Postcards from Lyon

Lyon, France’s gastronomic capital and the third largest city, is a pretty and easy place for visitors to navigate. Everything is walking distance.

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Here are some postcards from Lyon.

Two rivers run through the city – the Rhône and the Saône. Staying somewhere between the two is a good choice because it’s easy to walk everywhere.

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There are three main shopping streets between the two rivers that are wide and pedestrianised. Walking through Lyon you’ll see large ‘places’ or squares, parks and gardens, statues and public art, and even an old-fashioned carousel.

The old centre is bustling with cafés, bars, and Lyon’s bistros known as bouchons that spill out onto the pavement.

 

Markets

The Halles Gourmet Food Market is a feast for the eyes, as well as for your stomach. Uncover in a mall, you’ll fine a hundred different types of cheeses, patisseries displaying sweet temptations, neat rows of colourful macarons, salamis of different sizes hanging above deli counters, butchers offering cuts of meat from every part of the animal, oysters locked tight in their shells packed into ice baskets, waiting to be prised open, terrines, pates, parfaits, quiches, pies, olives, and stacked fruit and vegetables stalls.

There are also wine bars and cafes within Halles. It’s well laid out, clean and organised – very French. Sunday brunch is a popular time to go to Halles. During our Saturday mid-afternoon visit, we almost had the place to ourselves.

Verdict: Lyon is a worthy stop over for two days or so, particularly so if you are a foodie

FACT FILE

Halles de Lyon
102 Cours Lafayette, 69003 Lyon, Francia
+33 4 78 62 39 33

 

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Lyon – a traditional Sunday lunch at Brasserie Georges

Brassiere Georges, established in 1839, was a big recommendation from our waiter Joël from Les Files Gueles. He said on Sunday, it’s busy with French families who get together for a traditional lunch.

It was a 25-minute walk from our hotel, out of the main hub of Lyon. It felt like we were in suburbia. Walking in, it was like entering a huge train station. The place was massive with high ceilings, huge windows, ornate light fittings, booths of tables with red bench seats set in long rows, tiled floor, white linen, and French groups and families everywhere. It must have sat 400 people or more. Smartly dressed waiters in waistcoats and bow ties were scurrying around delivering dishes, or at tables mixing beef tartar in front of diners and serving dishes from platters.

The menu featured traditional dishes, speciality Lyonaisse dishes, and some special sauerkraut dishes, which I thought was a bit unusual. For entree, I choose the Lyonaisse salad, like a Caesar salad with chicken, bacon, croutons, and poached egg. The chicken was a sliced roulade that had been layered with ham and smoky bacon. The salad was fresh, crunchy, and seasoned perfectly.

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Zorba had cold mullet with tomato. His dish was pretty to look at, and the tomato complemented the mullet beautifully.

For main, my eyes popped out of my head when Zorba’s sauerkraut and sausage came to the table. It was the biggest dish I’ve seen served in France with a soccer ball size of sauerkraut. Oh dear, what affects will have later on? The efficient waiter served Zorba’s meal at the table and left the platter on a rack warmed with tea-light candles. Zorba happily chomped through the frankfurt, thick slab of bacon, the sausage, gammon and potatoes, as well as eating all that sauerkraut. He hates to waste good food, clearly.

 

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I ordered veal in white wine with mashed potatoes that was delicate and delicious. The white wine sauce was creamy and thick, the veal was beautifully tender, and the rustic mash was perfectly seasoned. It says a lot when I don’t have to reach for the salt. However, I was so engrossed by the amount of food in front of Zorba that I actually forgot to take a photo of my dish – sorry!

Every so often, the waiters would stop and clap and ‘Happy Birthday’ would start to play on an organ as a birthday cake is brought out to one of the tables. All patrons would clap and sing, including us – it was lovely! Well, it was lovely for the first three times, before it started becoming a bit of an interruption. It must’ve happened 12 times during our lunch.

For dessert, we shared a crunchy chocolate praline. The top layer was smooth like a mousse, and the bottom layer was biscuity and contained crisp bits of praline. It was gorgeous, and I was glad to share it.

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We had a pot (500ml) of Chablis that was just gorgeous. I’m really enjoying the white wine in France. It’s less acidic – or so it feels – than Australian whites.

Our final bill for two entrees, two mains, one dessert, a pot of wine and bottle of sparking water came to 108 Euro. It was a fantastic experience to a traditional Sunday lunch at a French Brassiere.

Verdict: 9/10 – come for a traditional French lunch experience

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FACT FILE

Brasserie Georges

30 Cours de Verdun, 69002 Lyon

Tel: +33 (0)4 72 56 5454

www.brasseriegeorges.com

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Lyon – Le Nord, a Paul Bocuse Brasserie

Lyon’s most celebrated chef, Paul Bocuse, has several brasseries in Lyon called North, South, East and West across the city. I reserved us a table for dinner at Le Nord, the closest one to our hotel.

 

Walking inside, it was just how I imagined a French brasserie to be – ornate globed light fittings, deep red walls broken up with wood panelling, white table clothes and napkins, quality cutlery and glassware, mirrors and black and white photographic prints on the walls. The wait staff were smartly dressed in black and whites with ties, vests and uniform aprons.

