This is the eighteenth post in the Around the World Birthday Extravaganza Series and the last post about Bordeaux! Please scroll to the bottom to see all the other posts in this series.
This is the story of a "two-course" dinner that exploded to feel more like a full-blown multi-course tasting menu by the end.
We had spent a whole day visiting wineries just an hour outside of Bordeaux. My friends had done all the research for this portion of the trip, booking an elegant dinner for just the four of us (the grandparents were watching their 3-year old daughter!).
Chateau Cordeillan-Bages is a Relais & Chateaux (4 stars) hotel that houses a two-Michelin starred restaurant (the only one in Pauillac). It's is also located right next to Chateau Lynch-Bages (only about 400 meters away, or about a 5-minute walk), so it was the perfect place for us to enjoy a nice, elegant dinner after our full day of winery hopping.
The restaurant is only open from Wednesdays to Saturdays, March to the end of November. Since we were there right at the third week of November, we were really catching them near the end of their season. Seeing how the entire restaurant only had 2-3 tables filled the entire night, we can see how much restaurants in this area depends on summer tourism for business.
The menu offers several tasting menus as well as a la carte options.
Interestingly, only the men get menus with prices on them. Bryan had to tell me that getting a la carte didn't make much sense, since the a la carte items were anywhere between €35 to €80 each, while the tasting menu, which had ten courses, cost €175 per person. You can also get the two course + dessert option (€90) or three courses + dessert (€140).
At lunch Wednesday - Saturday, Chateau Cordeillan-Bages also offers the "Impromptu", a three-course meal including two glasses of wine plus coffee/tea for only €60 (or €45 without drinks). The selection varies daily, and is based on whatever is in season (or maybe whatever ingredients they need to use up?).
We all decided to go for the two-course + dessert (which, you'll see, ended up being much more than just three courses!).
We all started out with freshly baked French bread and an assortment of butter: plain butter with salt, butter with seaweed, and butter with espelette cream.
As a amuse bouche, we all had a fried anchovy served with a creamy butternut squash soup. The anchovy definitely had a strong "fishy" flavor, which was balanced out by the creamy, sweet soup.
The Crispy Egg, a appetizer that consisted of a deep fried egg that still had its runny center (here's a recipe for how to make it!), came served with smoked bacon, squash seeds, fried shallots, shallot foam, and a sweet onion and pumpkin veloute.
It was definitely very rich, but quite enjoyable.
The St. Jacques Scallops were served with sunchokes. The execution was fine, but the scallops were cooked just a bit more than I would have preferred.
After the appetizers came, another fifteen minutes passed before the chef came by with a complimentary bite, a course that we later discovered was part of the larger tasting menu. We think that the kitchen knew that our entrees would still take quite some time to cook, so they offered this snack to sustain us.
It was delicious - barely poached squid came served with a pepper cream sauce and a squick ink crisp on the side. The texture of the squid was phenomenally soft. The pepper cream sauce was rich, very thick, and worked well with the entire dish. It was a lovely bite, and definitely helped sustain us, since it would be another twenty minutes before our next course arrived.
For my entree, I had Cod with Burgundy Truffles, which came served with a decadent mushroom basil cream sauce and croutons. Of course, there was a generous shaving of Black Burgundy truffles on top. Unfortunately, the mushroom sauce was so potent, so rich, and so strong, it sort of overwhelmed the black truffle flavors. It was still a lovely dish, but I couldn't really taste the truffles.
Bryan ordered the Squab Breast and Legs, which came served with a pumpkin cheesecake and carrots. Bryan really enjoyed the very gamey nature of the meat, which paired beautifully with the sweet pumpkin cheesecake and the pumpkin puree off to the sides. The Michelin Guide specifically recommends the squab as a dish to get at this restaurant.
Our friend ordered the Roast Beef Filet and Marinated Beef Brisket, cooked a la Bordelaise (Bordeaux-style), which means it is cooked with red wine, shallots, herbs, and butter. The steak came with a variety of fresh vegetables and a pomme purée (like a potato mousse).
The beef was perfectly cooked - gorgeously rare!
And then multiple courses of sweets started rolling in. We started with a pre-dessert of ice cream with speculos (a cookie).
We then had a light meringue topped dessert that, when cracked open, revealed fruit inside.
Finally, we ended with a selection of mignardises to end the meal.
All in all, we had a pleasant meal at Chateau Cordeillan-Bages. It felt like a good deal largely because we had only ordered a "two-course" meal but left feeling like we had enjoyed a large multi-course tasting. After all, if you really count every individual course we had, it's really an 8-course tasting (this assumes that the bread, the amuse, pre-dessert, free extra course, and mignardises all count as separate courses). Considering the real tasting menu only has 10 courses (including the same elements I listed above), this isn't that far off.
In any event, the food was good, and we had a nice meal. The ambiance was a bit quiet, mostly because we were there during late fall, which is almost like being there off-season. I'm sure it would be much more lively to be there during the summer.
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And that was our last dinner in Bordeaux! The next morning, our parties would separate. Our friends would stay in Bordeaux for 2-3 more days while Bryan and I hopped onto a train the next morning to Paris. Despite the awful attacks that had happened just one week earlier, we had decided to stick with our itinerary and visit the resilient city.
I feel a sense of sorrow as I remember back to that time - the raw shock, pain, and fear we felt right after the Paris attacks. It's awful that we are going through similar emotions again, except now much closer to home. The next several posts in this series will focus on our time in Paris just one week after the attacks. In many ways, the city pushed on, fully resilient in so many ways. At the same time, it was very clear that the city had been deeply wounded and things were different. I will share more about this in upcoming posts.
All Posts In This Series
Around the World Birthday Extravaganza
Alba White Truffle Fair
Osteria Dei Sognatori - A Traditional Piedmontese Dinner
Italy Wine Tour - Barbaresco
Lunch at Donna Selvatica in Neive, Italy
Dinner at a Truffle Hunter's Inn - Tra Art e Querce
Trattoria Della Posta in Montfort D'Alba
Nighttime Truffle Hunting with a Dog in Alba
Osteria della Arco - last dinner in Alba
Stunning Images of La Morra and Barolo, Italy
First Day In Bordeaux, France - Une Cuisine en Ville
Chateau Haut-Brion Tour in Bordeaux France
Restaurant Le St. James
Touring Bordeaux Wineries - Day 1 - Left Bank
La Tupina, Bordeaux (traditional French dinner)
Cos d'Estournel Tour
Touring Bordeaux - Pauillac, Chateau Lynch-Bages