Why would you not take a direct train from London to Lyon passing fields of sunshine yellow rapeseed and glimpses of the jade coloured Rhone? Lyon has been on the travel wishlist for a little while, as it would be for anyone with gastronomic interests. Eugénie Brazier and her student Paul Bocuse are legends in the town cited by as having the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe. But this trip wasn’t about that; we were not here for the showy celebrity cuisine, in Lyon we hoped to find a litter of humble bistros starring authentic Lyonnais comfort food – a tasty Bouchon if you will. We even had a plan to shop for dinner at Les Halles and whip something up in our airbnb kitchen.
Unfortunately it seems the town has celebrity-chef fever. Our initial visit to Les Halles was a disappointment – clinical squares of stalls offered little in the way of fresh produce and instead much of the surface area was reserved for eateries that played up the Bocuse name. MD described it as more glorified food court than traditional market. We ate at seafood bar and had oysters that were undeniably pretty good, but less so the salmon tartar.
Whilst Lyon is in no rush to shed its particularly old-school image, there is still place for that as at L’Etage, an intimate and well-hidden bistro. Sadly we didn’t get the chance to sample many others as not only are many places closed on Sunday, those that are open are fully reserved several days/weeks in advance.
However, when feeling peckish one could not go wrong with a pain au chocolat or citron et sucre crepe. For stellar cocktails and first-rate planches mixtes, head to l’Antiquaire where the charcuterie is top notch (with a variety of cured meats and subtle garlic brine on the cooked ham) and the cheese is perfectly paired with the generous baskets of bread. It might not embody the Lyonnais experience but sometimes you’ll be sure to get a decent G&T. Besides, it is only round the corner from La Grooverie, a casual bar showcasing jazz/soul/funk with a ‘baby-foot’ table and where everyone drinks beer –all the French you could wish for, just the name est fabuleux.
It is definitely a place that I am keen to go back to, just not over a Sunday.