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Lyon: A Bouchon Lunch at Cafe des Federations

Lunch at Cafe des Federations

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.

Lunch at Cafe des Federations

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.

Lunch at Cafe des Federations

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.

Lunch at Cafe des Federations

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.

Lunch at Cafe des Federations

Lunch at Cafe des Federations

Lunch at Cafe des Federations

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.

Lunch at Cafe des Federations

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.

Lunch at Cafe des Federations

Lunch at Cafe des Federations

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!).

Lunch at Cafe des Federations

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?

http://www.lesfedeslyon.com/

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Eating Lyon: Bernachon

Bernachon, Lyon

Chocolate is not a treat or a sweet but true gourmet food.

Maurice Bernachon

When Claude Bosi (chef-proprietor at 2* Hibiscus) starts giving tips on where you should eat in Lyon, you take notice. So happily he did exactly that, just a few days before I went to Lyon, in a piece in the Financial Times.

Bernachon, Lyon

I was a little smug (just a tiny bit – promise), when I discovered that the market we were planning to go to, and Le Bec, which we had already booked were on his list. Bernachon wasn’t on my radar, however, so I looked it up and added it to the list.

Bernachon, Lyon

Bernachon, Lyon

Bernachon is like a museum for edible treats. A mini cathedral to food. You could hear a pin drop. The best of chocolate, sweet and excellent savoury treats. Before you even enter the shop, you’re salivating. Glorious cakes, springy brioche, perfect quenelles, macarons, chocolates, swoon. It has the air of a Sloane St designer shop, only here we are not paying homage to Jimmy Choo or Prada, here the macaron and chocolates are king. Isn’t that the way it should be? Certainly for me, anyway.

Maurice Bernachon trained as an apprentice in the art of chocolate from the the age of fourteen. He later joined the workshop of master chocolate maker Monsieur Durand ane when he retired in 1953, he offered Maurice Bernachon his chocolate and candy shop. Today his grandchildren – Candice, Stéphanie and Philippe Bernachon – now run the enterprise.  The raw cocoa beans are roasted, grinded, blended and conched in-house. There’s that attention to detail and sourcing that is the hallmark of an excellent product.

I have a mini tradition now, every time I go to France I bring back a box of macarons. I know Pierre Hermé and Ladurée are in town but it’s such a nice souveneir to bring home, and one that doesn’t last very long, granted. But, swoon, these were small spritely delights. And there’s nothing better, once greeted by the glorious English rain, than a macaron to evoke a petite taste memory of your lovely little holiday.

Bernachon, 42, courts Franklin-Roosevelt, tel: +33 04 78 24 37 98, www.bernachon.com

Bernachon, Lyon

Bernachon, Lyon

Bernachon, Lyon

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Eating Lyon: Le Garet, the perfect bouchon

Le Garet, Lyon

Lyon has a promising culinary reputation. Reputed to be the gastronomic heart of France, friends and natives had talked it up and I was worried it may not live up to my increasing expectations.

Le Garet, Lyon

I quickly secured a reservation at 2* Le Bec, the reviews are exceptional and it looks exciting, but much to my misfortune, they had water damage on the day I was to dine ,and were closed. 3 restaurant La Mere Brazier was also high on my list, but sadly (for me) they were closed for summer holidays. Paul Bocuse was mentioned but I had already decided to save that for my next trip, the prices are lofty, and the reviews mixed. I’ll visit another time with another food obsessive.

Le Garet, Lyon

Le Garet, Lyon

So, what to do? In truth, I was always more excited about the Lyonnaise Bouchons, peculiar to Lyon and serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. Bouchons were always going to be the heart of the trip and there was a few I wanted to try out.

Le Garet, Lyon

The highlight of these was a recommendation from a Lyonnaise friend, Le Garet. We popped in on our first night, to discover that they were full so we made a reservation for lunch on our last day. Lesson No 1 – book your bouchons before you leave, the good ones are always booked up. There was  one I really wanted to try but it’s so popular with locals that I hadn’t a hope without an advance reservation.

