Le Saint-James, Bouliac

September 15, 2008

Bouliac is a charming, well-preserved little town southeast of downtown Bordeaux at the north end of the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux wine district. On September 13, 2008, after checking into the Saint- James, we went out for a walk and discovered that the tenth annual Bouliac medieval festival was in progress. There was jousting, falconry, troubadours, spinning wool, roasting meat on a spit etc etc. The children’s medieval games were next to our modernistic hotel designed by Jean Nouvel.

The folks of Bouliac were having a good time, which would continue into a dinner and a dance that evening.

We returned to our spacious, stark, modern room with panoramic windows overlooking a small vineyard, the Garonne River and the city of Bordeaux in the distance. The dining room has the same spare décor with widely spaced tables and the same great view.

We were seated next to the window. For apéritif we had glasses of Mumm de Crémat. A lovely amuse-gueule arrived: a glass of yellow tomato bisque with a skewered anchovy and a little fried fish on onion compote on a chip.

The à la carte selection was small, but interesting. There was also a menu at 90 € and, our choice, “L’inspiration…” at 125 €.

We ordered a half-bottle of white 2003 Chateau de Fieuzal and a bottle of 1999 Château Larmande, a good red wine from nearby Saint Emilion. 

Carrot slices, cooked and formed into a round base were topped with a mousse of smoked halibut, heavily flavored with cumin. This was excellent; carrot and cumin are a classic combination, but this elevated it to a higher level.

Chunks of Breton lobster cooked in a seaweed-flavored broth were served with a seaweed (nori) mousse, a lobster gel, chunks of cucumber and (bottom) a fiery dab of Japanese horseradish (wasabi.) Very interesting if one was careful with the wasabi.

A generous chunk of foie gras had been sauteed. It was served with a prune stuffed with an Armagnac cream, topped with fried ginger shards. This was an excellent enhancement of another classic combination.

Slices of ormeaux, or small Breton abalones, were served in a sardine broth with little rounds of vegetables. The ormeaux were interesting, but the broth was so acidic we could not taste the other ingredients.

This piece of white fish and the sort of cous cous formed from cauliflower bits under it were okay, but boring.

The thick lamb chop had a tomato and chive sauce with carrots. It was very good.

I like the idea of the chef preparing an imaginative cheese plate as part of a tasting menu, but I do not understand the fascination with brousse, a boring imitation of brocciu, a Corsican sheep’s milk cheese, which is made up in the hills of Corsica and eaten fresh. Here it is served in a plain wedge, with its own mousse, muscat grapes and some honey.

The wild blackberries with ginger ice cream were nice.

The strawberries were served on a chocolate round and topped with rhubarb shreds. There was strawberry sorbet alongside and dabs of strawberry sauce.

A tray with a large variety of mignardises was brought to finish the meal. I chose two delicious light ones in little glasses and a canelé, the little cinnamon cake which is a Bordeaux specialty.

The meal had started out with three exceptionally good courses, but, having heightened our expectations, became merely good. The service was efficient and friendly, but the kitchen became overloaded and slow as the evening progressed. The restaurant was full on this Saturday evening. But we enjoyed the evening.

The following morning we had the same table for the breakfast buffet.

Then we drove up the Garonne and stopped to take our photos at Chateau Yquem.


We continued through the tiny town of Sauternes and drove on to Eugénie-les-Bains.


To see the blogpost by Gastros on Tour (in French with good photos) of their big lunch at the Saint-James, click here. They really liked the sardine broth with the ormeaux.

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