A fish-focused cuisine is a given on any part of the French coast, and here in Biarritz it’s no exception. The delicious aroma of grilled sardines and sea hake baking with garlic wafts irresistibly from restaurants along the seafront, and there are some excellent rustic tapas joints down at the fishermen's harbour that dish up a simple menu of seafood with local wine or cider. Look out for red mullet, tuna and many others – though Biarritz’s former whaling industry is long extinguished.
The Espelette pepper (piment d’Espelette) is the vibrant red cornerstone of Basque cuisine; a local man who voyaged with Columbus brought it back from Mexico. By law, true ones must be grown in one of 10 designated communities in the Basque country and today, the autumn ritual is to fill every spare space in the villages around Biarritz with drying peppers.Piment d’Espelette are sold ground, puréed and pickled, and are the staple ingredient in the Basque dish piperade, sautéed with onions and tomatoes and served with scrambled eggs and ham. They have a mild heat and a delicate, fruity flavour, and add a signature splash of red to everything they touch.
Chocoholics, take note: Biarritz has its own Musée du Chocolat, honouring the history and manufacture of this beloved product. Here you can learn about the Basque Country's long association with the cacao bean and ogle at vintage chocolate-making equipment, vintage posters and various other bits of ephemera – but it's the handmade chocolates and frothy hot-chocolate conclusion that always bring the biggest grins.
Those with a sweet tooth must try gâteau Basque when they visit Biarritz. You can find it in different sizes and filled with either crème pâtissière (au crème) or preserved black cherries (au cerise). The pastry is dense and rich made from flour, ground almonds and plenty of butter and sugar… there’s nothing not to love! Particular fans should visit the dedicated Musée de Gâteau Basque in the pretty village of Sare, 27km south on the border with Spain.
This crisp, clean, sparkling white wine (pronounced ‘chock-oh-LEE’) pairs nicely with seafood and charcuterie and is made from the hondarrabi zuri, a grape native to the neighbouring Spanish Basque region. As txakoli is relatively low in alcohol, you can enjoy sipping it all afternoon and evening over never-ending plates of tapas.