Symbiose – Symbiosis between kitchen and bar
Bordeaux is beautiful and has everything that one would expect of a vibrant modern city. From restaurants and bars to an architectural ensemble of stone buildings. It is idyllically located on the river Garonne that flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Bordeaux. Listed in 2007 as World Heritage by UNESCO, the city of Bordeaux is worth a trip for a number of reasons. It’s probably not hard to guess the reason for my trip.
I was once asked how I choose my bar-destinations. My adventures are packed with interesting experiences and sometimes funny coincidences. So, one adventure leads to the next. This one goes back to 2013 when I first explored the Parisian bar scene and had the best Old Fashioned ever. Not so many drinks stay in my taste memory but this one has been anchored in its depths.
The story started in Paris in 2013
It was a cold winter evening when I entered Sherry Butt in Paris. The bartender enchanted me with an Old Fashioned and a hand-cut ice cube. It was an incredibly delicious combination of Japanese Whisky, Spanish Bitters and other ingredients. It was too packed to ask for details but not to ask for the bartender’s name: Simon Chollet. He had left Paris and I had found him six years later in Bordeaux as co-owner of Symbiose.
Symbiose – An award-winning restaurant and a hidden bar
Food is always an essential factor on my trips. Bordeaux has products that are world-famous: think of the oysters from the Bay of Arcachon, lamb, duck, mushrooms, aromatic herbs, wine and cognac. Symbiose, as its name suggests, is a symbiosis between kitchen and bar. The leftovers from the kitchen are used for garnishes or infusions. Symbiose is a modern and open restaurant, furnished with lots of wood in the style of a bistro. The modern and creative cuisine is Michelin star awarded. The service is relaxed and friendly and the best, the price-quality ratio is unbeatable at noon.
During the day it is a restaurant, but as soon as the day draws to an end, there is a hidden entrance behind a Grandmother clock leading to the bar.
As soon as you step into the bar you find yourself in a cellar vault. Exposed stones, vintage furniture, the light is dimmed, all in all a cosy and intimate atmosphere. I felt comfortable and welcome from the very first moment and I would like to say beforehand, I was there for two nights in a row. The style of the menu is seasonal and changes on a regular basis. The bar team spend a lot of time in the kitchen for home-made syrups, infusions, fermentation, and maceration of the ingredients of the cocktails. They use home-grown basic ingredients complemented by produce from local suppliers. When I was there I held the “The 7 Deadly Sins” themed menu in my hands, beautifully illustrated by a local artist. It is already a while ago and the menu has changed, but not the character of the bar and my lasting experience. To accompany your cocktail choose one of the tempting tidbits such as hummus, guacamole, and gambas.
One of my deadly sins is sloth. I love to enjoy the sweet pleasures of doing nothing. “Dolce far niente” as it is nicely called in Italy. The drink Lazy Sip highlights tequila and also the holistic concept of Symbiose. In this case, for example, the aquafaba from the preparation of the humus gives the drink its smooth texture. Also, the dashi broth used for the food seasons this drink. It is a symbiosis of kitchen and bar. Simple as that.
“Lust” sounds tempting, right? So I started my second night at Symbiose with the drink Orgie and some seafood. Sexy combination and the perfect start for a long night. After three days in Bordeaux, the only deadly sin that really fitted was Gluttony. Look at the beautiful illustration of the drink Prader Willi. “Bien manger pour mourir gras” for the French speakers. This drink is a beautiful and savoury mess. Also, the Dead Rabbit is a drink worth trying from the same deadly sin. I had a tiny sample and ooh lala… go and let your taste buds be the judge. Bordeaux is always worth a trip. The drinks, the bar team, the ambience – oh I miss this place.
The Old Fashioned – Keep the Best for Last
It was again made by Simon Chollet. Admittedly not easy to recreate the whole experience but Simon nailed it and served me another taste sensation. Composed with Nikka Whisky Yoichi 15 years, Armagnac Domaine de Charron 1990, pandan syrup, Spanish Bitters, Bob’s Bitters Vanilla and a few drops of lacto fermented Shiitake. A phenomenal taste and wonderful sensual experience. Meeting great people that’s what I love about my adventures so much.
This Old Fashioned is an outstanding example of how complex and tasty a combination of carefully selected, top-quality ingredients, can be.
Cocktail lovers, after having so many drinks in my life, I have to admit “The French do it better”.