An article for The Noisetier.
Bordeaux is a port city in southwestern France. Perfectly combining glorious architecture and elegance, it absorbed the best features of the French charm.
The proximity of the sea and the mild climate create perfect conditions for grapes cultivation. No wonder Bordeaux is called the wine capital of France, where 660 million bottles are produced each year. The history of winemaking has more than 20 centuries, dating back to Roman empire. The local red gave its name to the burgundy color.
Where there's fine wine, there’s delicious food. There’s no doubt you can have a great meal anywhere in France, but Bordeaux is particularly well-suited for gourmand experiences — when it comes to dining, everything is perfect in Bordeaux, always..
So, as I went back to Bordeaux, a city that has given me great memories around the table, I decided to explore its most gastronomical side. This is how you spend a foodie weekend in Bordeaux, sparing no expense. It all starts in one of Bordeaux’s best luxury hotels, the InterContinental.
Stay at InterContinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hôtel
The InterContinental Hotel in Bordeaux has over two hundred years of experience in luxury hospitality. This is a former private mansion, built in 1789 by Victor Louis. This architectural monument has 130 rooms, including 44 suites. Empire-style interiors of the 18th century were designed by the famous decorator Jacques Garcia.
Its windows overlook the grandiose Opéra National Theatre across the Place de la Comédie. But you need not cross the street to experience theatre. The hotel’s exquisite decor in its 130 rooms is sumptuous but delicate, striking but comfortingly familiar. Hints of La Belle Époque give the InterContinental a timeless character that takes you back in history.
From a wine concierge who can arrange tours and private tastings to a spa on the top floor, it's easy to see why this is the best hotel in town.
After inspecting the springs on the mattress and taking a quick shower, we were ready for lunch. And although you don’t need to leave the InterContinental for a good meal, I had wanted to visit Les Ducs for a while, so that’s where we went for what I thought would be a quick bite.
Lunch at Les Ducs
Charcuterie Les Ducs, at Villenave-d’Ornon, is a petite boucherie specializing in cold cuts, pâtés, magrets and splendid desserts. Every item on the menu is displayed proudly behind glass cases, including local and regional cheese and dry-cured meats. The wine selection is world-class as well, especially for such a small eatery.
A secret amongst locals, Les Ducs never disappoints. I woke my appetite with a slice of pâté en croute and shared a plate of confit de canard. A pretty cordon bleu with ham and truffles was the star of the show, and although I couldn’t eat anymore, I had to try Les Ducs’ sweet fondant. I’m glad I did.
Expect the most warm welcome from the chefs and owners of the place - Frederic and Sandrine. The two friends who's long cherished dream of opening a boutique charcuterie, came true at this very space.
Things to Do In Bordeaux With a Full Belly
What to do in Bordeaux when you’re not looking for a place to eat and drink? Here are some ideas. Walk your way to the Jardins Public, a serene, green spot regarded as a “Remarkable French Garden” just a few blocks from the serpenting Garonne River. Jardin Public was designed in the French style by Jacques Ange Gabriel in 1746. The garden was built in an area where the land was considered unsuitable for growing quality grapes, and was intended to give locals a space for leisure.
Work your way south towards the Grosse Cloche, one of the oldest belfries in France. The imposing gate is home to a spectacular bell weighing almost eight tons — it’s been around since 1775! And if you’re into historical architecture, the Porte Cailhau, rising thirty-five meters tall and part of the city walls offers an extraordinary view of Pont de Pierre, the oldest bridge in Bordeaux. It was built in 1822 by order of Napoleon I, that not only connected the two banks of Garonne, but also immortalized the name of the emperor. There are 14 arches on the bridge, exactly as many as there are letters in the name of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Dinner at Le Petit Commerce
Le Petit Commerce, in Parliament Saint Pierre, is the one spot in Bordeaux for fish and seafood. Even the locals consider this lively restaurant the best in the city for fresh fish.
Honestly, at Le Petit Commerce, you can order with your eyes closed. The razor clams are impeccable. The cuttlefish a bliss. The whole seabass and the filet de merlu are wholesome enough to share, and the French desserts are a lovely way of ending the evening, of course, with a glass of Sauternes in hand.
The Sunday Flea Markets
You might think of Bordeaux as sheer sophistication, but there’s a local vibe as well, and you can experience it in the many flea markets and thrift stores dotting the city center. The Brocante du Dimanche Saint Michel is perhaps the most popular open market specializing in vintage items, books, antiques and other curiosities. You can spend hours digging for treasures, and you will.
Other antique shops to explore in the area include L’Entrepôt Saint Germain, specializing in 20th-century vintage items and gorgeous old furniture.
Brunch at La Gigi
Exploring the exquisite pieces in Bordeaux’s flea markets will undoubtedly whet your appetite, but don’t worry, you’re not far from La Gigi Restaurant. La Gigi now has a Sunday brunch with a live DJ playing calm but palpitating tunes from 1:30 to 3:30 pm. We had a nice chat with Chef and owner of the place - Arthur Vonderheyden. He once worked with acclaimed Joël Robuchon, and you can expect the same treatment in this casual but highly creative bistro. Specializing in “streetfood bistronomique,” La Gigi’s menu is best enjoyed Saturdays and Sundays at brunch time. You can also treat yourself to non-stop cocktails for a fixed price, and you totally should.
Drinks at the InterContinental
Back in the hotel, the best way to end a gastronomical weekend in Bordeaux is with drinks and a view. As the night falls, the InterContinental’s rooftop on the fifth floor turns into a pop-up wine bar called “In The Moon for Wine,” and it offers spectacular views of the old town and beyond.
There’s no doubt Bordeaux looks its best from above, under the sun’s last golden rays and even better under the moonlight. Panoramic view of the city and sunset, a glass of the best wine from the region, accompanied by a selection of cheeses and fresh bread - it seems to me, a French gastronomic perfectionism looks exactly like this.
The night’s entertainment is unforgettable, but I won’t spoil the surprise; just make sure you’re at the InterContinental’s rooftop bar on your last night in Bordeaux.
Gourmet, shaped by history, influenced by the wine, the land and the sea, Bordeaux cuisine is an art. It is essential destination for any epicurean traveller, Bordeaux is a city that can be savored as much as it is looked at.
All images by Marta Romashina.