Le Garet, Lyon

Le Garet, Lyon

On our return for lunch, just two hours before we were due at the train station to board our train back to London via Lille on the Eurostar, we were greeted with smiles and charm and on seating were presented with pork crackling. A large bowl of caper berries and a jar of cornichons were delivered shortly after. We were going to get on.

Le Garet, Lyon

Le Garet, Lyon

Le Garet is enchanting, warm red walls with walls packed with pictures and photographs and French eccentricities. It’s impossible not to be seduced. It’s a joyous place, the diners are enjoying their food and company, and the staff are smiling and friendly.

Le Garet, Lyon

The wine list is presented in a copybook, specials are writted on a mirror with marker and the menu otherwise, was one I had become very familiar with in other bouchons: Pieds de Veau (calves feet), Cervelles (brains), Rillettes d’Oie (goose rillettes), Grenouilles (frog legs), Tete de Veau (head cheese), Bavette, Saucisson, Foie de Veau (calves liver). A meaty offaly paradise, not for the faint hearted but for those who love flavour and rich food.

Le Garet, Lyon

Le Garet, Lyon
By now, I had visited many an eatery and following a visit to the market wanted colour and flavour. I needed something to repair my meat saturated soul and nurture me. I opted for lighter but still traditional dishes, starting with a glorious Tomates Steak et Ornue, Pistou et Parol Blanc – a fantastic tomato salad with large slices of tomato steak, slices from a smaller tomato, both drizzled with pistou and with cured ham on the side, predominantly fat, like lardo, with a little pink meat. A large basket of very good bread was served on the side.

Le Garet, Lyon

Le Garet, Lyon

Kat had the Rillettes d’Oie, which she had spotted the diners at the next table eating. We had assumed that they had a healthy portion for two but were gobsmacked when a whole Staub terrine full of Rillettes arrived for Kat alone. My salad was enormous also.

Le Garet, Lyon

Le Garet, Lyon

Main courses were Grenouilles Fraiche en Persillade (Fresh Frogs Legs with Persillade) for Kat and for me, a traditional Lyonnaise dish of Quenelle de Brochet a la Lyonnaise – a large set pike mousseline in a seafood broth. The frog legs were as perfect a representation of that dish could be, fiddly but tender and spiked with persillade, I had order envy. My quenelle de brochet was gorgeous, very light and spring served in a light marseillaise-style seafood broth with creamed spinach with nutmeg on the side. A perfect lunch dish.

Le Garet, Lyon

As is common at the end of a Bouchon meal, we each ordered a demi St Marcelin, a soft small cows milk cheese, perfectly round and like unleashing children from the school gates, the cheese blurted out then oozed from the rind once I put my knife through it. Swoooon.

We accompanied our meal with a Pot (46cl) of White Burgundy (St Veran Bourgogne Blanc), a bargain at €11. The vibe was friendly with perfect friendly service, and nearby tables were chatty too, we seemed to be the only tourists there that lunchtime.

Le Garet, Lyon

A special mention for the bathrooms, odd I know, but they were great. Decked out like a ladies boudoir, bloomers and old brassieres were hanging out of the drawers and over the lamps. The walls were decked with pictures as the floor below.

The meal came to approx €35 each, including extra service as it was very good and we had such a lovely time. I had an extra glass of wine and we had coffees too.

I would go back to Lyon just to eat here, it was a perfect two hours. I spied the bavette on the next table, it looked divine, and I am – almost – desperate to try it. Lyon is only 5 hours from London on the Eurostar. I think I can figure out an excuse to do it. Wait! I’ve got one: Le Garet.

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Marché St Antoine: Food Market, Lyon

Quai St Antoine Food Market

Ah, the glory of the French food market. Fresh produce, glorious flavours, bright colours, the smells of the fruit and lack of smell from the fish.

Quai St Antoine Food Market

Quai St Antoine Food Market

As the heart of gastronomic France, you would expect Lyon to have a very good one, and it does. In fact it has several, but time was restrictive on my two night Eurostar trip their last week, so I chose one in the heart of the city by the Rhone, the Quai St Antoine Food Market.

