The Young Chefs Leading Bordeaux's Bistro Revolution

22 sept. 2019

Culinary Bordeaux

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Even though it’s been one of the world’s wine capitals for centuries, Bordeaux has never been a culinary heavyweight like Paris or Lyon. Not so today. On my most recent trip to the city—just a two-hour ride by high-speed train from Paris—it was clear it has become a trending destination. After a representative from the tourism office, several of my hotel’s staff, a couple of winemakers, and practically every chef I met had all revealed they were newcomers, I had to wonder: Is anybody in Bordeaux these days actually from Bordeaux? 

But I could see why they’d put down roots here. Two decades of revitalization projects have transformed a dusky port into a pedestrian-friendly, optimistic city. I walked the UNESCO World Heritage circuit of merchants’ townhouses carved with lions and scallops and the arresting Place de la Bourse, whose Age of Enlightenment Stock Exchange Hall had shut early in the face of a yellow vest protest. Yet even that tumult couldn’t discourage a sea of people from strolling and riding bikes in the spiffy docklands-to-park conversion along the waterfront on a sunny afternoon. 
   The city’s renaissance isn’t limited to architecture: Beginning about five years ago, Bordeaux started going crazy with good new restaurants. In particular, ambitious young chefs from around France and beyond sensed an opportunity in what was missing: a thriving, diverse food scene. Unencumbered by the city’s somewhat staid gastronomic past, they’re creating modern bistros with global sensibilities. 

I say bistros, but often these establishments display multiple identities, like Symbiose, which is a cocktail bar or café, except when it’s a restaurant with a five-course tasting menu. It’s as if, unleashed in virgin territory, entrepreneurs are trying out every conceivable dining concept they can imagine. This culinary freedom is matched by adventurous wine lists with bottles from small Bordeaux estates, plus selections that explore other parts of France and the rest of the world, including biodynamic and natural wines.

I didn’t check out every new bistro—that would take weeks—but the most exciting spots, profiled here, made me want to return as soon as possible for more.


The Bistro's that create the revolution

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