A brief visit to Bordeaux last week, to look at some of Medoc’s finest before the wine parts company with the barrel and become a bottled commodity, although more of my vinous thoughts will be posted next week.

This trip took on some initial responsibilities, as will others ahead, to include more opinions on regional cuisine as I have been asked to edit a new web-site soon to be launched, dealing with food, wine and where appropriate, their mutually inclusive cultures. It was a request that initially sounded daunting on both counts. Firstly my I.T. skills just about stretch to getting this column on screen and written by some-one who until fairly recently was still trying to send e-mails via a vacuum cleaner. But secondly, discovering the history of food with its mobile and oft changing influence on countries, even continents, that was a task above and beyond occasional and mildly chirpy opinion that can be mustered with a following wind and the occasional late night.

What was required was a blow by blow account of the interaction between agriculture and genearl food supply and regional processing in conjunction with the intertwined viniculture.

I responded with the initial view that Nigella, Hugh or even Delia might be better placed to join in on this one. After a brief discussion of spiralling technical costs and available fee structures I quickly got my answer. I was promised eventual wealth in abundance but for the immediate future how was flattery for me. Job done, I signed up that morning.

So, by coincidence, I was to fly in to Bergerac and drive westwards to Bordeaux. Why not test my skills under actual conditions? Happy to run it up the flagpole, I read a limited section in the Oxford Companion to Food and e-mailed my contacts in France. I asked that upon arrival, they directed me to the peaks of authentic foods in the area. Cuisine that was embedded in the regional sensibility, food with a story, food with an evident past. I could not have been better serve, the response was generous, open, and offered with pride. Their regional heritage was under as much threat from international food and the eponymous McDonalds as anywhere else in the Western world.

Bordeaux, as far back as our early Plantagenet Kings, was a most important French port on the Garonne, a river which eventually feeds into the vast Gironde estuary hitting the Atlantic on the South West coast of France.

It was Henry 1 who took Normandy and began the colonisation of this part of France with later Kings’ increasing the land grab all the way to the Pyrenees. It was interesting that one of the local dishes later had a sting in its tail from an earlier monarchy, as I was to taste some nine hundred years later.

On day one we were introduced to the epitomé of traditional river-side dining. Parking up on the edge of the Gironde we wandered over gravel to a group of tables under fairly basic umbrellas with a large hut beyond displaying a couple of wood ovens and a dangerously supported, butane hob.

I am sure many of you will be aware of the cult seafood restaurant, Cookies, up on the North Norfolk coast at Salthouse, well, think London Hilton in comparison to our French venue that day. These little culinary outposts are known as Guingettes (pronounced ganget) and are not found anywhere else in France.

When advised not to go a la carte, but to leave the ordering to the owner based on the mornings catch, I was happy enough. What followed was a festival of shellfish.

Shrimp the size of a thumbnail, bleached white in vast boiling pots, edible without removal of head or shell, baby whelks boiled in water spiced with star anise, the sweetest of cockles, oysters as fresh as a spring morning and an assortment of clams. When it comes to Atlantic shellfish the razor clam came high on my list of delights, lightly simmered with garlic and wild parsley. I find the shells by the way all along the Holcombe beach, but have yet to find them on a menu – am I missing something?

After an interim course of local marshland snails cooked in tomato and washed down with a local St Emilion, we headed towards the eel department. Small black eels, boiled in salt water from the Atlantic and dressed in local olive oil, then roasted. The big shock and brand new to me, were the lampreys. Roasted on the bone, with the diameter of a cricket ball, this was something of a challenge. Locally sourced but British inspired, wonderful and inexpensive like almost all of the above. I was taken aback by the economics and honesty of produce.

Shame then that the originator of our Plantagenet dynasty, Henry 1, apparently died of a ‘surfeit of lampreys’

I got back alive, enthused and converted.

But then Norfolk has always had its own shellfish to mirror anything in Europe, but I’ll be discussing the cheapest meat on any coastline soon – and that is the glorious mussel from Moreston.