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Lyon


Holly Moore
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Lovely snack.  When I was at university in Bristol back in the '80s, one of the local pub snacks was a slice of cold blood pudding served on a crusty roll with raw onion.  Food which knows it's own mind, as Liebling would have said.

I commend my pre-cooking practice as a way to guard against the disintegration of too-moist sausages.  I think I used to eat the skins, but now tend to peel them off carefully before the frying stage.

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I would second Steve Plotnicki's recommendation of the Sofitel Bellecour as a place to stay. The rooms are very comfortable, the Toir Domes restaurant is great for breakfast with wonderful views, but not for dinner I would say with all those wonderful restaurants around and about, I mean Bocuse and Chapel are not that far are they?

I stayed there when I took part in a cookery competition and the great and the good of Paris and Lyon decended on the Saturday night for a rather magnificent champagne reception and buffet dinner. I spotted one guy that I was convinced was a French film star and was asking all and sundary who he was and no one knew. Yet I knew his face so well.

A few months later I was flicking through my archive of tear sheets from various cooking magazines and I saw the same face staring out at me from a full page portrait. It was Jean Paul Lacombe from Leon De Lyon, perhaps the most famous chef actually in the city and no one could identify him!

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  • 2 months later...

We began our twelve day trip with two days in Lyon. We spent the weekend as guests of the Agency for Development of the Region of Lyon and the Hotel Sofitel of Lyon. You can tell a lot about the graciousness of a hotel by the way they handle their comps to the industry. The Sofitel gave us a suite which went a long way towards mitigating the loss of one of our bags by Air France. Fortunately the bags showed up later in the day and before we had replaced more than toothbrushes.

Our choice of dinners was somewhat compromised by the circumstances of position as guests and the interest our host had in our eating at bouchons serving typical Lyonnaise food. Through some mix up the second "bouchon" was Bocuse's new bistro Le Sud which serves food from around the Mediterranean--think Provence, Italy and Morocco. I had mixed feelings as I had planned to overdose on tripe in at least two Lyonnaise forms--andouillette and tablier de sapeur. On the other hand, I had not eaten in either of Bocuse's other and older bistros in Lyon (Le Nord serves La cuisine de Tradition, while L'Est serves La Cuisine de Voyages. L'Ouest, when it opens will serve La cuisine des Iles.) and this one was two blocks from the hotel and had an interesting looking menu, so we kept the reservation. It was an exceptionally pleasant, but hardly exciting meal. If eighty-five dollars for two three course meals at this level of quality with two half bottles of wine and coffee were available in my neighborhood, I'd be a regular. (Note that prices include tax and basic tip.) I was most pleased with my brandade served in a crust of phyllo pastry served with some salad, cold peeled and seeded tomato and some warm tomato paste. Technically, my chicken tajine was fine but refined and timid. I was disappointed by a lack of spice. I had an old fashioned meringue, ice cream and whipped cream dessert. Esilda, had fresh grilled anchovies, and a pastilla of chicken. I don't know if it was spicy, but it came with a traditional dusting of sugar. It was a very pleasant little place, but could have been in Nice or Greenwich Village.

Our other meal at the Bistrot de Lyon fit the traditional bill. There I was able to indulge myself with simple pumpkin soup and an irregular and artisanal andouillette that was positively barnyardy. This is something I can't get in New York and which over the years I have developed an addiction that may be far stronger than any need for haute cuisine. For dessert I had pots de crème--three of them in vanilla, (lots of seeds from real vanilla bean) chocolate and pistachio. The real vanilla and the variety made it a super comfort food dessert for me. Esilda went upscale with some very meaty thick cut smoked salmon. Her "blini" was far too thick and dense however. A main course of tripe was okay, if a bit too much tomato for her taste. I can't tell you the price as we were comped, but I think it was less expensive than Le Sud. It is located on the rue Mercière. I notice that Michelin doesn't recommend any of the places on this short lively stretch, but Gault Millau does. Rue Mercière has all the trappings of a tourist street, but my guess is that most of the patrons are probably local and I'd recommend it for the joie de vivre on a Saturday night.

