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Thursday, November 29, 2018, 17:47
A Bold Vintage
By Zhang Yen
Thursday, November 29, 2018, 17:47 By Zhang Yen

China’s historic roast-duck restaurant Quanjude opens in Bordeaux

There are certain spots in major metropolises that become so iconic the very thing that once made them famous can become overly laurel-resting and highly touristic – think The Galle Face in Colombo, The Ritz in London and Les Deux Magots in Paris, to name just a few. But there’s a most interesting diversion in the case of the Quanjude restaurant in Beijing, a purveyor of the capital’s finest roast duck for more than 150 years, and which has served the likes of Fidel Castro and Richard Nixon from its multi-storey headquarters. This venerable institution now has branches all over the sprawling Chinese city, but chose to open its first European outlet on October 29 in, of all places, the French port city of Bordeaux. 

And Quanjude isn’t opening just anywhere in Bordeaux, but at the renowned 42–44 Allée de Tourny, the address that formerly housed the legendary restaurant Dubern, founded in 1894 and a long-time favourite of the Bordelais. Bordeaux chef Olivier Peyronnet will cook with chef Feng Xu from Quanjude in Beijing and another Franco-Chinese staff member in the new establishment. 

It’s a sign of the times if ever there was one. So how do prices compare? Well, a whole duck in Quanjude in Beijing will set you back RMB 200, while its Bordeaux equivalent registers at €120 (approximately RMB 950). 

Quanjude is owned by Beijing-based packaging millionaire James Yunjie Zhou, who also bought Château Renon in Tabanac on the Cadillac coast of Bordeaux four years ago – a milestone, as the 100th Bordeaux château acquired by the Chinese. (Zhou also owns the Sunshine Creek winery in Australia’s Yarra Valley). 

At the time of the acquisition, Zhou, who also runs fencing and polo clubs in China, said he planned to use Renon as a base for his family in Bordeaux, and as a venue for entertaining people from the Chinese wine industry and the media. As such, visitors can stay at the château in the Pomerol Suite, or in a selection of rooms including the Saint Émilion, Cadillac, Saint Julien and Pessac Léognan. Renon was built in 1802 with 16th-century cellars, and includes stables. 

Zhou has big plans for Quanjude, too, with Bordeaux being the first of more to come. Currently there are plans to open Quanjude in Lyon and Paris, along with other European capitals. 

The menu comprises the best of the Chinese institution, slightly revisited through the filter of French gastronomy. Thus, à la carte starters include foie gras, hibiscus, quince and pear consommé for Gallic palates, along with Quanjude soup – a duck potage composed of fresh vegetables and noodles. And while there’s Peking duck for the main, there’s also an alternative Mallard served in a pie with salad and truffled sauce. Pescatarians aren’t neglected, either, so lobster tail, prawns, Mandarin fish (“served just like in Beijing”, according to the menu) and scallops all feature. There are set lunch and dinner menus, too, for those whose needs are more practical than stately. 

And given the owner’s penchant for French wine, there’s a large preference for Château Renon, which even has its own room at the restaurant. The estate’s red comes from hand-picked merlot (85%) and cabernet sauvignon (15%) grapes, is aged in new barrels and is characterised by a ruby colour, a complex nose that’s woody, roasted and fruity. It’s generally dense and warm, with good depth and length, and with the 2015 being the pick of the recent crop. There’s also a sweet white comprising semillon (85%) and sauvignon (15%) grape varieties. The sweet Cadillac is vinified and aged in new barrels. It bears a signature golden colour, with a woody nose redolent of candied fruits and honey, and goes down a storm with the Miso dessert, described as crème brulée – coffee cloud, caramelised pecan nuts and tonka ice cream. 

For those desireth of a last drop of global gentrification, there’s also the Quanjude Bordeaux Tea Salon, served on authentic Chinese porcelain. Given that Chinese investors have bought around 40% of all Bordeaux vineyards put up for sale in recent years and that by October’s end, an estimated 150 châteaux and wineries are now Chinese-owned in Bordeaux, Quanjude’s arrival is cultural new vintage. (quanjude-bordeaux.com)

Images: Facebook: @quanjudebdx

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