There are loads of really nice places to eat and boulangeries
everywhere you look. A good idea is to look out for the ones that focus on organic and local produce, it's always a good bet that they will serve fresher and healthier food and will be able to point you in the direction of other similar places, as they are often networked. I know that here in Westport, if people are looking for somewhere to eat during the day or as an alternative to what I offer, I always signpost them to similar places to mine, or to some of the local restaurants, depending on what they are looking for.
In Hossegor, we ordered some delicious cakes from a nice-looking boulangerie, next to an equally lovely Deli that sold pre-made salad, stew, calamari etc which was extremely tasty, in fact, we got take-out here one evening as the food looked better than anywhere else, although the midges attacked us as we ate, so we ended up kind of disco-dancing with our food as we tried to avoid the pesky little things.
Anyway, during the day we'd got the cakes and sat on the tables literally outside the shop and a waitress from the bar next door came to us and spoke in French in a manner that I knew wasn't exactly polite, responding in French, that I didn't understand everything she said, the owner then came out and angrily told us to get lost if we weren't having drinks! Had he been more amicable and asked us if we wanted a drink, as the seats were actually only for his bar guests, we probably would have got one or at least declined but made a point of coming back to have one the next day.
The tiredness within me, matched his frequency, as I said something like 'fuck this then', and gave them the finger
as a parting shot as we got on the bikes and headed back to our camp spot.
On reflection, I realised that I had indeed just matched their energy and in fact, they had perhaps had a long day, were tired, or hungry, or had some other reason to not be aware of their own energies.
Interestingly this takes us back, full circle, to the beginning of the article in Part 1, about being compassionate. At this juncture, I knew that I wasn't being compassionate at that moment to the bar owner, or myself, put simply, I wasn't practising gratitude or being aware of my awareness, this allowed me to quickly react instead of humbly and quietly carrying on with my day. I then allowed their energy to merge with mine and thus carried some of their anger and frustration, until I processed it for what it was and let it go.
I had the opportunity to practice this at Bar Jean in Biarritz a few days later. We'd ordered the paella and were then told it would be a 45-minute wait so the waiter suggested the steak, not wanting to scour the menu and happy to trust the waiter, about 25 minutes later our dishes arrived. Olya got the squid in ink, which was extremely rich and probably too much for what it was, i.e. if I was serving it, I'd put the spuds separate, having boiled them in beetroot juice and then use less of the squid, and enhance the whole dish with some sprouting broccoli and local sea salt.
My steak was a mis-steak. It was okay but nothing special, the fries that came with it were cooked in old oil and soggy. No veg to be seen. For approximately €26.00 and €28.00, a bit over the top. The waiter was professional enough though and it was a touristy spot. It certainly made me realise just how good the food in Ireland is, in particular, in my natural wine bar in Westport, a blatant plug there, but it's also true, I explain where the food comes from, its provenance etc.
The wine list was an opportunity for the wealthy to show off to their mates by the looks of it, with no explanations about the wines, sure, they had Opus, Margeaux, Pingus and so on) all very expensive 'high-end' wines) but with no vintage (NV), and no showcasing anything local, or indeed organic, biodynamic or natural.
Going for something local, I ordered a Txakoli
, which is a slightly sparkling, very dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol content produced in the Spanish Basque Country, Cantabria and northern Burgos in Spain. The wine I ordered gave me lemons (or was that life, at this meal?) but not much else, and there are many lively expressive versions of this that I have served in my wine bar over the years. This was not one of them. Top producers include:Ameztoi: This winery is located in Getaria and has a similar production figure to Txomin Etxaniz They produce a range of wines including the rosé Rubentis and the light, fresh, easy-to-drink red Stimatum. They also produce an herbal Extra Brut Hijo de Rubentis 2016, a traditional method of sparkling wine.Gorka Izagirre: This winery is located in the heart of the Basque Country and produces Txakoli using biodynamic methods. They use only indigenous grape varieties and follow strict guidelines for vineyard management. Their wines are known for their complexity and depth of flavour.Astobiza: This winery is located in the heart of the Basque Country and produces Txakoli using organic methods. They use only indigenous grape varieties and follow strict guidelines for vineyard management. Their wines are known for their crisp acidity and minerality.
