Monday, October 20, 2008

Time in the Belly

It has been said (by those outside Lyon as well) that Lyon is the "belly" of France. The number of restaurants here is staggering, as is the amount of great chefs it has produced. Alain Chappelle, Jacques Pépin, and Daniel Boulud all come from the area and spent time cooking here. Easily the greatest is Paul Bocuse who's name adorns Les Halles, the "main" indoor shopping market in Lyon. Think a high end Granville Island Public Market.

Even though we did spend a lot of time cooking, a trip to Lyon would be nothing without some dining out. Even our first night was spent in a small place called L'Epicerie - Bistrot à Tartines.

Tartines are not, as I once thought, anything like a tarte tatin. In fact, I discovered this in the Bistrot that evening.  A tartine is a piece of bread with a topping. Any topping ... cheese, meat, veggies. J's was a sort of chicken salad, and mine was boudin noir on top of stewed apples. Very simple, but really the essence of cusisine in Lyon.  The tartines, a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, and dessert, set us back about $25.

One of my favorite aspects of the French culinary scene is how well they do chocolate and pastries. To that end, Lucy steered us towards Bernachon. In my not so expert opinion, Bernachon is the best chocolatier in Lyon, and the best I have tried so far in France. They not only make everything in house, they roast their own cocoa beans. The result is a chocolate so rich and nutty that it is delicious enough on its own.

Bernachon has a salon de thé next door which serves a light lunch, but who's kidding who? You're going there for the chocolate. Just about everything in the store is available in the salon, but according to a couple locals we spoke with, there are two must-try items:

L'Éventail au Chocolat (Chocolate Fan)

Le Presidente

The epitome of Lyonnaise dining is the bouchon. A bouchon is not about haute cuisine, it's about good, basic food often cooked by the owner and his family. The food is mostly pork based, although duck and beef do make an appearance. Lucy and her husband Loic took us to Le Garet, and the best meal I had this trip. The dinner featured the typical Lyonaisse dish, the quenelle. Amazingly light in taste, but incredibly rich, it was served in a wonderful crayfish sauce. Surprisingly however, this was only the second best dish of the evening:  Pig Salad!

Les Cochonailles is essentialy, sausage (made with some veal as well), cured snout (the flat looking stuff on the right), trotters (on the bottom) and tripe (at the top). The dark pile in the middle is lentils. The tripe, trotters and lentils were served with a creamy vinaigrette.

Les Cochonailles (thanks Lucy!)
What this picture doesn't show is how the salad came to the table on a tray with 5 large bowls, each containing one of the parts of the "salad", and you could have as much as you liked. Other parts of the meal were like this, including the cheese course, which saw an entire wheel of cheese make its home at our table, and my dessert, a simple dish of cassis sorbet came with a bottle of Marc de Borgogne, and the bottle sat at the table until I was finished with it.

The room was packed with regulars (our neighbour ate there at least once a week) and our waiter continually dropped by to make sure we were enjoying ourselves. That alone stood out as the "quality check" rarely if ever occurs in a French retaurant.


Les Halles Paul Bocuse
102 Cours Lafayette 69003 Lyon, France

2, Rue Monnaie 69002 Lyon, France

42, Cours Franklin Roosevelt 69006 Lyon, France

Le Garet
7, rue Garet, 69001 Lyon, France


  1. We'll be spending a night in Lyon this week between medical appointments and we'll have to dine at Le Garet and imagine you're there with us.

    Thanks for the coffee, by the way!

  2. That would be les cochonailles. Mmmm. We should go back there again. What a great meal in addition to the owner being a sports fan.

  3. Abra, you will LOVE Le Garet. In addition to the food being terrific, like Lucy said, the owner (Emmanuel) is a sports nut. Mention hockey, or even better, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and you'll have made a friend for life!

    Thanks for "les cochonailles" Lucy. Too much wine and too few notes!


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