WHERE TO EAT
Along with its many other charms, Bordeaux has also recently emerged as one of the best and most innovative restaurant cities in France. This is because young chefs like Félix Clerc of the excellent bistro and bar Symbiose have been attracted to the city by its beauty, quality of life and affordability compared to other major French cities. “Bordeaux is a wonderful city for a chef, because the local produce is superb and the Bordelais are sophisticated and adventurous at the table,” says Clerc, who opened this very popular table with three friends in a former shop with exposed stone walls on the Quai des Chartons two years ago. Clerc’s menus evolve constantly, but dishes like ceviche of sea bream marinated with fermented pineapple and garnished with lovage, celery, lemon and parsley ice-cream and barbecued octopus with pickled Mirabelle plums, nasturtium-leaf emulsion, greenpea ice cream and butter beans show off his inventive style.
For a similarly excellent meal in a dressier setting, chef Rudy Baillin’s restaurant Côté Rue has an art-gallery-like setting with modern paintings on the white
walls of the beautiful landmarked salon of an old townhouse with elegant crown moulding and oak parquet floors. Baillin previously cooked with AnneSophie Pic in Valence, and this background is apparent in a cooking style that is elegant and imaginative but technically precise. He changes his menu often but his love of seasonal produce comes through in dishes like sautéed foie gras with roasted beetroot, a starter, and seared scallops with baby cep mushrooms.
Garopapilles, the most talked about restaurant in Bordeaux right now, should be booked as far in advance as possible. This charming one Michelin star table occupies the premises of a former toy store, and includes an excellent wine shop just inside the front door. Chef Tanguy Laviale studied at the prestigious Ecole Ferrandi in Paris and then trained at Ledoyen, Lasserre and the Carre des Feuillants before moving to Bordeaux. “It’s a great time to be a chef in Bordeaux, because the city’s restaurant scene is thriving,” says Laviale, who also did a stint as the chef and oenologist at the Château Haut Bailly, a Grand Cru Classé vineyard in nearby Pessac-Léognan before opening his restaurant in 2014. “I find the relationship between food and wine fascinating, and it’s a constant source of inspiration to me,” says the chef.
Laviale’s menus change constantly, because his cooking privileges the freshest seasonal produce, but elegant and ingeniously composed dishes like roast squab with cep mushrooms and cockles and chocolate ganache with a peanut biscuit, banana cream and banana ice-cream show off the chef’s lyrical culinary imagination and technical prowess in the kitchen.
For lighter eating, a good option is one of the many excellent wine bars that have been opening in the city recently. One of the best is Le Flacon, which pours a great selection of wines by the glass and also serves up an imaginative small-plates menu that runs to dishes like Réunion-style steamedpork-and-citrus dumplings and miniature veal-shank burgers.