By the way, other wines that share similar characteristics to Txakoli, are:
Vinho Verde: This is a Portuguese wine that is also slightly sparkling and has a similar level of acidity to Txakoli. It is made from a blend of indigenous grape varieties and is known for its crisp, refreshing taste, it's also known as the 'Green Wine'.
Muscadet: This is a French white wine that is also light and dry with high acidity. It is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape and is known for its minerality and citrus flavours.
Picpoul de Pinet: This is another French white wine that shares many characteristics with Txakoli. It is light, dry, and acidic with flavours of lemon and lime. It is made from the Picpoul grape and pairs well with seafood. The name “Picpoul” translates literally as “stings the lip” and is a reference to the grape’s mouthwateringly high acidity. It is also known as Piquepoul, and there is a local legend about the chickens (Poulé), eating the grapes, attracted by their sweetness but how true this is, who knows?
We also ate out in a quay-side restaurant, Casa Juan Pedro in Biarritz, popular with tourists and locals alike, in Hossegor, try the crêpes in Crêperie tante Jeanne and Green Cantine opposite Vino Verso make a good coffee with a friendly service.
Toms handy travel hint:
Download the Raisin app
, a very handy app to locate natural wine stockists/restaurants/bars worldwide.
Then seek out something near you, as they generally will stock local, seasonal products or at least have more chance of supporting the Slow Food
movement so will generally be good sources of information on where to eat, drink and be merry.
The Gallery Wine & Tapas Bar, my bar, in Westport, Co Mayo, is proudly the first place in Ireland to have signed up on it here in Ireland, demonstrating my commitment to supporting the natural wine movement, and not
just because it's trendy right now. I was also the first place in Ireland to ban any kind of takeaway cups too, in favour of using proper ceramic cups donated by local people, and charity shops, via an advert I ran to promote conversation instead of needless use of cups.
Yes, a bit of blatant self-promotion there, but tucked away along a quiet laneway here in Westport can be a tough gig so why not?
Nearly five years ago, I even held an Environmental meeting in my bar to try to promote Westport as one of the first towns in the world to go completely single-use-cup-free, and instead promote conversation, inviting people in for a coffee instead of giving them take away cups, unfortunately, my foresight isn't shared by many, and Killarney, down in southern Ireland just announced their town is the first in Ireland to do so - good for them!
For DIY, go to Les Boucheries Du Marensin in Hossegor, rather splendid and perhaps the best food of the whole trip. Of course, no trip to Biarritz would be complete without an amble around the indoor market, where you can find all kinds of cheeses, charcuterie, bread, cake, fruit and condiments etc, again, the products here were very good but also highlighted just how
good the likes of Danny & Helen's Dozio's cheese, Larry's Galway cheese, Tom's Corleggy cheese, the charcuterie from Corndale farm, Gubbeen, Ispini, Broughgammon farm or the myriad of other Irish producers that I work with, actually are. We are very blessed here in Ireland with absolutely brilliant products the length and breadth of the country.
Back in Hossegor, I found a VERY good wine shop, worth a stand-alone mention, it was recently opened by the lovely Sarah Bouteille, called VinoVerso, it stocked many, many amazing wines, with a very good selection of small-scale, local and natural producers, including some tiny allocation-only wines that her personal connections allowed her to access.
I walked in, sweaty from cycling and the heat, and was asking generic questions about the wine, not looking in the slightest like someone who knows anything about wine (who does?). The respect that I received from Sarah was tremendous, she is very polite, professional and highly knowledgeable and helped me select some fantastic wines at pocket-friendly price points, I am excited to bring some of these localised wines to my bar, to share with my guests, including a 'Cosmoculture' wine that I last drunk in a natural wine bar in Fribourg, Switzerland.
The shop itself was magnificently fitted out and had some vinyl and a solid pair of speakers there too, I was very impressed and highly recommend a visit if you're a fan of the ol' plonk.