Long associated with posh vintages and pricey restaurants, France’s wine capital, in fact, makes for a very affordable – and indulgent – weekend break. Our hotel is in the lovely Chartrons district, lined with antique shops and boutiques. We adore our enormous room in Chez Dupont, just moments from the river and the Sunday market on the quay, where we buy bags of fleur de sel caramels and sit down at a camping table to get stuck in to oysters freshly hoiked from the bay at nearby Arcachon.
Later, we find Brasserie Bordelaise, crammed with locals, and it’s there that I take a bravery pill and agree to an encounter with lamprey à la bordelaise. A quick Google induces a shudder at the sight of this primitive vertebrate. But when its cooked down slowly in Bordeaux wine, leeks, and a little chocolate, it becomes something not scary but quite gorgeous. Outside people are queuing to get a seat, au fait with this place’s well-priced winelist and simple brasserie dishes.
‘You can’t visit Bordeaux without going to La Tupina,’ a friend had shrieked, at the suggestion we might skip this landmark restaurant on the rather well-worn Rue Gourmande. And as we crossed the threshold of this bistro, we could see why. Wood and charcoal fires crackle on the vast range, chickens turn on a spit and potatoes lie underneath soaking up the juices. Tupina (‘kettle’ in Basque) celebrates the terroir of south-west France and you can taste some of it for €18 for a set two-course lunch and coffee. Of course we couldn’t resist additional sides of their much-lionised macaronade of fresh pasta, cepes and foie gras and their even more fêted fries cooked in duck fat.
At L’Intendant (2 Allées de Tourny, 33000 Bordeaux), a stunning wine shop with a spiral staircase snaking up four floors, the prices mount as you ascend. We kept our feet firmly on the ground, swiftly filling a box with the Cru Bordeaux Wendy taught us about. Like the city itself, it certainly was affordable.
From £125 per person per night, for a half share of the hotel cost, and return flights. audrey gillan stayed at Chez dupont (chez- dupont.com) where double rooms costs from €115. British airways (ba.com) flies to Bordeaux from gatwick from £76 return. For more info: bordeaux-tourisme.com