It was a two-and-a-half hour drive in rural France so Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband could experience the talents of a superstar chef of the Bordeaux region. It’s a spectacular drive – everywhere you look there’s another chateau. The towns are so pristine, it’s as though they were created for a film set. Cordeillan Bages, in the town of Pauillac, is at the heart of the Medoc region. It’s an elegant 17th century former Carthusian monastery surrounded by a small parcel of land under vines. But the main claim to fame is, of course, its restaurant.

The kitchen is helmed by Jean-Luc Rocha, who has been cooking there for 10 years and has been the head chef since 2010 after Thierry Marx (see the blog about Camelia, Paris here) moved to head up the culinary creations of the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Jean-Luc has won a prestigious title ‘meilleur ouvrier de France’ (a competition for craftsmen showcasing the quality of their work held every four years) and apparently has a thing for graphical lines in his presentation. This amazing langoustine dish showcased his precise plating to a tee, but more on that later.

Greedy Girl had read blogs saying a meal at Cordeillan Bages should be on the bucket list of any foodie. Two and a half hours to get there? Pas de probleme. It was a quiet day for lunch, with only three tables occupied in the bright dining room overlooking the vineyard. Settling in with a glass of champagne, we decided we should try everything the chef had on offer and settled for the full degustation. A request to substitute the oyster dish was easily agreed. Greedy Girl asked that gluttonous husband still be given the oysters but that didn’t happen – got slightly lost in translation perhaps.

The amuse bouches duly arrived. This was a delightful little plate – smoked salmon wrapped around creme fraiche, an orb of braised, curried duck coated in cous cous and a mini cashew nut cream tart. Yum.

Cordeillan Bages Bordeaux

Amuse bouches

Choosing some bread (strictly for mopping purposes) we were offered three types of butter – one spiced with espelette pepper (from the Basque region), one infused with yuzu (Japanese citrus) and a salted. There was also a small tub of chantilly cream with salt and pepper. The espelette butter was very spicy and while Greedy Girl didn’t warm to the yuzu variety, gluttonous husband enjoyed it.

But there was another pre-starter to come. This was a poached egg with cream, parmesan and jamon. So rich, so good. Greedy Girl was licking her lips and using the bread already to get the last skerrick from the bowl.

Cordeillan Bages Bordeaux

Poached egg with jamon

And so to the tasting menu. The first dish  to replace the oysters was a mix of dungeness (a particular species of crab) and king crab with aniseed flavoured mousse underneath and some crunchy garden greens, pictured at the top of this post. This was fresh, light, tangy and tasty. A great start.

Back on to the menu proper, the next dish was to die for – warm foie gras in a ‘cereal’ crust with melon sorbet. The ‘cereal’ was a mix of sesame and poppy seeds in a light caramel. This was spread out thinly to dry. The foie gras was prepared and a piece of the ‘toffee’ placed on top and popped under the grill so that it formed a crust around the luscious liver. It sat atop a slick of beetroot puree (which Greedy Girl left behind) and was presented with melon balls and a melon sorbet. Delicious.

Cordeillan Bages Bordeaux

Warm foie gras in a cereal crust

Next up, both Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband tested positive to garlic. This was a delicious and inventive concoction of finely-sliced cuttlefish with a very garlicky broth and toasted sesame seeds. It was served with toasted seaweed bread. Greedy Girl wishes she’d tasted that before the broth was poured over because it just went soggy but the flavours of this dish were extraordinary.

Cordeillan Bages Bordeaux

Cuttlefish with a very garlicky broth

We moved on to blue lobster with baby vegetable risotto and what the chef termed ‘coral cappuccino’. A pretty dish, it was pretty tasty too. The lobster was cooked to perfection and diving beneath it, the risotto was firm to the bite and had a lovely medley of vegetables, none of which overpowered the dish. The cappucino was a beautifully flavoured bisque. A dish of little puffed grains of rice was offered to sprinkle as a final garnish. They popped in the mouth for a delightful surprise. All round, an unqualified yum!

Cordeillan Bages Bordeaux

Blue lobster, coral cappucino

We then moved to meat – a lightly-smoked pigeon with St George’s mushroom and rhubarb cake and a beetroot reduction sauce. The pigeon was presented two ways – a breast sitting atop the beetroot sauce and the braised leg meat wrapped in a lettuce leaf with a couple of beetroot matchsticks crossed on top. Greedy Girl preferred the lettuce leaf variety – it was not as strong a flavour as the breast. She also wasn’t an enormous fan of the rhubarb sitting on top of the mushroom cake. Gluttonous husband, however, hoovered the lot very happily.

Cordeillan Bages Bordeaux

Lightly-smoked pigeon

It was time for the cheese course and, apparently, another ‘meilleur ouvrier de France’ was in charge of the selection of fromage from the Xavier cheese dairy in Toulouse. Our friendly waitress kindly only served small helpings for her hapless Australian guests. Even the milder hard cheeses packed a serious wallop and both Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband could consume only a fraction of the plate, even accompanied by some delightful fruit bread.

Cordeillan Bages

Selection from the Xavier cheese dairy in Toulouse

And so to the sweet end of the meal. A pre-dessert was first. This was a thyme-infused light mousse with cherries and an earl grey crisp. It was more a refresher after the cheese and not at all heavy.

Cordeillan Bages Bordeaux

Thyme-infused mousse with cherries

What was next was worth the price of admission alone. Chocolate. This spectacular orb was a dark-chocolate cream gateau with white chocolate cardamom ice cream and a hot chocolate and Tonka bean sauce. The sauce was poured at the table over the orb and the remainder left in the jug to add later should you so desire. Greedy Girl desired but, alas, the flesh was weak by this point in the afternoon. It was a truly wonderful way to finish.

Cordeillan Bages Bordeaux

Dark chocolate cream gateau

Or maybe not … coffee on the terrace overlooking the vines was offered with a selection of petits fours. We went for chocolate almonds, a baton of ginger chocolate, a canele de Bordeaux (of course) and a slice of, sigh, chocolate sausage.

Cordeillan Bages Bordeaux

Our selection from the petits fours trolley

That was it. Over and out. Greedy Girl was fit to burst and a message had come through on her phone inviting her to dinner at a funky little bistro that night. Perhaps she should start the TV show Woman vs Food.

This was an intensely enjoyable experience and helped by having quite a few more daylight hours to help digest such a mountain of food. Jean-Luc Rocha is absolutely at the top of his game, having had a few years in charge of the kitchen at this lovely chateau. Greedy Girl concurs it should be part of every foodie’s bucket list.

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