Lost & Found: Lyon

3-5 October 2008

My love affair with French food continued during my eating marathon in Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France.

Eat at:

Le Bouchon des Carnivores.

We arrived an hour late for our reservation at La Mere Jean and my intense hunger meant an emergency decision to decamp to another location. Luckily, Rue des Marroniers was a small cobblestone street brimming with restaurants, so we headed to Le Bouchon des Carnivores, a tightly-packed vegetarians-not-welcome restaurant decorated in a riot of cow paraphernalia. Obviously the extreme hunger had addled our brains, as we all selected the four course lunch menu as well as chomping on baskets of perfectly wood-fired bread. Ready, set, bon appetit! First course: escargots in creamy sauce, perfect with said bread. Second course: somehow in a meat restaurant I managed to order a baked pike mousse (wasn't sure what a quenelle de brochet was, just that it was traditional) which came in a fragrant shellfish rose sauce and rice. Jenny and Majella ordered enormous hunks of steak and Brendan had a perfectly seasoned steak tartare. Cheese course: traditional Lyonnaise fromage blanc and soft cheese, smeared onto more bread. By the time the enormours gooey chocolate tarte came I just wanted to curl up and sleep. With a bottle of the recommended Cote du Rhone and menus of 23.50 euros = 30 euros each.


Brasserie Georges

. Despite the fact that we lurched from lunch barely able to walk, we felt compelled to keep eating. Dining in the cavernous chandeliered interior of Brasserie Georges, to the rhythms of a brassy jazz band, was like being on a glamorous Cunard liner. The Art Deco building been a restaurant and microbrewery since 1836, and it's hosted the likes of Sartre, Rodin, Zola and Hemingway (who seems to have eaten his way around a lot of Europe). On a Saturday night, the buzzing dining room was filled with singing sailors, stylish teenagers, raucous locals imbibing enormous glass cylinders of beer and families with young kids. It seemed especially popular for birthday celebrations, as our dinner was frequently interrupted by the lights dimming, the band striking up 'Happy Birthday' and 600 people singing and clapping as a waiter whipped in with the house speciality Bombe Alaska lit with sparklers. We shared a dozen rather grassy escargot, a gratinee of sweetly fragrant French onion soup with Madeira and egg (possibly the best I've ever had), a delicious chocolate praline mousse cake, a less well-executed raspberry macaroon, and for mains Jenny and I had garlicky, buttery, fiddly fried frogs legs. With a half bottle of Beaujolais, 33 euros each.

Ecailler Cellerier Chez Georges

. Sunday morning brunch for the Lyonnaise seems to involve crowding with friends around oyster bars. I don't go gaga for oysters, but the huge, creamy Speciales d'Isigny really did evoke the freshness of the sea (and no metallic aftertaste). Six freshly shucked oysters and a glass of white wine only 11 euros.

Boulangerie de L'ile Barbe Jocteur

. We'd been speculating on the origin of the flourescent pink tarts for a while and finally decided to try one from the pyramid selection at Jocteur. It turned out to be a very sweet, praline tart with rose sugar glazing - good to share between four, but headache-inducingly sweet for one.

Chabert et Fils

. The Chabert family dominates Rue des Marroniers with four restaurants, including Le Bouchon des Carnivores. This traditional bouchon came recommended by a Lyon resident, and on first impressions it looked positive - lots of winding little rooms teetering with random knick-knacks and happy families and friends sitting down to a long Sunday lunch. I really enjoyed the heartwarming cheesiness of my croque monsieur and the gratin of prawns and fish with tagliatelle. Apparently the creamy roquefort ravioli entree (part of the three course menu) was also delicious. Unfortunately, two of our party decided to try the traditional Lyonnaise andouillette, little knowing that it would be a stinky, turd-like intestine sausage stuffed with other bits of intestine. Jenny literally couldn't eat hers while Brendan manfully powered through three-quarters of his (exclaiming unconvincingly that it was 'quite good') before giving up. Three course menu 17.90 euros.

Shop (for food) at:

Maison Malartre

. This stall specialises in quenelles, escargots and cardons. After the dinner at Brasserie Georges, I was inspired to make my own escargots - all you have to do is buy the tinned snails and the shells separately, then make your own garlic and herb butter. Impressive for a dinner party.

Au P'tit Jardin

. This brightly overflowing vegetable and fruit stall is manned by Daniel and his daughter. A large crowd lined up to buy their selection of colourful mushrooms - creamy pied de mouton, charcoal black trompettes and rich brown chanterelles. An enormous handful of each came to about 10 euros, which I had in a simple pasta with herbs from my garden. 


. I have no idea why you'd name a saucisson after the son of God, but the fat-barrelled Jesus de Lyon is a Lyonnaise speciality and the charcuterie Sibila is the place to buy it. Great for lunch with some olive bread.

Chocolaterie Canonica. If you haven't eaten enough chocolate on your holiday, there is a last ditch handmade chocolate shop at Geneva airport. Seven dark chocolates, all delicious, was 5.80 euros.

To do:

A cooking class at  Atelier de cuisine Philippe Lechat. This Michelin-starred chef runs cooking lessons from this sleek red and silver kitchen in the market. What a great idea when you're surrounded by such inspiring, fresh produce.

Visit Notre Dame. The steep climb through the winding streets of Vieux Lyon, through the park and up to Fourviere hill, is a good way to work off the bouchon-laden calories. Soak in the pretty view of the twinkling city lights bounded by two rivers in the shadow of the large cathedral.

Stay at:

My Suite Appart-Hotel. I'd booked this hotel because it was close to the train station. So it is a little out of the way, but the main city centre is easily accessible by the very efficient metro or walking. It was also a bargain at 70 euros per double - the rooms each had a queen size bed, a comfortable fold out couch, kitchenette and sparkling bathroom, and an ample breakfast buffet was included.

Tip for Geneva Airport. If you exit the baggage claim, there is a small machine where you can get a free public transport ticket, valid for 80 minutes. What a great idea, especially if you've just arrived and don't have Swiss franc coins.

Le Bouchon des Carnivores: 8 Rue des Marroniers, 69002 Lyon

T: +33 4 78 42 97 69

Brasserie Georges: 30 cours de Lyon, 69002 Lyon

T: +33 4 72 56 54 54 

Ecailler Cellerier Chez Georges: Les Halles de Lyon, 102, cours Lafayette

T: +33 4 78 62 36 68

Boulangerie d'lile Barbe Jocteur. Les Halles de Lyon 102, cours Lafayette (and other locations)

Chabert et Fils: 11 Rue des Marroniers, 69002 Lyon

T: +34 4 78 37 01 94

Maison Malartre: Les Halles de Lyon 102 cours Lafayette, 69003 Lyon

T: +33 4 78 62 32 26

Au P'tit Jardin: Les Halles de Lyon102 cours Lafayette,  69003 Lyon

T: +33 4 78 60 79 20

Sibilia: Les Halles de Lyon, 102, Cours Lafayette, 69003 Lyon, France
T: +33 4 78 62 36 28

Chocolaterie Canonica: Aeroport de Geneve

T: +41 22 717 76 76

Atelier de cuisine Phiippe Lechat: 102 cours Lafayette, 69003 Lyon

T: +33 6 16 99 33 39

Fondation Fourviere: 8 place de Fourviere, 69005 Lyon

T : +33 4 78 25 13 01

My Suite Appart Hotel: 111 Boulevard Vivier Merle, 69003 LYON 

T: +33 4 72 84 10 40