I have a bit of catching up to do after a week in Southern France, so there will probably be little in the way of chronology about the coming posts. In fact, arbitrarily, I've decided to kick off with one of the most recent meals, the last one in France and one of the highlights of the whole holiday.
After a week that combined one or two bistro type lunches, lots of picnic snacking and some solid home cooking, Cat pointed out to me on the way to the airport for the journey home that I hadn't had a lot of offal. She knows I'm probably as big a fan as she is not, and apart from some buttery foie gras from a never ending jar (or two) in the fridge she was right: a compulsory duck gizzard salad at the start of the week, and that was about it. "There's still time," I scoffed, knowing, in truth, that opportunities were fast running out: we were on our way to Bordeaux for lunch wherever we could find it. On Bastille Day. I wasn't holding out much hope. In the end, though, we hit a rich vein. As it were.
Not for the first time, we really lucked out. For a start, although Al had been given a restaurant recommendation, he couldn't actually remember much about it. Like the name, for instance. All he could remember was it was near a city gate, and a quick Google on the increasingly user friendly mobile Internet suggested it might be La Tupiña. "That's the place!" he cried. Consultation of the worst map Hertz has ever supplied suggested a vague left turn from where we found ourselves in the city, so we took the first left we could and found ourselves immediately outside the very place. Not only that but the waiter offered to park our car for us. You don't get that at McDonald's.
What you might get at McDonald's, albeit unadvertised, is guts. Nothing wrong with that, although on balance I prefer them clearly identified, as they were here: a complementary plate of warm, earthy andouille to go with the salami and crudités we were all ready munching. Not for the faint hearted.
La Tupiña has been serving up rustic local dishes based on local rustic ingredients for 40-odd years. Many of the dishes are cooked by the waiting staff on or in front of the big fire that forms the centrepiece of the restaurant. As soon as I saw chips going into an angrily bubbling pan of duck fat in the hearth I knew we were in for a treat. I also knew I'd seen it before: Rick Stein is a big fan and went to La Tupiña on his French Odyssey.
To start, I had sanguette, translated on the menu simply as "chicken's blood". This was a new one on me, and I think I was expecting some kind of black pudding affair. What turned up was, in fact, something closer in texture to an omelette, albeit a black one. Apparently fresh chicken blood is allowed to coagulate before being fried off and served with a spiky garlic and parsley combo. The result was close to chicken liver in taste and took a bit of getting used to. Rest assured, though, it's far better than it sounds.
Al raved about his starter, a hearty looking bacon and asparagus salad; Cat's Duck carpaccio didn't hang around long enough to trouble the scorers.
More offal for me to follow, in the shape of veal sweetbreads and kidneys en croute. This was a real treat: a creamy sauce full of lots of lovely meaty treats with the welcome addition of a few broad beans and asparagus tips. Al's seven-hour lamb came with a white bean casserole (the closest we got to a cassoulet on this trip) and was hungrily devoured despite its huge size: the best part of a whole shoulder I think.
Cat went for the signature spit roast chicken with duck fat chips. The chicken was good, if not spectacular, the main joy of it being the very fact of seeing it roasting away in front of the fire while we scoffed our starters. The chips were fantastic, though. None of your triple-cooked, uniform-cross-section, perfection-seekers, here. Merely searingly hot chunks of spud, fresh from the fire, sprinkled liberally with salt and with an unmistakably meaty flavour from the fat. Dangerously good.
We had a plane to catch so had to call it a day at that point. A shame. I could easily have lingered for hours over a long lunch or an evening treat. And one day I certainly will.
La Tupiña, 6 Rue Porte de la Monnaie, 33800 Bordeaux +33 5 56 91 56 37