We haven’t nearly spent as much time in Bordeaux as we would like, though it is hard to; as I would like to live there full time. We have been super lucky to have an amazing friend who calls this city home and who has shown us the real spots when we have been fortunate to enough to visit. It is such an amazing city in its own right, yet it also allows access to so many other destinations, most importantly, Cognac. That isn’t the point though; the city of Bordeaux offers such an amazing quality of life for those within its city limits. You can dine at world-class restaurants, drink wonderful wine and cocktails, eat horribly (I’ll get to that), and most importantly, just take a stroll down the riverside walk to work off all of the steak and butter.
That leads exactly where I wanted it to, my first recommendation. Most travel schedules will have you arriving into Bordeaux in the late afternoon or early evening, and before you go hunting for a great bar you should line your stomach on the most famous cuisine in the city; in Bordeaux, that means a visit to L’Entrecôte. If you haven’t heard of this restaurant, you haven’t done much research yet, or you’re trying to be healthy, and that just won’t fly in France at all. There is no menu here; you are asked how you would like your steak cooked and if you would like wine or Lillet to accompany your meal, that’s it. Obviously, if you do it right, you’ll order Lillet to get the evening started while your steak is being cooked in more butter than you want to know, then you’ll get some delicious red wine to go with your steak when it arrives, or to enjoy while you wait. The steak comes out in a dish of liquid butter, still marinating and waiting to give you a heart attack, and then your server will come around with a platter of fries and start loading your plate up. I could write an entire article just about this ridiculousness, but just do it!
If you have some time to kill before indulging at L’Entrecôte there’s plenty of places to kick back with a glass, or 2, of wine, I know that’s where we start and finding good wine is just too easy in Bordeaux. No matter where you end up you’ll have a great time, of that I’m sure, however, my favorite experience to date was at Cousin et Compagnie. This awesome little wine shop actually offers tastings along with a basic introduction into Bordeaux wines and, of course, a little meat and cheese platter, if you like.
Around the city you may notice a number of Bistro Régent restaurants, they’re absolutely everywhere, and usually, I would avoid mentioning a venue with such a large footprint. However, if you do it right, you will feel no guilt at all. I haven’t been to any of the venues in the city center, however, the reason this venue makes it to my list is because of the location out near Bacalan. Actually situated on a boat at the quays, this restaurant is very similar to L’Entrecôte, though they do offer a few additional items such as salmon and chicken for those who are kidding themselves, and avoiding “unhealthy” foods in France; good luck. Kick back on the boat, drink well, eat well, and be merry; that’s the way of life here!
Wine is all well and good, especially in Bordeaux, however as we are Beautiful Booze we also love exploring the local cocktail scene. Our favorite cocktail bar in Bordeaux was Symbiose, a true speakeasy, famously concealed behind a big clock in one of the popular restaurants in town. The restaurant itself is said to be amazing, however, we haven’t had the opportunity to dine there yet, though don’t be upset for us, the bar is amazing. A true farm to cocktail program where the team have actually cultivated their own farm in Landes to grow as much of the produce for the bar as they can.
If the weather is amicable, the rooftop bar at Mama Shelter is a great way to spend an afternoon with friends. The bar here has a wonderful view over the rooftops of the city and it is actually one place we didn’t try out their cocktails, although they looked refreshing and delicious. Instead, this is where we spent an afternoon with our friend Danou, sipping Perrier-Jouët and bathing in the first warm day of the year. The rooftop fills up fast on a warm day, so I recommend arriving early and waiting in the lobby of the hotel for them to open the elevator.
If you’re staying in the core of the action, then Madame Pang is the spot for you. Right in the middle of Bordeaux’s winding alleyways and tourist district, this cocktail bar offers up world class cocktail creations inspired by the flavors of Hong Kong and Cantonese culinary delights. While sipping on one of their many delicious concoctions, don’t overlook the dim sum menu or wine list. I know you’re in Bordeaux, however, Madame Pang also offers some great wines from the base of the Great Wall that have been selected by their sommelier. You could forget you are in Bordeaux entirely in this wonderful sanctuary.
For something low key, and more “Bordeaux” check out L’Alchimiste just around the corner for some delicious cocktails. I’m not actually sure what the theme here was; it was reminiscent of a mix between Caribbean flavors and Spanish styling, though that was just my interpretation. Regardless, we took a seat at the bar and the bartender mixed up some great cocktails and we also partook in another awesome meat and cheese platter, just to pass the time, as you do in France.
Of course, we run on caffeine, and as amazing as the wine and cocktails are in Bordeaux, there are also a few great coffee shops to get our “energy”. We always stay at the Hotel de la Tour Intendance, which is conveniently located right next to our favorite coffee shop in the city, L’Alchimiste Café Boutique, not to be confused with the restaurant/bar mentioned above. The staff here are always very welcoming and know how to pour a proper espresso, what more do you want.
If you need somewhere to work while charging up, there’s Café in Cup, just outside of the popular tourist area. Here there is plenty of table space and the entire area seems designed as a laptop-friendly workspace. The coffee was good here, though I did have some issues with the wifi, it was a comfortable space to kick back and crush emails and basic work.
I haven’t yet made it to Oven Heaven, though this café was recommended by Danou on our last visit to the city and I am excited to check it out next time we visit because it looks legit. If you check it out please let me know how your experience is.
Although this seems like a lot of information, I feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface of the culinary and cocktail delights of this city. Please… if you have any recommendations for our next visit, leave a comment below and we will add it to our list for our next adventure.