This city’s robust signature dishes, rib-sticking entrecôte cooked in red wine, butter, shallots, herbs and bone marrow sauce, confit duck and lamprey, come into their own in winter, and it’s an excellent place to shop for foodie stocking fillers.
Where to stay: Built in the late 19th century, La Grande Maison has the appearance of a country villa and, thanks to owner Bernard Magrez, offers guests the pick of all 259 grands crus classés of the Bordeaux region. The six bedrooms are a heady mix of taffeta, tassels, and embroidered silk fabrics, floral motifs and swirled carpeting. Head down to the lounge for pre-dinner drinks, surrounded by purple velvet, Murano chandeliers and candlelight glinting off glasses of Veuve Clicquot.
Eating in: At L’Olivier you can order casual dishes such as crisp pizzas with Parma ham, purple artichokes and rocket leaves, or whole grilled sole with herb dressing, but the main attraction is Restaurant Joël Robuchon, which sees the stellar chef at full creative sparkle; a jewel-like starter of king crab, with lobster jelly and caviar, arranged in a perfectly choreographed sea of tiny droplets is a feat of presentation as much as flavour. Beetroot and apple with mustard sorbet and milk-fed lamb with silky mashed potatoes are equally impressive. Service is very formal: there are pouffes for handbags and a bread trolley wheeled by waiters.
Eating out: Rustic regional cooking (roast rib of black pig, beautifully pink lamb) and a great local wine list at
La Tupina (latupina.com). It’s so classic, though, that many of the diners are tourists – for somewhere with more local custom, head to Miles for small plates that blend local ingredients with global flavours – sous vide monkfish with miso-roasted aubergine (restaurantmiles.com).
What to do: Each year, Bordeaux’s Allées de Tourny is transformed into a Christmas market with wooden huts and stalls selling local gifts, many of them food-related. (Stock up on canelés from Baillardran, baillardran.com), and don’t miss Maison Darricau for handmade chocolates peppered with honey and spices (darricau.com).
The damage: Double rooms start at €315, room only (lagrandemaison-bordeaux.com). Return flights from a variety of UK airports to Bordeaux from around £50 (easyJet.com). More info: bordeaux-tourism.co.uk
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