Wine from the Bordeaux region is famous around the world, so it comes as no surprise that the city itself has some of the finest wine bars on the planet. But that’s not to say that it’s the only tipple on offer – Bordeaux is also home to hundreds of rustic pubs, stylish cocktail bars and lively outside terraces flooding out onto the city’s charming cobbled streets.
Alison Cummins and Nina Moss, the owner and marketing manager respectively of one of Bordeaux’s most famous pubs, The Houses of Parliament, share their local expertise and insight with Culture Trip and give their recommendations of the top 10 bars in the city.
The Houses of Parliament
Bar, Pub, Pub Grub, $$$
While located on a quaint French street, The Houses of Parliament (better known to its regulars as HoP) is a quintessentially English pub, where you can quench your thirst on a selection of draught and bottled beers. Cummins and Moss tell Culture Trip: “We serve beers from local breweries, and we now have many international seasonal selections. We have also expanded our bottled beer range, which offers customers a huge variety of choice and the opportunity to try niche and new craft beers.” HoP is well known for its events, including weekly pub quizzes, live music and regular karaoke nights. “We provide as much entertainment and as many events as possible, and our pizza partnership with Bistro Rigoletto across the road is still very much in place, meaning our customers can order at the bar, and we’ll serve it from the pizzeria straight to them,” says Moss. With entertainment, cocktails and pizza on the cards, The Houses of Parliament guarantees a good time for all.
Madame Pang combines traditional Cantonese influences with Hong Kong’s modern culinary culture, a fusion that is reflected through the decor, drinks and delicious dim sum dishes on the menu. Quality is of the essence at Madame Pang, so its chefs use local and seasonal products, ensuring the food is the freshest it can be. However, Cummins and Moss particularly recommend it for its drinks: “This place could be considered as one of Bordeaux’s best restaurants, too (for the delicious food), but it has an amazing bar atmosphere and an impressive cocktail list. We love this bar because it’s beautiful, different, and everything it serves – from the fusion dim sum to high-quality cocktails – looks and tastes incredible.” Not limited to cocktails either, Madame Pang offers an extensive wine list, classic and exclusive beer options and several quirky soft drink choices, including mocktails, sparkling nectars and its home-made lassi. As it serves dim sum and other light bites until after midnight, this bar is the perfect spot for late nights in Bordeaux.
With a selection of 30 Bordeaux red, white, rosé and sparkling wines, you’ll be spoilt for choice when visiting the centrally located Bar à Vin. Order by the glass or sample different wines while receiving expert information from one of its passionate sommeliers. “We love this place because we can try amazing wines by the glass from its changing menu. It’s also in a beautiful building in the most central area of Bordeaux, and its prices are actually very reasonable,” says Cummins and Moss. With the average price of a glass of wine around €3 (£2.50), Bar à Vin is a must-visit in Bordeaux. And if you’re sceptical that the prices for such high-quality wines seem too good to be true, Bar à Vin is part of Bordeaux’s best-known wine school, École du Vin, meaning that the council subsidises the bar’s bottles.
Right in the heart of Bordeaux’s historic district, L’Apollo Bar lies on the lively Place Fernand Lafargue. Heavily influenced by James Brown and, of course, funk and soul, the owners named their bar after the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. Cummins and Moss tell Culture Trip: “At L’Apollo, you’ll find a great vibe, great music and great drinks.” Meet friends here for an evening of smooth music and a positive atmosphere; “they even have a small terrace outside on a cool square, and the pool table inside is always fun”, explains Moss. Watch for its monthly live-music events and tribute nights, which are not to be missed by jazz, funk and soul fans.
Le Café Utopia is an independent cinema built in an old church and lies in the central area of Saint Pierre in Bordeaux. It’s worth a visit for its architecture alone. However, the cool and laid-back vibe at the bar-café here makes this location stand out as one of the best hang-outs in the city. “We love it here because it’s very original. We like to sit on its sunny terrace for a coffee and enjoy the view over Place Camille Jullian,” Cummins and Moss tell Culture Trip. Sustainability is a core business value at Utopia, as it serves local and organic produce, including vegan options. Try one of its organic bottled beers or iced teas after watching a film at the beautiful cinema next door.
HMS Victory is the sister pub of The Houses of Parliament, so as Cummins and Moss explain, “The two pubs have a similar menu and atmosphere, but HMS Victory is on a much larger scale.” As this bar is on the other side of town, you have the convenience of stopping by whichever one is closest to where you are. HMS Victory has two floors of indoor seating, but among its best features is its 100-seat terrace, which looks out onto a leafy pedestrian square. Cummins and Moss explain that they take pride in this bar for “its many concerts and live DJs as well as the friendly, laid-back atmosphere, and you’ll often find our staff and friends having a drink at HMS Victory, too”. Drinks include a huge range of beers, spirits and cocktails.
For the best outdoor terrace in Bordeaux, head to Les Chantiers de la Garonne, which lies inside a former storage shed that once housed ships on the banks of the Garonne River. While its interior has somewhat changed, having become a stylish bar and restaurant, its nautical roots remain; it serves a selection of seafood as well as tapas dishes, using responsibly sourced produce. There’s a laid-back ambience on the terrace, complete with deck chairs and sand, so sitting riverside with a cold beer or crisp glass of rosé in hand, you may well feel as though you’re on the beach. On a sunny day, secure an outside table outside by making a booking.
Le CanCan is Bordeaux’s newest speakeasy. To enter, you must pass through a telephone box, and once inside, you’ll find vintage decor and high-quality signature cocktails (and mocktails), including the popular Mi Figure Mi Raisin, which blends flavours of fig and grapefruit with dark rum. Le CanCan is not just unique in its “awesome cocktails made with rare spirits and mixers”, says Moss. “It’s also recently integrated a very cool downstairs bar and DJ area, making it super lively,” adds Cummins.
The first thing you’ll notice upon arriving at La Comtesse is the group of pink flamingoes that decorate the doorway. The bar certainly does not go unnoticed, and it’s the perfect spot to enjoy creative drinks in vibrantly decorated surroundings. The inside features a unique ambience and quirky vibe created by low-lighting and mismatched vintage furniture, while the outside is perfect for watching the busy street pass you by – with a cocktail in hand, of course. Make sure to order a mojito – La Comtesse serves the best in Bordeaux.
Conveniently located on the corner of the quay and Porte Cailhau – a historical monument that long served as the gateway to Bordeaux – La Ligne Rouge is a wine lover’s paradise. “The service is excellent, and [the owners] are passionate about the wines they serve,” explains Cummins. La Ligne Rouge offers hundreds of wines from all over the world by the bottle and many by the glass. Cummins and Moss agree: “It’s the perfect place for people who are interested in trying some delicious, lesser-known local wines alongside interesting wines from the rest of France and the world.” It also offers charcuterie boards, locally produced cheese and other French classics, such as foie gras.