After our ski trip to Zermatt, we had 4 days in France before leaving back for Singapore on New Year’s Day itself. Strangely, Y and I was especially itching to explore another part of France and was kinda tired of spending it all in Paris, so we researched and Lyon seemed rather compelling. It takes just under 2 hours on the TGV to shuttle between Lyon and Paris, making it so convenient, so we drove to Lyon from Zermatt and returned to Paris on the last day of 2014 on the TGV (Book your TGV tickets here online).
Street near Hotel De Ville metro on a sunny cold day.
View of Place Bellecour – gorgeous blue skies.
“Why are you going to Lyon?” seemed a frequent enough question by our friends. “Why not?” was my answer. It seemed intriguing to us this city was named in 1925 by the French food critic Curnonsky as “the world capital of gastronomy”. Further research online into this gourmet paradise revealed to us it was the land of Paul Bocuse. He is like the “Godfather of Gastronomy” here – holding honours as the oldest 3 Michelin Star restaurant in the world since 1965.
Other than this, he owns other bistros dotting the city centre, the Institut Paul Bocuse which is one of the most reputable culinary schools in the world, Les Halles which is the best food market in Lyon, and he founded the prestigious Bocuse D’Or which is like the Olympic competition for culinary cooking on an international level. This man is just amazing! Enough reason for us to explore Lyon on top of the multiple bouchons and other modern bistros.
So here’s my shortlist of the must tries when in Lyon:
1. Les Halles was founded in 1971, and is a large food market with 50 over vendors selling the best of Lyon produce ranging from cured meats, desserts, black and white truffles, Bresse chicken, amazing cheeses, freshest of seafood and more. Many of these vendors supply the food to his famous 3 star restaurant and sometimes we hear he is still spotted walking around speaking with the food vendors.
Be sure to buy some sausages from Sibilla like us and you have to try the frog legs at the last stall towards the back of the building. That shop was so full, we ended up getting takeaway frog legs and standing in some corner eating them, it was so good! Some other ones worth checking out but we were so full to do so – La Mere Richard for their cheeses, Clostan for their macarons, La Maison Rousseau for their fresh seafood. We would have bought some Bresse chicken to bring back to Singapore if we could. Check out some of the food highlights below.
Clostan – famous for their pastries, a pity we were too full to eat them, but it was a visual feast.
Mere Richard – great selection of cheeses including the St Marcellin’s cheese.
Bresse chicken galore!
Maison Rousseau – seafood platters
Sibilia – charcuterie and sausages galore.
Lyon sausages – hmm we bought one of each almost!
Amazing stacks of cheese.
Fresh catch of the day.
Super yummy frog legs – must try!
This guy seemed rather tired or serious cooking endless pans of frog legs.
And if you are into cooking equipment like me, you can pop in to Thevanon just across the street from Les Halles, but I didn’t find it as impressive as the shops found in kitchen street in Tokyo in terms of selection. They had this wonderful crepe pan that Y and I so wanted to buy, but R stopped us.
Thevanon – cookware shop.
It’s a given that a visit to the famous L’Auberge Du Pont de Collonges is a must when in Lyon if you are willing to part with 400 euros per person (yup that was the price for food and wine for us), just a 15 minutes car ride from our hotel north of Lyon. Finally, we reached this rather amusingly strange looking building that looked like it could have appeared in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. A staff was waiting for us and led us into the restaurant.
Facade of Paul Bocuse – L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges.
The restaurant looked like it had stood the test of time, and nothing had changed for this last 50 odd years. The decor had a strange old fashioned opulence to it, not really my cup of tea honestly, but who cares, we were here for the food. What’s nice is Mrs Paul Bocuse would walk around to say hello to all the guests, and we hear she makes it a point daily to pop in to greet the guests at the start of the dinner to make sure we were enjoying ourselves. If you are lucky, you may spot Mr Paul Bocuse himself dropping by sometimes. We opted for a la carte rather than the tasting menus so that we could pick what we really wanted to try. My favourite had to be the truffle soup and the bresse chicken cooked in bladder.
Retro opulence in the restaurant.
Paul Bocuse name on even the plates.
Amuse bouche to start.
The very famous truffle soup – created for the French president in 1975.
Escargots in shells that are actually made from ceramics! Wasn’t so tasty though.
Bresse chicken cooked in bladder ‘La Mere Fillioux’.
Bresse chicken served with morel mushrooms in cream sauce with vegetables and some rice.
I thought I had died and gone to dessert heaven when I saw the cheese and dessert trolley descending on us. Never in my life have I seen such a condensed packed selection of cheeses in one trolley, and the desserts, oh my gosh, there were so many choices they had to be lined up in a row. We could pick as much as we wanted, but I was so full already, but we still managed to pick a few that looked super yummy to us – like the rum baba, tarte tatin, creme brulee, and some fresh berries and fruits on the side to share.
