Apr 26, 2016

Bordeaux - Gourmet Paradise

Winsor Dobbin explores the many culinary delights of Bordeaux

As we disembark from the Scenic Diamond for a day exploring the World Heritage-listed city of Bordeaux we are met by some enticing aromas and a riot of colour. The Marché de Quais, a gourmet producers' market, is held every Sunday along the Quai de Chartrons, just down the road from the central Place de Quinconces, and right next to where the luxury river cruise boats moor.

The market offers a feast for the senses; with locals sniffing and prodding at everything from artisan breads, pastries and cakes to cooked chickens, paella and other hot delights. Farmers from around the southwest of France sell their seasonal cheeses, fruits and vegetables (see radishes piled high, or tonnes of fresh berries). Locals flock to buy fresh seafood, along with their red meat for the week and local beers, wines and ciders. The whole scene is a hive of activity with many patrons sampling fresh oysters from nearby waters along with a glass of Bordeaux Blanc, or maybe chomping on a plump fresh fig.

And if you are not in town on a Sunday then the famed Capucins market in the St Michel district is open six days a week. Few cities anywhere in the world take their food and wine as seriously as Bordeaux, making the city a dream destination for gourmets. From foie gras from Perigord, the world's best brandies from Cognac, fresh oysters from Arcachon and spicy peppers from the Basque country, Bordeaux is encircled by artisan farming regions.

The city is also surrounded by some of the most prestigious vineyards in the world – think names like Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau d'Yquem.

Those lucky enough to cruise on the Scenic Diamond will visit many of the most famous appellations including time spent docked in the wine villages of Pauillac, Blaye, Cadillac and in the town of Libourne (lunch at Chez Servais is recommended).

The cruise features excursions to some outstanding wine producers (including dinner at the renowned Médoc estate Chateau Giscours, tastings at Chateau Guiraud in Sauternes and sunset drinks at Chateau Soutard in Saint-Emilion), while the city also offers a plethora of wine bars and fine eateries for enjoying pre or post cruise, or on a day docked in the city.

For a chance to sample some of the region’s wines without leaving the city, visit The Bar à Vin, which is located on the ground floor of the Maison du Vin de Bordeaux, the headquarters of the Bordeaux Wine Council, set in an 18th century building. The Musée du Vin, which highlights the history of wine in the region, is also well worth a look. The food on board is very good, but for those who wish to occasionally dine on dry land the star restaurants in the city include the atmospheric La Tupina, which specialises in the cuisine of the southwest, (maybe a salad of duck hearts followed by escalope of veal with creamed spinach and a fresh pear tart).

While in Bordeaux also try local specialities like rich duck and goose dishes, rillettes, lamprey eels from the river, thick soup known as garbure and small sweet treats called canelles. Good restaurant choices include L'Entrecote for meat lovers, L'Embarcadère for mouth-wateringly fresh fish, Garopapilles for modern cuisine, Le Gabriel for traditional French cooking, Dan for fusion food and, for those willing to splash out, gastronomic destinations like Le Chapon Fin and Joel Robuchon at La Grande Maison Bernard Magrez.

The historic old town is dotted with bistros, brasseries and wine bars like L'Univerre, La Ligne Rouge, Aux Quatre Coins du Vin or Wine More Time, or you can wander back to your ship for a nightcap of Cognac or Armagnac.