The last days of warm weather are drawing to an end so MTV boyfriend and I tried to prolong our summer by heading to Biarritz in France for a weekend away. I have been to the Basque region of Spain previously, however I had never been to France’s Basque area and I was amazed by the evident Spanish influences and the strong Basque culture. After a long day relaxing on Biarritz’s pristine surf beach we decided it was time to explore the town’s restaurants.
The sun sets in Biarritz as the surfers make the most of the last light
On the search for some Basque food we literally stumbled across Chez Pilou an unassuming looking restaurant that was clearly a locals hang out. An oil painting of three pigs was hung over a television on the wall evidently marking the transition from day time casual eatery and bar to night time restaurant. An assortment of photos of regulars lined the walls including one snapshot which showed the group dining with napkins over their heads which presumably indicated a feast of Ortolan many years ago. The place was almost completely deserted when we got there at about 8.30pm with our friends Jac and Simon, however it seems that the citizens of Biarritz may have adopted the Spanish dining times as by the time we went to leave at 11pm, Chez Pilou was full.
There were no frills at Chez Pilou, the tablecloths were wipeable and menus were laminated and supplemented by specials chalked up on a board. However the food was excellent and service was entertaining with the gregarious waiter suggesting various dishes to us and chiding us if we did not finish a meal. We ordered the chipirons to begin. This is a local dish of baby squid served with garlic and diced green peppers. The squid was flash fried so that the tentacles were crisp but the flesh was still tender and springy. Our waiter also suggested “the oil and pepper salad” which turned out to be much more appetising than his description. Slow roasted slivers of pepper were doused in buttery olive oil forming a lattice pattern of autumn colours on the plate.
The mains were enormous in size and all came served with home made crisps. I am not sure whether this is a speciality of the region or just of Chez Pilou, we didn’t see it any of the other restaurants we visited. The cote de veau was a huge veal chop gussied up with a light cream sauce and of course the crisps. The sea bass was served as a whole fish, the flesh almost translucent and accompanied by slow roasted tomatoes and chunks of soft potato.
We had eaten so much by this stage that rather than ordering dessert we opted for the cheese plate which was simply a small plate of slices of the local mountain sheeps cheese known as brebis. The cheese seemed almost emblamatic of the mixture of French and Spanish influences that make Biarritz such an interesting place to visit.
Details: 3 rue Larralde, Biarritz, France 64200 (Ph 05 5924 1173)
If you liked reading this you might be interested in reading about my favourite restaurant in Paris – Chateaubriand or if you are more interested in Spanish cuisine this is my review of the brilliant Nou Manolin in Alicante.