Twice my waiter asked if I really wanted my steak blue.
It was Bordeaux, October 2011, and the reputation of Australians/Kiwis/Englanders had preceded me.
Most, it seemed, liked their steak well done – medium rare at ‘best’.
But I have eaten my steaks ‘bleu’ – or ‘blue’ – ever since a noted doctor told me, back in the 1970s, that burnt steaks from the BBQ were bad for you, and it is better to go the other way, if anything.
I discovered that a steak ‘underdone’ is always so much more tasty and tender. And, particularly in Australia, if you asked for ‘blue’, at worst you would get it medium rare.
When I covered the Queensland Residents ‘rugby league tour of France in 1989, the players, (Invariably North Queenslander, Steve Bella was the loudest critic of the kitchen’s efforts) were always sending their steaks back, to be cooked, and invariably they would return like charcoal.
In 2011, my wife, Marie and I were embarking on a UK/France trip, with the French leg starting in Bordeaux, after four nights in London with our eldest boy, Damien and his wife, Emma.
There was a carnival on the banks of River Garonne, Bordeaux and the atmosphere was lovely. We tried one restaurant, and it was too busy, so the ‘pub’ across the road from our hotel was our choice for dinner.
This is where I had the blue steak (eventually), while Marie went for duck fillet.
The next day we walked back to the river, where there were lots of tour groups, and beggars. We visited Cathedral St Andre, before having a beautiful lunch at Le Parlement Des Graves, where a fellow diner looked just like my late mother, Lola. Chateau Tureaud Rose accompanied our meal, and we were expertly looked after by our waiter, Hassan, who had a beautiful nature.
Late in the afternoon, we had drinks at Petite Bistro, near the Garden for Resistance Martyrs. We bumped into a couple from Gippsland in Victoria, on a five week train tour of Europe. They were Geelong Australian rules fans, and they couldn’t understand why we didn’t follow the game.
When I mentioned that we followed rugby league and that Bordeaux was once a league stronghold, their eyes glazed over.
Dinner at Bistro Pepe, sitting beside a German pair, who had steak tartare.
In Bar Globe, we watched the France v Bosnia soccer match, which was boring, although a Bosnian scored a great goal and was kissed by a teammate, as he left the field at halftime. The match finished in a draw, with France qualifying for Europe.
The following day we were to pick up our hire car for a trip east.
More on that in the future.
Footnote: I wasn’t kidding when I said Bordeaux was once a league stronghold. For instance, in 1952 a crowd of over 15,000 (good for league in France) rocked up for a match between France and Wales at Stade du Parc Lescure, with the home side winning 20-12. Legendary French fullback, Puig Aubert from Carcassonne kicked five goals and two field goals.
“Overall we were the better team, especially in the forwards,” said Welsh manager, Bill Fallowfield. “But France had Puig Aubert. If only we had a kicker like him.”
Photo 1: Bordeaux
Photo 2: Cathedral StAndrew, Bordeaux
Photo 3: Action from 1952 rugby league Test, France v Wales in Bordeaux.