Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Eating (Far) Out

Despite a long history of international trade, notably in wine and slaves, Bordeaux used to be one of the least cosmopolitan cities imaginable. When I first arrived, apart from a few Vietnamese restaurants, and the ubiquitous pizza places, the choice when eating out was more or less traditional French or nouvelle-cuisine French. Similarly, the bars were mostly bistros and cafés.

Then, at some point in the late eighties we heard a wild and exciting rumour that an Indian restaurant was going to be open in Saint-Pierre. It was called the Koh-I-Noor — although it wasn’t the best Indian cuisine we’d ever had, it was good enough for curry-starved poppadomophiles like us, and we and our friends were regulars for a long time.

Slowly but surely, more Indians opened and Brazilian, Lebanese, African, Australian and Mexican restaurants started popping up all over the place too, along with English pubs and tapas bars and more recently a plethora of Japanese restaurants. At the same time, MacDonalds started their inexorable takeover of every strategic junction.

The other evening, just before a spectacular late-night fireworks display on the Pont de Pierre, we ended up back at the Koh-I-Noor after a very long absence. The food was awful and the serving staff were mostly ....... Japanese.

And if that wasn't enough, on the long walk home up the rue Sainte Catherine (the trams were all full, even at midnight), I noticed the latest new addition to Bordeaux's gastronomic scene — a Subway. How long until they open a Starbucks I wonder ?


Wendz said...

I spent a week in Bordeaux in 1995. I loved it. And the restos our friend took us to were outstanding. I haven't eaten such good calamari since then. I wonder if it is still there.

BTW - in your book list...The Hours. Is it good? (I am reading The Kiln at the moment....you sent it to me. Thank you for that. Enjoying it even though finding it slow going.)

And I loved The Lovely Bones. It moved me deeply.

Lesley said...

Yes Wendz, The Hours is an excellent book, especially of you like "Mrs Dalloway", and I loved the film too.

Mikeachim said...

It's a problem. The big chains thrive by mass-producing food at an only average level of quality. The smaller, more specialised places get pushed out. Food included in this nasty little cycle....

Having said that, I object a lot less to Subway than to Starbucks and McOffals and the others. Subway's overpriced, certainly, but not as bad as some I've seen - barring the death-in-a-bun "meathballs with melted cheese".

However. I still object.

I don't like the implications of such places. They load their stuff with fat and sugar, and it works - it gives a quick rush. So people in a hurry use them, as opposed to going to a nice restaurant or cooking at home, which takes more time. And more and more people are in a hurry.

So attacking the fast-food chains....is attacking the symptoms, I think.

Lucy said...

We go to Dinan for an Indian at a restaurant ( Taj-Mahal, nearly as original as Koh-I-Noor!)run by a French-Pakistani couple. The food's a bit mild and creamy for British tastes - the Vindaloo is more like a mild Madras - but it's good and carefully prepared, and there are nice details, good naan bread and pickles, lovely kulfi and they once gave us a delicious cardomon liqueur when it was our wedding anniversary... mmm, I'd like to go there now!

deborah said...

Just back from Carnoustie (I tell a lie) .. watched the first three days on bbc tv in the middle of Charente, nice gîte by the way.

Gregory Bourdy, a golfer from Bordeaux believe it or not, partnered Padraig Harrington on the third day believe it or not ... and his favourite restaurant (GB's) is called L'Ô de l'Hâ (a pun which I hope I can leave to you to explain Lesley)!
He was asked about his favourite places in Bordeaux in a magazine interview.

It is in la rue du Hâ near the cathedral, been there twice, the food was absolutely delicious, lovely décor and perfect service, they'll even turn the music down for old grouches, you know who I mean, not my father ...

Lesley said...

Mikeachim: Will give Subway a chance (I'll tell them you sent me) but have yet to set foot in a Starbucks.

Lucy: Your Dinan restaurant sounds like ours used to be, so watch out for multi-ethnic waiting staff taking over the next few years.

Deborah: Another one to add to the list. (had never heard of Gregory Bourdy. I wonder if his name comes from Burdeos)

deborah said...

Not only have I heard of Gregory Bourdy I know his life story!
His favourite café is Ailleurs à Bordeaux (place du Parlement) and he has bought himself a house rue Fondaudège ... Yes, I bet his name comes from bord d'eau but perhaps not! Hiis ears must be ringing by now.

Have you tried Le Père Ouvrard yet? Barrière de Médoc, the grub interesting and one of those places where the owner/chef has obviously enjoyed collecting paintings etc, it's chock a block with fun bric à brac. A really nice atmosphere despite the waitresses' gold get-ups.