When I'm about to travel, I check in with industry friends to get advice. When it comes to food, for example, who better than a local chef to recommend the best markets, bistros, wine bars and restaurants in town? Often, these are places I'd never find on my own. So planning a little jaunt to Bordeaux (where the 2009 vintages are being called some of the best in the region's history), I rang up chef Pascal Nibaudeau, exec chef of the five-star Regent Grand Hotel Bordeaux. His restaurant, the Pressoir d'Argent, has 16/20 in the Gault Millau Guide and earned a shiny new Michelin star this year. (About the star, Pascal says: "It's been a great challenge to build a fish restaurant in a district that's famous for its red wine!") Here, Pascal serves up some of his favorite local spots.
I love Le Café du Port because of the wonderful view over the Garonne River and the famous Stone Bridge. Most of all, the kitchen is real. You'll experience not pretentious but effective service (tel 05 56 77 81 18).
One Michelin-starred restaurant I would definitely recommend is Le Saint James at Bouliac. The chef is very friendly and the food is remarkable! The restaurant has a splendid view over Bordeaux (tel 05 57 97 06 00).
To finish with an unusual place, I really enjoy going to a high-quality Chinese restaurant called Au Bonheur du Palais in the heart of the city (tel 05 56 94 38 63).
I like Eurasie, which is the second largest Asian culinary shop in France. You can find very fresh products at a very approachable price. He're you'll find the specific products needed for a gourmet restaurant or home cook, such as Tempura Flour, Kafir lemon, Peking Duck, etc. (tel 05 56 50 24 65).
Bassens is my favorite because it has products from all over the world (olives, spices, candied fruits...) People come from all over the city to shop there. And there's a very nice fishmonger who comes from where I come from: Les Charentes! Sunday mornings only, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
PLACE TO TASTE WINE
I suggest you visit the Centre Interprofessionel des Vins de Bordeaux (tel 05 56 00 22 66), situated in the heart of the city, where you can enjoy some very nice wine tastings from a wide range of vineyards and wineries.
I also like La Winery (tel 05 56 39 04 90), located in the Medoc. It's about 30 minutes away from Bordeaux city center and close to many vineyards. Unique in Europe, La Winery invites visitors to explore their own palates and find corresponding wines that will suit them.
FOR MORE INFO
For more info on Pascal, the restaurant Le Pressoir d'Argent or the Regent Grand Hotel Bordeaux, click here or call 05 57 30 44 44. Le Pressoir d'Argent is currently offering a two-course lunch menu for 34€. The hotel offers a number of wine and food lovers' packages including wine-estate tours, chateaux tastings, special meals and private receptions, taking advantage of its intimate connections with the best vineyards in Bordeaux.
Photos: The Regent Grand Hotel Bordeaux (perched just opposite the Opera National) and its Michelin-starred chef Pascal Nibaudeau.