Quai St Antoine Food Market

Quai St Antoine Food Market

It winds along the river gently. Starting at 4 or 5 am and running until midday in the heart of the city, it’s a very popular and well sourced market. Everything was fantastic, the selection was varied, and better than all of that, in the main it was local.

Quai St Antoine Food Market

All kinds of tomatoes begged to be picked up, flat peaches radiated perfume and I swooned at the first bite. Bounties of herbs, garlic and fresh beans. Bright pink radishes with their green leafy hat, baskets of saucisson and legs of ham. Dripping gravy brown rotisserie chickens, turning seductively, challenging you not to buy.

Quai St Antoine Food Market

Quai St Antoine Food Market

Best of all were the prices. So reasonable, there is no need to grace your strip lit supermarket here. That’s the way it should be. Why don’t we have such markets here?

Quai St Antoine Food Market

The weather is challenging, I know, and the costs of London markets for stallholders are prohibitive. Add to that the waiting lists for markets at Borough, but London could house so many more.

Quai St Antoine Food Market

We have so many spaces in central London that could house indoor markets – community halls and abandoned spaces. It would make so much sense to support small producers and create a cost effective space for locals to buy quality everyday produce. Not cupcakes or truffles or big chains that we see in all the markets now. I want to buy good tomatoes, salad, fresh eggs, vegetables, meat and fish from the people that grow or produce them. A good rotisserie chicken!

Quai St Antoine Food Market

Normal every day food from a normal every day market. Can’t we have one soon?

Quai St Antoine Food Market

Quai St Antoine Food Market

Quai St Antoine Food Market

Quai St Antoine Food Market

Quai St Antoine Food Market

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A Postcard from Lyon

Flowers at Quai St Antoine Food Market, Lyon

Flowers at Quai St Antoine Food Market, Lyon

Whoooooosh! I am not sure if that is the sounds of the Eurostar, or the TGV (super fast French trains), or my trip to Lyon, but it all seemed to go by far too quickly. It seems like weeks ago that I boarded the Eurostar and travelled to Lyon, but it was only Tuesday morning. We travelled swiftly from grey wet London, current home of the bad hair day and soggy feet, to sparkling hot Lyon, home of bright intense sunshine, great wine and food, and a peep of sunburn. My Irish skin could barely handle the 34 degree heat that awaited us.

I love travelling by train. I could spend days and weeks travelling Europe by train, and anywhere else for that matter, it’s my perfect means of travel. The Lyon trip was a baby train journey but enjoyable nonetheless, taking a piddly 5 hours and allowing us a break for a glass of wine in Lille. A perfect two night break all in all. It was just lovely, holed up with my book, watching the countryside whizz by, with a glass of wine for company.

Why Lyon? It’s the gastronomic heart of France and it’s been top of my list for forever. The top of my list is extraordinarily well populated though so it’s taken me a while to get there. How I’ve longed to experience the seduction of a Lyonnaise Bouchon and delve into the menu with a bottle of glorious local wine.

I am just back, so this is just a wee photographic preview. I will be back with the details and full posts soon.

I never liked him anyway

TinTin was a Punk!

Quai St Antoine Food Market

Courgette Flowers & Courgettes at Quai St Antoine Food Market

Plums at Quai St Antoine Food Market

Plums at Quai St Antoine Food Market

Copybook Wine List at Le Garet, Lyon

Copybook Wine List at Le Garet, Lyon

Orangettes at Bernachon, Lyon

Orangettes at Bernachon, Lyon

Macarons at Bernachon, Lyon

Macarons at Bernachon, Lyon

Tomatoes at Quai St Antoine Food Market

Tomatoes at Quai St Antoine Food Market

Saucisson at Quai St Antoine Food Market

Saucisson at Quai St Antoine Food Market

Demi St Marcelin at Le Garet, Lyon

Demi St Marcelin at Le Garet, Lyon

Grenouilles (Frog Legs) with Persillade at Le Garet, Lyon

Grenouilles (Frog Legs) with Persillade at Le Garet, Lyon

Diners at Le Garet, Lyon

Diners at Le Garet, Lyon

The ladies bathroom at Le Garet, Lyon

The ladies bathroom at Le Garet, Lyon