A Guide to Bordeaux, the city and its environs
Bordeaux: An Introduction
We first visited Bordeaux in the early 1990s and left completely unimpressed--by the wine culture and by the city itself, which appeared as a gloomy, half-modern and half run-down city without identity.
Now, everything has changed.
As the New York Times, the Independant of London, and many others have noted, Bordeaux has undergone a transformation, nay a transmogrification from the city that France and the rest of the world had written off into a stunning example of civic pride, urban renewal, high culture, gastronomy, and architectural preservation. There is more to come, as the process of cleaning facades and sprucing up neighborhoods is in process. The immigrant quartier of St. Michele--centered on a stunning Gothic Church that is a World Heritage Monument of UNESCO--is the next one up.
The urban project launched in 1996 by Alain Juppé and made concrete by the cleaning of façades, the development of the quays along the Garonne river, the commissioning of the tram that runs on a ground-level power supply and the requalification of urban areas strengthened this desire to protect and showcase Bordeaux's heritage.
Bordeaux is also naturally situated at the center of the vast wine region (since it was always the commercial hub of the whole region) and therefore forms a perfect base for visiting Medoc, Graves, Sauternes, or Pomerol. And if you don't have time to go out too see all the vineyards, they will come to you through numerous retail wine merchants and the Wine School.
The food markets of Bordeaux count among the finest we have seen in France, Italy, or Spain. Locales like Les Cupucins--which has a history going back to 1749 but is now housed in a modern parking structure--have an amazing breadth and range of products, inlcuidng both permanent vendors in stalls and others who come in for the day. Vegetable & fruit vendors spill out onto the streets outside the market as you head towards Place Victoire. Fresh seafood, an astonishing selection of oysters, cheese mongers, butchers, and a wine shop all find their home here.
The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Bordeaux contains interesting historical information.
Bar, Bistrot, and Gastronomic Restaurant
10, place de la Bourse
05 56 30 00 80 - www.bordeaux-gabriel.fr
Located in an unparalleled position at the center of the place de la Bourse, with memorable views of the place, reflecting pool, and river, Gabriel has caught our attention for over 4 years. It's a combo affair, consisting quite intentionally of 3 different venues on 3 floors: spacious & comfortable bar at the entry level; what intends to be a classic French bistro on the 1st floor; and the Michelin one-starred restaurant above that. Purportedly, the kitchens of the two dining venues remain totally apart, though the entire operation remains under the command of one chef: Francois Adamski.
Dinner at the bistro was pleasant and the food passable, but for the price there are numerous other options in Bordeaux of greater value. Enough said.
6 rue de Cancera, Tel. 05 40 50 76 91
Dan (the restaurant) catches the eye: Chinese silk lanterns inside a narrow stone building with warm pine floors, and tea pots strewn about as part of the decor. The concept owes much to a vision of Chinese-inspired cuisine at an elevated level. Dan manages to pull if off! There's very reasonable luncheon menu.
Chez Jean-Mi, Bistro à Huitres
Halle des Capucins, Bordeaux city Tel. 06 22 81 12 06
Go to the morning market at les Capucins around 11 a.m. and stay for a little snack and glass of chilled white Bordeaux wine after your basket is full. There are just a few specialties one can trouver here: the freshest of oysters, good bread, wine, and soupe des poissons with the traditional rouille and grated cheese--c'est parfait! 6 oysters and soup and two glasses of wine cost 11 euro 30.
21 rue des Frères Bonie, Tel. 09 81 62 15 16
If you're looking for authentic southern Chinese cuisine with a mid-sized menu of intriguing dishes, this is your spot. The owners have recently upgraded the interior decor, which includes a long central table for groups. The waiters change a lot, and the wine selection is only passable.
The food however was excellent on the most recent visit in December, 2018, surpassing some earlier tastings.
Stuffed tofu, an off-the-menu dish of chicken with Chinese eggplant (just ask), and a superb spicy chicken soup with glorious prok dumplings followed the apps, which are more mainstream.