Postcards from Bordeaux, France: A sign for ‘Turn back for great meals’

Above, puzzling signage at one end of Rue du Ha

Sidewalk tables at Orta on Rue du Ha

To my English-attuned ears, the name of the street sounds somewhat silly, but I believe the “Ha” came from a 1600s temple nearby that belonged to an order of nuns. The narrow street barely runs three blocks and was about that distance from the apartment we rented in Bordeaux. We were on the prowl and hungry, and I laughed that the reason we settled into the last table available on the sidewalk of Orta was the sign on the corner seemingly forbidding any kind of safe exit from Rue du Ha.

That first random stop hooked us. Rue du Ha is no joke; the little street is like a culinary highway for some of the best meals we had in Bordeaux. There are several pricier ones along the street that you might be able to find on Trip Advisor, but we quickly settled in on three as yet unlisted.

The reasons these have escaped the monster travel review site is COVID-related. There were so many openings and closings of restaurants over the past year or so, who could keep up? Plus, these three sprang up only this past spring when there were few tourists. The restaurants seem to have no need for tourists. Locals already have trouble snagging seats; reservations are recommended.

In Bordeaux, we often found kitchens could turn out some remarkably good vegetables, but they tend to treat them as mere garnishes. We were vegetable-starved when we hit Orta. The restaurant changes its offerings weekly and always includes both vegetarian and vegan offerings.

Salmon confit was exquisite, and eggplant fritters with curried vegetables were so flavorful they beckoned us back twice that week. Who’d have thought of sandwiching smoky scamorza cheese, beets and millet between roasted leaves of cabbage, and how could that luscious lemon curd desert possibly be vegan?

Bibi end of Rue du Ha

Bibi? I can’t even find a website or facebook page to link to it for you. Perhaps that’s the way Chef Teo Barazer wants it; friends certainly seem to have followed him there without a web presence as their compass. It’s compact and still manages to serve as a wine shop. Opening his own spot allows Barazer to shun opening on either Saturday and Sunday; and, since there is no advertised time, lunch hours even seem somewhat flexible. But go forth and find it.

Fresh oysters were perfect and actually less expensive than at the market counters, and the grilled octopus was incredibly good. There is always a risotto on Bibi’s menu. Don’t hesitate to venture that direction. It was high season for wild mushrooms, and the morel and cepes risotto was actually the best risotto we have ever tasted. Then there were those little fried fish, eperlans, you can pop into your mouth. Maybe the street sign should caution: “Beware, eperlans, are addictive.”

And, oh, that tomato confit tarte at Baston. One of the best tartes ever. Would like another, except we’ve moved on to Toulouse. Baston doubles as a boulangerie and is in a tiny location, an extremely competitive spot to land a table. But, that pavlova looks pretty perfect, doesn’t it?

And to think we found all this on la petite Rue du Ha.

Oh, and the sign? A friend, Belinda, let me know it doesn’t mean walking and bicycling are forbidden. It is meant for drivers to indicate they are exiting a neighborhood zone where they are required to drive about 12 miles an hour – if they can possibly dodge the pedestrians and the tables at that high a speed. In other words, motorists should pick another route unless they live there.

My proposed sign: “Drive slowly, future Michelin stars shine here.”

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