La Tupina has a considerable reputation as a bistro serving traditional cooking from the south-west of France. It is tucked away in a narrow road in the centre of Bordeaux, with a few tables outside. The dining room is in several sections, and there is an attractive display of local produce as you enter. Starters were EUR 14.50 – EUR 26, main courses EUR 18 – EUR 38, with a “classic” menu at EUR 60.
The all-French wine lists started at EUR 18 but quickly soared in price, with mark-ups that would look scary in Paris, never mind for a bistro in Bordeaux. The excellent Mas de Daumas Gassac white 1998 was EUR 95 for a wine you can buy for EUR 26 in the shops in the UK, Chateau Kirwan 2004 was listed at EUR 120 for a wine you can buy for less than EUR 30 in the shops in England. Leoville Barton 2001 was an absurd EUR 300 compared to a retail price of around EUR 55 in the UK. Petrus 1997 was EUR 2,400 for a wine you can find for about EUR 950.
A trio of scallops were cooked reasonably, though were not of especially high quality in my view, served with bacon fat (11/20). The dish cried out for some acidity and was a chunky EUR 22, which was not the kind of price mark-up I had assumed was going to occur in a bistro. A lentil “salad” with artichokes and a poached egg was very basic, just a pile of puy lentils, some ordinary artichokes and a poached egg; the kitchen had done very little here (10/20).
I am a big fan of cassoulet, and this after all is the region where it comes from. Yet the version tonight had soggy white beans, a single unchopped sausage and some pork, and was under-seasoned – this was not a patch on a version I had a few weeks ago at Eastside Bistro in London (11/20 at most). Even worse was a slab of cod with greasy pan-fried potatoes resting in a pool of olive oil, in this case heavily over-salted, even to my taste (10/20).
Prune and armagnac ice cream was fine (13/20) while a plate of cheese was adequate (12/20). A cup of tea here was EUR 5, just to give you a sense of the pricing level. Coffee, OK in itself, was served with a soggy beignet. Service was functional. The bill was EUR 92 per person with no pre-dinner drinks and a modest wine.
I found this a thoroughly dispiriting experience. The following day I was lunching with a foodie who grew up and lives in this area and mentioned I had been to La Tupina. Her response: “Oh, I thought that was for tourists these days?” was revealing; certainly there were just four tables occupied on the evening we visited. Given this restaurant's ubiquitous appearance on “must do” lists for the city I can only assume that it is either brilliantly marketed or was once good, perhaps both. However if I had wanted over-priced, disappointing bistro food I would have stayed in London.
My thoughts on 2 star Michelin Pineapple and Pearls in Washington D.C. https://t.co/xkXDmAXqbG https://t.co/YJo05d1yxq