La Tupina

6 Rue de la Porte de la Monnaie , Bordeaux, 33800 , France

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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.

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  • Barbara Wollman

    Oh, yes, La Tupina was once good -- in the '80s at least. Duck liver for starters and maigret de canard grilled over vine cuttings for the main. My companion has reminded me of the spectacular grand cru classé we had -- my memory fails me here. Out of twelve three star and multiple two, one and no star restaurants, La Tupina remains in my top half dozen.