Having already decided to use the tram system to inexpensively glide about Bordeaux and see more of the suburbs of the city plus, save my ailing feet, I found myself around the Les Hangers area of the city. This is in the Chartrons district once historically connected with the Bordeaux docks and all the import and export of the wines and spices that made Bordeaux the wealthy city it is today. More recently in time the area has reinvented itself with businesses opening up selling antiques and in the last ten years a long strip of top quality shops and restaurants called Les Hangers- Cap Sciences has re-engaged the area as a place to be. The opening up of the quayside has also given the fit joggers, roller bladers, skate boarders and cyclists a longer run for their euro too. Plus, I noticed that there were some new little take away style eateries being set up on the Quai de Baclan between the tram stops Cours du Medoc and Bassin à Flot.
On my late Monday morning in Bordeaux I resisted my deep feelings of jogger envy and slowly walked with a weary gait from one tram stop to another. The sun was already quite hot and I needed somewhere to rest up and eat. In doing so I spied a restaurant that looked a typically French place to have some lunch and dropped into the Au Bouchon des Chartrons – Chez Olivier situated at 52 Quai de Baclan. Olivier the owner explained that the 'resto' wasn't open until midday so I had half an hour to wait. I went down to the next tram stop and sat for thirty minutes in the sun watching the world go by. As in any language things get abbreviated and I had noticed that a few places the word restaurant had been fore-shortened to 'resto' and I even saw a bike shop called Bordo Velos!
Once returning to Au Bouchon des Chartrons the waiter, Pierre, took me under his wing and guided me inside to a little table by the door. There were already two French women at the table next to me who looked like they had met up for lunch. The cosy interior was small with a nice little bar and various artefacts hanging on the wall including an old bike, some sepia portraits, two or three old caps of the gendarme style and a faded blue postman's jacket on a hanger. It looked like years ago the postman had left it there and forgot to return. There was an unopened bottle of red wine on each table costing 36Ɛ. I declined any offer of wine, bottle or glass. You could say that I bottled out!
I settled instead for a local beer brewed in Bordeaux – bierre Alienor. It was a blonde beer very like a Belgian or Dutch beer.
The menus were on two chalk boards – one for the prix-fixe lunch menu and one other very in depth and out of my money league price wise. I did begin to wonder if I had made a steak mistake. The charismatic Pierre sat on the step next to the door and lovingly went through all of the delicious sounding dishes (I'm sure roast saddle of rabbit was mentioned) all chalked up with love from the kitchen. It was all in French and I believe he was explaining that some of the dishes weren't on offer and others had certain items as replacements. He left me to ponder. Whilst pondering I began to realise that the smaller board was 'the menu' not an advertisement for something unseen. I chose the menu complet choice. This included a starter, a steak cooked à point (my choice) and a dessert.
I wished I had written them down and then I could have been more informative in describing my meal. Unfortunately the board had already been whisked away to show other diners outside. It was getting very busy and the friendly Pierre seemed to revel in his job whizzing back and forth between tables. The starter was a yummy plate of spiced potato cakes and some salad and the steak was to die for! That is if you like it quite bloody as I do. It was a decent thickness of sirloin with a mouth watering char grilled surface. I was relishing every mouthful and the brown chips (cooked in duck fat) were piping hot. Il ètait vachement bien! I was taking my time so much I had to order another beer just to extend this love affair with my steak. So much in love was I with this bouchon Chez Olivier that I almost forgot about my blisters. The discerning carnivore in me was a very happy bunny.
Of course that time comes when you have to pay and the whole lot came to just under 30Ɛ. That was probably the most I have ever spent on a lunch, holiday or not, but it was definitely worth it.
Onwards and upwards I happily, but hungrily, stumbled until I came to the top of the cours d'intendance and the scent of grilling meat lured me into the steak house chain Hippopotamus.
I was happy just to sit again for a while and was quickly served by the very active and pleasant hostess from whom I ordered the steak bavette with some fresh salad and of course, a pint of cold lager Heineken beer. In English we know bavette as beef skirt, a fibrous cut more often used at home as a very tender stewing steak that is also very good for making a curry with. The French also use this cut sliced on the diagonal as a good frying steak. It was very tender and had a delicious charcoal grill bite to it like the steak in the afternoon.
Before I wrote this blog post today I had a look on the internet on the Trip Advisor site for some idea of what other customers had though of the service. Some of the reviews were good but those from back in December and November 2014 were quite critical of the slow service and the allegedly uninspiring quality of the food. They were predominantly from French people and their groups. This wasn't my experience and the hostess even took time to listen to my questions about the entrecôte steaks. I would go there again to be sure.
I had left my camera at the hotel so I wasn't able to take any pictures of my meal but these images from their website give a good impression of what was on offer steak-wise.