Above: Grilled fresh sardines at La Pointe Chartrons
Located along the Quai des Chartrons, Pastel was among our favorite contemporary French restaurants in Bordeaux. Lunch requires reservations, and, waiting late, we only succeeded in obtaining those once. The soft lemony cheese appetizer with eggplant and tomato confit was particularly refreshing and memorable.
Le 7 Restaurant is packed with visitors attracted by its high perch in the architecturally stunning Cite du Vin, the wine museum that has zoomed to the top of the list of Bordeaux’s tourist attractions but left us ready to get back out and explore on our own. Perhaps suffering from this proximity, the restaurant left us feeling the same way.
Like Le 7, Le Grilladin Saint Pierre can survive on tourists attracted by its setting, an ideal people-watching plaza addressing the handsome Eglise Saint Pierre. The food might not be stellar, but, if you want to average out a more expensive meal at somewhere like Le 7, it’s your spot. Lunch specials are a bargain, and it seems to be one of those rare disappearing dinosaurs that still offer inexpensive carafes of house wine.
Seafood is the specialty of La Pointe Chartrons, found amongst the restaurants clustered around La Place du Marche des Chartrons, anchored at its center by an 1869 former market hall renovated in 1998. The restaurant was the newest kid on the block when we were there but had no trouble filling its large outdoor patio. Although tapping into the fresh seafood readily available near Bordeaux, the chef feels free from the constraints of traditional French preparations. The grilled fresh sardines transported us to Lisbon, while the Japanese tataki preparation of red tuna reminded us of meals out in Malaga. The croquetas chipirones, filled with velvety potatoes studded with bits of cuttlefish and blackened by their ink, were pure Spain.
No matter where we roam, we are always on the prowl for Italians. Peppone’s offspring, “ragazzi,” are numerous and have spread out over France. The Ragazzi da Peppone we went to had a large river-view patio on Quai Richelieu. Their pasta dishes were well executed. Da Bartolo Osteria Pizzeria has grown to occupy several storefronts on the bustling, restaurant-centric Rue des Faussets. Expect to find it always packed.
The place we felt more at home was Poggetti, midway between Basilique Saint Michel and Marche des Capucins. The plaza on which it resides is not a tony one, but it seems part of the fabric of a neighborhood not oriented toward tourists. Of course, Poggetti was boosted by offering one of our favorite appetizers – arancini, fried balls of risotto filled with spinach and provolone – and a classic dessert affogato, vanilla gelato topped with espresso.
Switching hemispheres now, Restaurant Le Marrakech attracted us with the promise of mounds of steaming hot vegetables to spoon over couscous. The jewel-toned, richly patterned interior was comfortably cushioned. Delicate layers of flaky filo were found in the starters of brick berbere (chicken) and bastilla, chicken with the addition of almonds, honey and powdered sugar.
United States of Pacific is a pleasant sidewalk people-watching perch for grabbing a healthy poke bowl with power balls of ground almonds with peanuts, shredded coconut and cranberries for dessert. And then there was Tupaq, seductively offering fresh Peruvian-style seafood. The tables along the sidewalk provide an unappealing view of a parking garage, but that seems to stop no one. Reservations are needed. The ceviche was wonderful, and the sweet slices of scallops melt in your mouth.
And these foreign accents represent our final food snapshots from Bordeaux.