Bordeaux is the only city in Europe I have visited three times; technically not a single time was of my choosing, but each time made me fall in love with it even more. The first visit was a fleeting one, just a couple of hours while we changed trains from Toulouse to San Sebastian and after which we vowed to return. I left a certain someone behind on the second visit, running off to spend the weekend with my girlfriends indulging in too much good wine and great gossip. And finally, the most romantic visit of all was enroute to a beautiful wedding just outside of the city. Three strikes Bordeaux, and you are still very much not out…
Dare I say, Bordeaux is almost the perfect weekend package – it has enough showstopper sights and attractions within the city to keep you interested while also being the perfect base for exploring the wine regions of Saint Emilion and the Médoc. I find the muted tones of the city chic and alluring, I can pass a couple of hours window-shopping both high-end stores and pretty boutiques, and in between all that, I eat and drink. A lot. I may have always ended up in Bordeaux quite by chance but where to spend my precious meal times is something I try not to leave to random selection.
Everything I read about the city tells me that the restaurant scene has been reinvigorated in recent years. I suspect, like much of France, the great food has always been there, squirrelled away in wonderful bistros run by passionate locals who know their region and its produce well. However, I also know that like many pretty cities with a bustling tourist trade, there are just as many average places aiming to cash in on those none the wiser so I think it pays to do a little bit of work to find some real gems… I was tempted to revisit Le Bouchon Bordelais as I loved their hearty, casual ethos but decided to embrace this re-invigorated scene everyone was talking about and booked us into two bistros with reputations for creative cuisine!
Racines by Daniel Gallacher
I’m not sure how many other Glaswegian chefs there are in Bordeaux, but I think Racines is definitely one of a kind. Gallacher’s own cooking roots are inextricably French (a CV which boasts time with Alain Ducasse surely guarantees that) and it shows through in his techniques but his flavour combinations seemed more original. Though the menu is succinct, only two options for each course, the dishes themselves are quite diverse. Throughout our tasting menu, there were twists and turns; some surprises I liked, others I found a tad challenging.
Fish with fruit seemed to be a common theme when we dined – red snapper was paired with strawberries and yuzu while sea bream was marinaded in passionfruit. For the uninitiated, you are right to be skeptical but with the right touch, it really works particularly when the fruit adds acidity rather than sweetness. The meat course, a duo of lamb in our case, was less avant garde but a joy to eat, and both desserts had my sweet tooth at their delectable clutches. It is likely you won’t have any of these dishes when you visit as the menu changes daily to reflect what’s seasonal but no doubt to also reflect what interesting combinations are cooking up in chef Gallacher’s mind!
Miles may be a tiny bistro of less than thirty covers, but I think the four chefs here are doing bold things. Hailing from all corners of the world, they bring the influences of their roots to the menu but the focus is still very much on what is local and fresh to Bordeaux. Similarly to Racines, their menu changes daily but is kept a complete surprise until delivered to the table – as someone who always studies menus beforehand, this was a welcomed break from my ritual. Being able to see the chefs at work in the open kitchen from every seat in the room also adds to the anticipation and atmosphere of the restaurant!
We found the dishes at Miles less complicated than Racines, but perhaps enjoyed them just a teeny bit more. There were fewer elements on the plate, but each one was absolutely necessary for the right balance in flavour and textures which I think is a hallmark of clever cooking. Our octopus starter was exceptional; each piece was tender and sweet but the real gratification came when we bit into a chunk which had a gritty bitterness from the grill. Each of the four courses from our lunch were noteworthy but the other highlight was a veal fillet so succulent and buttery, it seemed indecent… but of course we kept eating because the reality is, I would happily keep eating whatever fresh, seasonal, inventive dishes are coming out of the tiny Miles kitchen!
So Make a Move…
- Racines, 59 Rue Georges Bonnac, 33000 Bordeaux – six course tasting menu for two with wine around €150, reservations recommended.
- Miles, 33 Rue du Cancera, 33000 Bordeaux – four course lunch for two with wine around €85, reservations recommended.
- Casual dining in Bordeaux – read more about what I ate and drank during my second visit to Bordeaux here.
- Explore the wine region of Saint Emilion – read more about my wine tour with Rustic Vines here.
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