merchant tasting a new vintage, is different from that of a passing visitor. While not every chateau has yet embraced New World levels of wine hospitality, there are plenty of opportunities for the wine lover to get an inside view of what goes on behind the château doors.
If you have a favourite château simply start by checking out their website, some welcome visitors, others not so much.
A few that offer some fabulous tastings and tours are:
– Château Haut Bailly has an amazing Private Table, and a range of visits and tastings.
– Château Pichon Baron is open by appointment for visits of the estate and vertical tastings.
– Château Beychevelle offers three visits: the Admiral’s Tour, Secrets of the Winegrower and Masterclass.
– And if you are heading to La Terrasse Rouge in St Emilion, you can also drop into Château La Dominique for a range of tastings in their ultra-modern Jean Nouvel cellar.
If you have time, a trip to Cap Ferret, weekend retreat of the best-heeled Bordelais, is the perfect end to a visit. Walk for miles along the wild windswept Atlantic beaches that run down the western side of this spit of land. Rent bikes and cycle around the postcard-perfect fishing village, stopping for a plate of oysters and glass of Bordeaux Blanc at any of the seafood sheds which line the shore of the Bassin d’Arcachon looking across to the Dune du Pilat. Stay at the romantic 11-room hotel La Maison du Bassin, built in an old forest house just under the lighthouse. And then it’s an easy drive back to Merignac to catch a flight home.