Located in the Basque Country, a mere thirty-minute drive to Spain, Biarritz is a buzzy surf town often regarded as Europe’s answer to California. The younger generation of dread-locked surfers and colourful artists counter-balance the pristinely-cladden wealthy Europeans who, ever since Emperor Napoleon III built a palace for his wife Eugenie (naturally, shaped in the letter E), have been flocking to the town to reside in their splendid second homes for the summer months.
This clash creates a harmonious pairing of flip-flops and boat shoes, biker bars and Michelin-starred restaurants, as campervans park outside of lavish homes and straddling wetsuits dangle from aristocratic-looking boudoirs. The town is teeming with people, particularly over the summer months when the surfer population streams in.
Parades of bars and restaurants line the centre of town, ready to quench the thirsts and tickle the tastebuds of locals and visitors alike. Come nightfall, revellers of all ages spill onto the streets, music pumping and conversation flowing, with no excuse needed to ignite a daily street party.
Despite this, the area retains a seaside chill and a detached laissez-faire attitude that allows all the mental clutter effortlessly accrued in London to blow away with the Atlantic’s breeze. Here’s a selection of places to eat, drink and play in this chilled little retreat.
LUNCH: Truffle omelettesAfter wilfully weaving our way through parades of locally-sourced produce, we pulled up a stool at Maison Balme – the town’s resident truffle connoisseurs who have been perfecting their art for four generations. Hidden behind stacks of saucisson, cheese and pâté, stand two truffle-experts-cum-chefs, each equipped with a frying pan and lashings of truffle infused oil.
Expect pillowy omelettes, infused with a thick truffle oil that saturate the taste buds with every bite. Pair with a glass of champagne to reach staggering new levels of pre-lunchtime indulgence. €7 for a truffle omelette, €10 to add a few slithers of truffle-infused saucisson, jambon and cheese. More on Maison Balme here.
MARKET: Do some shoppingAfter lunch, we cobbled together the best of our textbook French to do the lengths at the vast central indoor market. Manoeuvring our way through huddles of merry locals, we nibbled on copious amounts of cheese, browsed rows of pristinely presented pâtés, pestos and soups, devoured air-light croissants and sipped on notably generous taster servings of bio-dynamic wine from the vineyard down the road.
We then waddled over to the oyster bar in the interconnected fish market. Here we shot oysters and sipped on (more) champagne surrounded by slabs of fresh fish, giant gambas and mussels plucked from the ocean a matter of hours ago.
BURGER: Biarritz’s best?Assured by a friend who has been living in Biarritz for over 20 years that these are the best in town, we were eager to nab a table at Le CAB, an unassuming burger joint with a slender interior situated on the town’s main foodie strip.
The team at La CAB place their focus on local produce, inventively weaved together on a selection of meats or a juicy soya steak. Toppings included fois gras, raclette and truffles from the guys at Maison Balme, meticulously meshed together to create little oozing balls of burger. The sides consisted of moreish slices of crisp-chip hybrid, gone in a matter of minutes. Le CAB, 62 Rue Gambetta, burgers range from €10-14.
BAR: The Beach HouseA 15 minute cab ride from the city centre brought us to the Beach House in Anglet. During the day, the DJs spent the afternoon playing chilled funk and soul as we lounged by the pool slurping on a particularly punchy, passionfruit-laced punch.
As night began to fall the unpolluted night’s sky became visible and the bar swiftly transformed as the locals started streaming in. With the flick of a button, the pool was covered by wooden panels and turned into a dancefloor conveniently as the DJs simultaneously started adding afro-beats to their funk mixes.
Out front, iron fire pits are lit on the sizable sand-coated terrace while the boat that had been lying dormant and a bit shipwrecked-looking during the day transformed into another teaming bar. 26 Avenue des Dauphins, Anglet. More here.
PIZZA: CiBoAs we entered CiBo, we were met by a band of chirpy Italian chefs in an open kitchen at the mouth of this sleek scandi-design restaurant. The intimate venue contained a mezzanine dining area and a range of pizzas, half Rossa (tomato base) the other, bianco (cheese base).
The pizzas were delicately tailored with generous amounts of fresh, local produce resting atop puffy, doughy crusts, offset with a wood-fired crunch. We went for a Nenette from the Rossa selection, which saw shavings of parmesan from the local market as sizeable and rich as the cured meat they nestle next too, cherry tomatoes and a smooth tomato base.
The warm atmosphere in the low-lit venue had been generated by the warm owners and staff who seemed as enthused to see us, a couple embarking on a three course meal as they did to see people ducking in to ask for directions. CiBo Pizza, 51 Rue Gambetta. More here.
SUNSET DINNER: OstalamerA short taxi-ride from the city centre sits the a standalone, two storey restaurant and bar, Ostalamer. Upon entry, we headed straight to the vast outside terrace to watch the sky implode in an array of orange and pink as the sun called it a day and nestled into the beckoning sea. Cocktail-in-hand, speaker-system blaring out a soothing accompanying beat, the chatter and laughter-filled terrace of the buzzing building subsided briefly as the sun disappeared for the day.
It was time to pop back inside the chic white, black and red interiors dotted with the work of local artists, to devour a gargantuan garlic-laced hake, the catch of the day. The pristine white meat fell effortlessly from its bones as we nibbled at it alongside copious amounts of sides and creamy house white wine. The effortlessly cool atmosphere curated in this all-female run restaurant proved the ideal spot from which to to bask in the beauty of dusk in Biarritz. 160 Route des Plages, Acotz. More here.