France Culinary Travel Diary – St Emilion & Bordeaux
No culinary sojourn to France would be complete without sampling (read over-indulging in) the wonderful wines of France. For me, the varieties of the Bordeaux region are a particular favourite with their oldest red grape variety being Cabernet-Sauvignon, it gives you very tannic red wines with aromas of ripe black currant, green pepper or even liquorice and their white grape varieties Sémillion, it gives you an elegant wine with aromas of toasted almonds, acacia flowers and cinnamon or their Sauvignon varieties which is rich in sugar and produce amazing liquoreux wines in Sauternes or dry perfumed whites wines with aromas of rosewood, spices and fennel in Entre-deux-Mers.
Some of the most outstanding wine Chateaus in the country are situated on the rolling hills of Bordeaux and most have cellar doors which offer wine tastings and retail sales.
Also sitting pretty among the vineyards is the quaint medieval town of St. Emilion. This place ticks the boxes for all kinds of tourists, from history buffs (there are the ruins of a Church destroyed in the 100 years war), to foodies (the stunning Hostellerie de Plaisance restaurant is perched at the top of the town with a fabulous view) and naturally, wine lovers!
With so many options, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with choice so I recommend visiting one of the great cellar doors in St. Emilion which carry an exemplary edit of everything the region’s châteaus have to offer. A good friend from St Emilion Cellar Door took me through his picks for my palette and thankfully they can also ship your wine home for you, so I could buy as much as I wanted without having to lug around bottles for the rest the trip!
The Madame and I only had one short day in Bordeaux and it turned out to be such a stunning one that the friend with whom we were staying insisted we head to the pacific coast for some beach time. Lunchtime on a beach day in Australia normally means some fish and chips, or maybe a picnic lunch, but this is France and “le midi” is a sacred time. On the way to the coast, and situated about an hours drive from Bordeaux, is Cap-Ferret, a hub for holidaymakers, and trendy mover and shakers in the summer months. For those who live in Victoria, this place has a similar vibe to Lorne, on the Great Ocean Road, so Cap-Ferret instantly made us feel at home. We sat down to our host’s favourite lunch spot L’Escale, which sits right on the beach overlooking the Oyster Fields out in the bay. Even though it was only Spring, the sunshine had brought us Frenchies out of the woodworks so there was a 30 minute wait to get a table. Finally, with an icy glass of Rosé in hand, and some of the freshest, most delicious seafood I’ve tasted on my plate, I couldn’t help wondering how I’ll ever be able to go back to a packed-lunch on Aussie beach days ever again.
For dinner in the city of Bordeaux itself, there was only one place on my list, and, knowing my love for the great chef, Rick Stein, you can probably guess where that was – La Tupina. Yes, it’s touristy, and yes, it probably isn’t what it was back in the Rick Stein’s French Food Odyssey days, but I’m glad that I ticked it off my list. Naturally, the non-negotiable menu item was the potatoes cooked in duck fat, which they cook over a fire in the giant fireplace that fills the restaurant entry. I am slightly disappointed to report that while they were tasty enough, they certainly weren’t the best potatoes cooked in duck fat I’d ever eaten and I enjoyed other items from the menu much more.
What it does say is that while the old institutions still have their place, don’t be afraid to stray off the beaten path when finding somewhere to eat on holidays – seek out local recommendations for places where the locals eat!
My St Emilion & Bordeaux picks:
- St Emilion Cellar Door 4 place de L’ Eglise Monolithe, 33330 Saint Emilion
- L”Escale Restaurant: Jetée, 2 Avenue de l’ocean Cap Ferret, 33970 Lège-Cap-Ferret
- La Tupina : 6 Rue Porte de la Monnaie, 33800 Bordeaux