I’ll be honest- this particular blog post is focused on a LOT of wine and food in Bordeaux. So if this isn’t really your thing, feel free to click away from this page now. If you’re keen to find out more about what you can gorge yourself on in Bordeaux post-lockdown, read on.
Like so many of my other mini breaks, this trip was booked purely on a whim. We visited last September, when flights were cheap and the weather was still decent (we paid £70 each for our flights from Manchester). Having only ever visited Paris before, I was looking forward to expanding my French horizons and getting to grips with all manner of culinary delights.
The city itself is a wonder to behold; cobbled streets, majestic architecture and riverside views give distinct aesthetic appeal. While Bordeaux is globally acclaimed as one of the most famous wine-growing regions in the world, this port city is also known for its 18th and 19th century mansions and thriving art scene. In essence, absolutely everything about Bordeaux oozes sophistication and panache, but without the pomposity you’d expect.
Rather than spending over the odds for a hotel, we decided to opt for a private Airbnb apartment right near the university. It was actually more peaceful than expected, and we had a nice little balcony area where we could sit and stuff ourselves with wine and cheese to our heart’s content. It was also a mere 10-minute walk from the city centre, which is very handy if you’re planning to hit the wine scene fairly hard.
For our first evening out on the town, we decided on Le Crab Marteau, a fab seafood eatery that, unsurprisingly, specialises in serving huge, freshly caught crabs to its diners. It’s well worth taking a pit stop here for sheer novelty alone; if you’re opting for a crab dish, you’ll be presented with a hammer and bib (apologies the photos aren’t great for this one, we were very drunk at this point) to smash up your food accordingly. It’s not for the faint hearted by any means, but the food is fairly budget-friendly and the riverside views of the Garonne are an added bonus.
During the day, we usually spent time wandering through the streets and taking in the architecture. I was so used to cramming packed itineraries into my usual minibreaks that I was really keen to slow down and relax for this one. Our favourite spot quickly became Parliament Square, which offers great cafes and people watching opportunities. If you follow the streets up to Rue Sainte-Catherine, you’ll also find La Toque Cuivree, which serves some of the best Caneles in Bordeaux. They’re little rum-soaked vanilla pastries with a caramelised crust, and they are nothing short of superb.
To continue with French clichés, we’d also decided that it was imperative for us to find a decent steak house (I apologise profusely to vegetarian and vegan readers). We were therefore very grateful to stumble across Le Comptoir D’Etienne, found in the backstreets of Rue Maucoudinat. The restaurant also features a ‘wine chimney’, where you’re welcome to take a look at their enormous selection of wines and bring bottles back to your table. We both decided to opt for a medium bodied red to accompany our T-bone steaks, which were absolutely unreal. They were also probably the biggest steaks I’ve ever seen in my life, so extra brownie points for this one.
The culinary highlight of our trip was a cheeky visit to Le Cabanon Marin, which has now cemented itself as one of my favourite ever restaurants. Deciding upon the most opulent choice on the menu, we opted for the fruits de mer (fruits of the sea) which featured everything from lobster and prawns to mussels, whelks and crab, all washed down with a pleasingly dry bottle of Muscadet. While it was the priciest meal of the trip, it was worth every penny. Again, I’d like to apologise for the photos of the food as we got very sozzled for the second night running. But please do take my word for it- it’s fantastic in every possible way.
If you’re looking to walk off some of your feasting, spend some time exploring Pey-Borland Place and its neighbourhood. You can also take a trip to the top of the Pey-Berland tower, which provides sweeping panoramic views of the city. Be warned that you’ll have to climb 229 steps to reach the top, so go steady if you’re already a few drinks deep (I speak from experience here).
With this in mind, you therefore won’t be particularly surprised to find that we had also booked a wine tour during our trip. The main issue with this was deciding on which region we wanted to visit. Most tours include pick up from the main tourist office in the city centre, but some will pick you up from your accommodation if you’re willing to pay a higher price (just bear in mind that some tours can be expensive in themselves, so spend some time researching which tour operator suits you).
After much deliberating, we eventually settled on an afternoon tour of Chateau La Croizille in Saint Emilion, about 40 minutes outside of Bordeaux. Saint Emilion plays host to over 200 wineries, each specialising in their own particular style and expression. Chateau La Croizille is a family-owned estate in the heart of Saint Emilion, which boats panoramic views and vineyards on one of the richest areas of appellation.
The wines are created through a blend of the latest technology and historical know-how. Wines are aged in 100% oak barrels in huge, sprawling cellars for an eighteen to twenty-four-month period. The end results are immense; deep, complex, and high quality.
Our tour also included an exploration of Saint Emilion village, where we were able to flit in and out of various wine shops for additional tastings. This was a real treat, as it gave us an opportunity to interact with the locals and brush up on our wine knowledge. If you’re unsure where to start when it comes to booking a Bordeaux wine tour, have a little look at Bordeaux Wine Trip, which can help you weigh up your options.
Determined to immerse ourselves in all wine-related activities, we paid a visit to Bordeaux’s wine museum, La Cite du Vin. It was a bit of a trek from our apartment, but we took a leisurely stroll by the magnificent Palais de la Bourse and made a couple of drink stops along the way, naturally.
This was easily the weirdest museum I’d ever visited. I was ready and willing to like it, but the whole thing seemed to go beyond novelty. Rather than being provided with actual information about wine and the process of producing it, the museum seems to place more emphasis on things being interactive and visually interesting. To give an example- there were lots of fake peppers in jars, with some rocks with lights in them. I still to this day do not understand the relevance.
While the exhibition itself was disappointing, it’s worth visiting purely for the rooftop bar. Your ticket price includes a glass of any wine of your choice, and there’s a huge variety of impressive wines on offer. The bar also provides you with some great views of the city and the river, as well as those sought-after Instagram snaps.
Our final evening was dedicated to Berthus, a wonderful little bistro tucked away from the riverside. Not only offering a beautiful array of dishes with locally sourced ingredients, you can also take advantage of their 3-course meal offer even at weekends. I do have to admit that our stomachs were a bit off at this point (nothing to do with the gluttony of the previous days, obviously) but we still managed to put away some cheese and pate, steaks, a small cake, a crème brulee and a bottle of wine between us. Go team.
One more restaurant tip- if you’re looking to make the most of the Garonne, it’s also worth trying to squeeze in Les Moules du Cabanon if you can. We spent a very enjoyable lunch time here while we were waiting for our flight, and the mussels are to die for. Grab yourself a nice white wine and a book to while away a few hours in the sun.
To put it simply, Bordeaux is an absolute mecca if you have any interest in food, drink and the arts whatsoever. The city positively bursts with activity and culture, ensuring that any trip to Bordeaux will be a very memorable one indeed. We barely even touched the sides of the splendour on offer here, as it really is a city that you can immerse yourself in time and time again. Its decadence on a whole new level, and I am all for it.