Cheese trolley – amazing selection to choose from!
Dessert trolley part 1.
Dessert trolley part 3.
Soft creamy cheeses.
Tarte tatin with some fresh lychees.
Rum Baba with vanilla ice cream.
Fresh berries with creme fraiche and sauce.
After we felt like we could burst from the meal, we took a short tour around the restaurant, peeked at the kitchen and ventured to the area where they sold his cookbooks and other cooking souvenirs like knifes, glassware and more. Well, in typical Lovey fashion, I ended up buying some nifty knifes and 2 cookbooks from here before we said au revoir to this wonderful classic French institution.
Paul Bocuse cookbooks, and other cooking souvenirs to purchase.
Spick and span kitchen, essential for any chef who takes pride in their work.
One could literally spend a good few days just eating through all the Bocuse establishments, unfortunately we had to be selective as we wanted to try a variety of food including some of the local bouchons as well. To explain according to Wikipedia facts, “a bouchon is a type of restaurant found in Lyon, France, that serves traditional Lyonnaise cuisine, such as sausages, duck pâté or roast pork”.
On our first night we tried Le Comptoir Des Marronniers (8 rue Marronniers, 69002 Lyon, France, Tel: +33 4 72 77 10 00) kindly recommended by our concierge , conveniently located near Hotel Le Royal at Place Bellecour, where we were staying. Pardon me that I can’t share too much detailed information on the food here, think we were too knackered from the drive from Zermatt. The bouchon had a nice lively vibe to it, and we were lucky the staff serving us could speak some English, and he recommended us a few dishes. It was definitely a good introduction to some classic Lyonnaise cuisine including trying a quenelle made from pike fish with lobster sauce. Rather interesting but I personally found it a bit monotonous in taste after a while. But the other entrees and mains we shared was pretty hearty and nice for our first night in Lyon.
Le Comptoir Des Marroniers facade.
Fun quirky Lyon style cartoon and posters lined the walls.
Oh goodness, i don’t remember what this was, but it was super yummy.
Lyon sausage wrapped in toast.
R’s main dish.
Quenelle with lobster sauce.
Le Garet (7 Rue du Garet, 69001 Lyon, France, Tel:+33 4 78 28 16 94), another classic bouchon located near the Hotel De Ville metro in a back street alley. This bouchon was heaving with people when we arrived for lunch and I would recommend reservations for this rather popular place, the good bouchons are always full. I had researched this online and saw it had a rating of 4.3, and was apparently very popular with the locals.
Spanning over 2 floors, the interiors has its own quirkiness of tight tables, funny caricatures of the chef and other posters and even the ladies’ toilet looked like someone’s dressing room / toilet, complete with lingerie left lying around. The wine list was the most original, not printed but compiled in an old notebook, all handwritten, I liked the feel of this totally!
Interiors of Le Garet.
Retro 50s pin up model on Le Garet plates.
Wine list in a notebook.
They started us on some complimentary sausage and fried pork lard and pig skin, which was so scrumptious! We ordered their in-house classic sausages with potatoes and goose rilette. The latter came in a Staub dish with pickles on the side, and we could help ourselves as much to it as possible. The sausage was so delicious, made in house, it was hard to find something like this at Les Halles food market, am still dreaming of it now!
Le Garet sausage with potatoes.
I am very selective in eating offal, it’s not something I would actively order, but I have to say, be brave and order some to try at Le Garet. If you are thinking it could be smelly, taste wierd, toss all these preconceptions out! The way they did the veal stomach, feet and the calf stomach was out of this world, it did not even taste like it came from these parts. This was surprisingly my favourite dish of the whole meal. We had the skatefish and the fried calf stomach for mains which was excellent as well. The skatefish was probably a bit more boring, but cooked very well, and I found it a nice balance to the rather heavy meats. And of course, don’t forget to end off with some cheese if you still have some space for them. Our whole meal cost only 90 euros in total.
Platter of offal – a must order here!
Fried calf stomach with potatoes.
Cheese to end – St Nitare cheese, St Marcelin Cheese and goat cheese.
Yup, I feel like a pig after dining here, but it was soo good!
After eating through 3 days of food – night and day, we had to say goodbye to Lyon and also Hotel Le Royal, which was a nice quaint hotel in one of the best locations at Place Bellecour. What’s really funny is that we realised on our last day that Hotel Le Royal was right next to Institut Paul Bocuse where they serve great valued lunches cooked up by their students, we missed out on this given the limited amount of time in Lyon.
I have a feeling I be back in Lyon again soon for their gourmet eats (some of my picks were closed during the Christmas and New Year) and also their vintage furniture markets which was unfortunately closed when we were there.
Hotel Royal facade at Place Bellecour.
The reception of Hotel Le Royal.
Living room of Hotel Le Royal, love lounging here in the evenings.
View of Lyon town centre from top of Fourviere Hill.