Lyon (France)

A great trip to Lyon, our first visit and it is a very worthwhile food destination. There aren’t many recent recommendations here so I tended to look further afield for advice and think we did pretty well. We were compromised by the days we were in town – weekends including Bastille Day – which made things a bit tricky with closures etc.

Café Sillion – A wonderful choice first night, funky and relaxed in the university area. Modern French cooking with interesting dishes especially the use of vegetables like Aubergine and olives in the desserts. It’s a short limited choice menu (€38 for three courses) and a good strong local wine list. Total bill for four: €252 including 2 x wine plus cheese.

Guy Lassausaie – a Michelin two star a few kilometres outside of town. It’s a classic French country restaurant with a mixed crowd in for Sunday lunch with extended families to couples having fun (dress code ranged from smart granny to 20 something in jeans and T-shirt). The set menus are very reasonable for a 2 star with a range of choices. Excellent classic Michelin food, great cheese trolley, and very nice local wine list which has some decent value. Total bill for four: €557 including cheese trolley and 3 x wine.

Cinq Mains – a small, very popular restaurant - again a short modern menu and creative food in a very casual relaxed setting (good number of outside tables). The wine list is very strong with new Beaujolais producers and some really good advice. We left the second and third wine choices entirely in the server’s hands and it was superb and good value. Total bill for four: €196 including 3 x wine.

Café Terroir – restaurant and a wine bar in the same street. A very meat heavy restaurant with classic homemade terrine, escargots, good tartare boeuf - great local Aubrac cote de boeuf and a monstrous roast pistachio sausage. The food again is great, traditional yet modern cooking, and we polished off about twice our weight in food. Another very strong wine list and again we left our second choice to the waiter who delivered amazing Beaujolais from a new producer. Total bill for four: €280 including 2 x wine and a round of Chartreuse with the cheese.

L’Ebauche – a small restaurant off the beaten track. Very short menu of two (€32 for three courses) choices per course, lovely lamb tartare with sliced beans and tomato water to start, a perfectly cooked chicken with artichokes and peas for mains – you can see the chef learned his techniques at top places i.e. Guy Savoy. Total bill for 2: €98 including 1 x wine.

Daniel et Denise – finding a Bouchon that is open on the weekend is very tricky, all the ones I found that looked good were closed and so I picked this one as it seemed the least touristy – a big error. It’s a real tourist food factory with a constant stream of people, we found the service indifferent, after the interesting wine list this was a disappointment, and whilst one of the dishes was good (a veloute de petit pois) the other dishes disappointed. In particular a poached pike dumpling in a crayfish sauce Quenelle Brochet - – I saw it on the next table and mistook it for apricot dessert – it would have been better if it had been.

We bailed out halfway through the meal and headed back to Café Terroir for a decent Beaujolais and dessert. Total bill for four: €180 included entrée, main, no dessert 1 x wine @ €34.

A few other suggestions based on research but not tried: Les Apothicares; L’Oursan Qui Bit; Bouchon Thoma; Le Garet; La Bojouterie.

There are a couple of very touristy bar and restaurant streets – one on the island and the other in the old town. We had a couple of drinks in these areas when we first arrived and they seem full of “bouchons” with spruikers trying to attract passers by. The more interesting (IMO) restaurants seem to be in the smaller streets, slightly off the beaten track – and whilst they are slightly off the beaten track they are popular so I recommend booking a few days in advance.

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I was LOL reading this. Thanks for your review, and now we know what to avoid.

This looks like a trend everywhere. The more success the touristic places, the less incentive to stay serving good food (and services). Or maybe most tourists aren’t very demanding in food? Doing the minimum is already enough to earn the maximum.

I suspect its the rents. The younger chefs need to move out to the burbs to get space at reasonable costs. The places in tourist areas need to pay the rent so cut costs and stick to safe dishes - as you say - do the minimum to earn the maximum. And it thus becomes a vicious cycle.

@PhilD, your trip report has been inspiring for a short visit to Lyon that I’m making soon.

Do there happen to be any local specialty foods or dishes that you might recall as must-try’s? I’d be interested to hear if so. For example: There’s a chocolate maker on my list to seek out, Bernachon.

I already booked L’Ebauche for a Sunday night dinner. (Others in our small group are booking for the other nights.)

After I return, I hope to report on some finds of my own.

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I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

As to specialities - we tended to eat in restaurants with younger innovative chefs so didn’t really experience much “advertised” traditional food apart from the dire Bouchon. The exception is probably Cafe Terroir which did a great pistachio sausage and good local beef. We didn’t see much Bresse chicken actually in Lyon, but we weren’t looking hard as we had enjoyed a lot in the Jura.

Most restaurants do offer good local cheese - I love Saint-Felician and Saint-Marcellin and we had some very well kept ones at nearly all the places we ate in.

In the small indy restaurants look for their recommendations for local wine (usually Beaujolais) every time we asked we got very interesting recommendations which were usually biodynamic or natural, often made to non appellation standards, and so much better than the main beaujolais sub-regions.

Do try and fit in Cafe Sillion - it’s the one that has lasted longest in my memory.

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Thanks! Found it!

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