How lovely to visit Lyon again for the Bocuse D’Or last week. It’s such a warm city, charming and obsessed with food. I am definitely the last and so I always feel at home there. My trip last August was brief, and there was one bouchon I neglected to hit, Café des Federations. I didn’t miss it this time.
I was there on a grey Thursday. I wandered by the Saone and meandered up the narrow streets, suitcase in tow. My French isn’t great, but it’s enough to get me by, and stumblingly, I secured a table for one for lunch.
I love solo lunches, I can’t think of anything nicer than lovely food, intimate ecelctic surroundings, some delicious wine and a great book, whilst cosy in a corner with the occasional bit of people watching between chapters. It’s fairly uncommon here in London, not so in France.
At the banquette ahead of me were two other solo female diners, one young Japanese lady, in town also for the Bocuse D’Or, and a wonderful elderly French lady, dolled up to the nines with perfect make up and hair and a big fur coat for company.
At Les Café des Federations, you are not given a menu. Shortly after sitting down, you are presented with a selection of nibbles, this time charcuterie lyonnaise, two types of sliced sausage with cornichons; another dressed meat (which I think was tongue) and caviar de la croix rousse, a gorgeous and incredibly moreish peasant caviar, a puy lentil dish in a tart cream dressing.
Once these were finished, I was asked which dish I wanted from a list recited by the waiter. All the Lyonnaise bouchon classics were on here: Tete de Veau (calf’s head), Andouillette (Lyonnaise sausage made from the er… business end of the bowel, otherwise known as chitterlings), Quenelles en Brochette (lovely light fish mousse type thing shaped into a quenelle in a light fish soup), Boudin Noir (black pudding) and the one I chose, Poulet au Vinaigre (Chicken in Vinegar). I also chose a spritely house white to wash it down with.
My French chicken was seductive with rich dark meat, crispy skin with a sliver of fat underneath, and the tart cream vinegar sauce was delicious. Served with rice, it was great comfort food and a lovely lunch. Although I did have an enormous pang of regret when a couple nearby got the boudin noir, and the gateaux de foie looked superb also.
St Marcelin cheese was offered, which I love, but I instead chose the Pear in Red Wine, which was served cold and was perfectly light and fresh and aromatic with cinnamon and nutmeg. It was really refreshing, and felt healthy and light (for a dessert!).
The food was charming and the bouchon lovely. It was an indulgent and soothing couple of hours and came in at €23 or so. I did prefer the overall experience and the food at Le Garet, but Cafe des Feds (as they call it) is worth a visit too. We need a few bouchons in London, I think, although they just wouldn’t be the same here, would they?