We were shown to our table and immediately passed a drinks menu as the waitress asked us if we would like an aperitif. I choose Lyon’s famous aperitif of champagne with crème di cassis (red currant liqueur), Zorbs had a beer.

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Entrée was foie gras of duck’s liver for me, and Zorba chose Lyonaisse pork sausage with pistachio. My foie gras was very butter and rich. It was delicious, but I could hardly finish the serve I found it so rich. In fact, I didn’t, I gave a big chunk of it to Zorba. Zorba’s sausage was surprisingly presented, a thick slice of sausage encased in bread. The bread was fine, but the sausage sang. It was salty, meaty, and packed full of savoury pork flavour.

Main course was a tough decision for me. I chose steak tartar, classic with egg yolk. Zorba chose cod. My tartar was studded with tiny capers and herbs. It was soft, delicate and the meat just melted on my tongue. Again, I found this dish very rich, so Zorba finished it off for me.   Zorba’s cod was flaky, cooked perfectly, and served with potatoes and bacon. His dishes tonight were the picks of our meal.

The wine we chose was a Burgogne Pinot Noir, 2012 (26 euro) that was fine. Drinkable, yet not amazing.

The service was very efficient, and rather quite snippity. I think it just could be the French way. It felt a little cold – like the wait staff were devoid of friendliness or personality.

Verdict: 8/10 – It was a pleasant meal out, but a lot less memorable than lunch.

 

FACT FILE

Le Nord – Brassierie de Paul Bocuse

18 Rue Neuve, 69002 Lyon

Tel: +33 (0)4 72106969

http://www.nordsudbrasseries.com

 

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Lyon – where to stay and eat

Lyon is France’s third largest city and gastronomic capital. Four hours by train from Nice, we travelled in first class for just an extra 2 Euro – a special that SNCF had for the 7.25am train. Ah, first class. Love that.

Stay

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Boscolo, a four star hotel situated between the Rhône and the Saône rivers, a short walk to the old town and a few steps away from the main shopping precinct. We got a ‘value deal’ from Booking.com and paid 262 Euro for two nights, about A$385 – which was good value. The hotel was comfortable enough, but quite dated.  After we showered, we discovered that our toilet leaked quite badly. The smell was not pleasant, as you can imagine.  Lucky for us, we were moved and upgraded to a suite that didn’t have a toilet that leaked – a much bigger and nicer room.

Eat

Being the gastromonic capital of France, I had read that the bistros in Lyon, known as bouchons, were not all created equal. Like in Nice, care must be taken when choosing where to eat.Lyon_Les Fines Gueules_1

The old town has several great paved streets filled with cafes, bouchons and brassieres spilling out onto the pavement. Locals and visitors packed these places enjoying an al fresco lunch.  Zorba, who is now becoming a bit of a master and finding great places to eat, kept us walking – turning down one lane way after another, past many appealing looking cafes.  When we were out of the thick of the old town epicentre, he stopped, in front of Les Fines Gueules. There was one free table for two out the front, recently vacated by the previous diners. The rest of the tables were packed and I could hear a lot of French being spoken by the seated patrons. Casting my eye on the door, I saw accreditation sticker from Only Lyon, the city’s tourism body, French Gastronomie Assoc, Michelin Guide, and an award of excellence from Trip Advisor. We took a seat.

Les Fines Gueules 

We decided to dive straight into mains to save an appetite for dinner. Our general rule is to only eat one meal out per day to try and save our waistlines (our first trip to Italy in 2010, Zorba put on 9kg in 7 weeks, and me 4kg. Not doing that again).

I had to try the Lyonaisse speciality quenelle, a light whipped flour, egg and cream dumpling – much like a giant gnocchi. It is sometimes whipped with fish, and almost always served with a shell fish bisque sauce with mushrooms. It was very tasty, the sauce was made with crab and mushroom, and the quenelle itself was soft and light.

Lyon_Les Fines Gueules_2Zorba had sirloin steak with potato dauphinoise – his steak was cooked beautifully and perfect medium rare. The demi-glaze was rich, and the potatoes were to die for. The best ‘potato bake’ I’ve ever had.

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We had a ‘pot’ of house rosé wine, 500ml (11.50 euro)

Given the food was good, we, or, decided we had to have dessert – the chocolate fondant was too tempting to resist. It was crisp on the outside and gooey and chocolately inside. Perfect.

 

Our total bill came to 56 euro, for two mains, one dessert, wine and water.

Our waiter Joël said confirmed what I had read and said that in the old town, about 80 per cent of bouchons bring in their food that is prepared in factories and that dishes are not made in house or on site.  He then gave us several recommendations of places to eat during our stay in Lyon.

Verdict: 9.5 / 10. Sensational bistro style food that is made on site and  good value for money

FACT FILE

Grand Hotel Boscolo B4
11, rue Grolée, 69002 Lyon
Tel: +33 (0)472 404545
http://www.boscolograndhotellyon.com/en

 Les Files Gueules 
16, rue Lainerie, 69005 Lyon
Tel: +33 (0)4 78289914
www.fines-gueules.fr

 

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