We had some misgivings about passing up a return visit to both Leon de Lyon and Pierre Orsi that we know and love from past visits, but we were just beginning our trip and have learned to try and pace ourselves and we have reservations for Les Loges of which GaultMillau thinks so highly on our return the following week.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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No, we didn't get to Poivre d'Ane or a couple of others I'd like to try. We really like Lyon and find there are so many places that have appeal at one level or another. It's also a city in which ordinary and even tourist restaurants seem to provide value. You can eat poorly in Lyon, but it seems harder than in Paris or NY.

It was Les Loges for our big meal on the return trip and and a night off after all our eating in the countryside. I'll post on Le Vieux Pont soon.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 4 months later...

Traveling to France and am looking for opinions on dining/cultural excursions. What other cities have great dining and are worth the trip?

If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. How could you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat!??

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Worth the trip from where--New York, London or Paris? Certainly the majority of great restaurants in France are outside of Paris and there's still good regional eating in France. Perhaps I should also enquire about the cultural activites you have in mind. Are you talking about theater, concerts, opera, or museums and architecture? In France some of the best dining is at country inns.

Lyon has a great fine arts museum, a really great textile museum, some Roman ruins, a great park with a pretty nice contemporary art museum, a recently renovated opera house, some excellent restaurants in the city and access to great restaurants several hours away.

My general feeling on cultural/dining excursions would be to spend a week or more touring by car in one or two of the provincial regions of France where you can combine cultural sightseeing with truly exceptional dining. Exactly which region(s) might depend on the time of year and personal interests.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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How about recommendations right in Lyons.

Some that looked interesting from the Red Guide

Les Terrasses de Lyon

Leon de Lyon

Pierre Orssi

Aurberge de l'Ile

L'Alexandrin

They looked interesting because Michelin quoted fish specialties, or mentioned a vegetable dish, which is more to my interest. I'll nibble a little sausage, but I won't make a meal of it.

Anyone with experience here? Paricular comments on wine lists, or whether it's particularly good for lunch would be very helpful.

PS Here's what Bux had to say in a previous post:

"Without a doubt, the best restaurant in town is probably Léon de Lyon, although our last meal was perhaps not our most interesting or the best of the three we've had there. The other fine restaurant in town in which we've eaten is Pierre Orsi. His ravioles de foie gras with truffle juice and port was super"

beachfan

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Restaurant of the moment in Lyon is meant to be Les Loges - the chef was voted chef of the year in the Gault-Millau. But Leon de Lyon is good in a classic french style. You could also try Alain Chapel or of course Paul Bocuse, both a short drive outside Lyon.

Gav

"A man tired of London..should move to Essex!"

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i went to paul bocuse last summer it was good but not execeptional and once mr & mrs Bocuse disappeared to bed, service became interminably slow, i was there nearly 4 hours until midnight, i was not v happy!

from the board it seems if you want the 'best' 3 star experience in the area, try troisgros in roanne it's about an hours drive/easy train (restauarant is across road from station)from lyon.

i also tried one of his 4 brasseries , le nord which was good, lyonnaise brasserie food. nice steak au poivre i seem to remember.

you don't win friends with salad

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PS Here's what Bux had to say in a previous post:

"Without a doubt, the best restaurant in town is probably Léon de Lyon, although our last meal was perhaps not our most interesting or the best of the three we've had there. The other fine restaurant in town in which we've eaten is Pierre Orsi. His raviole de foie gras with truffle juice and port was super"

"Without a doubt...probably." :biggrin: Well I haven't eaten in all of them and I probably said that before I ate in Les Loges which has the most interesting food and space, but which didn't quite come off as better than Leon de Lyon, perhaps because I found aspects of the restaurant and service affected. Our three meals as Leon de Lyon were taken many years apart and the first two were also tasting menus. Orsi was by far the most traditional restaurant, but we found both the chef and the food captivating. I thought I may have posted on les Loges, but I can't find it, nor can I find my notes. It was the last meal of the trip. A search on eGullet should produce a lot of posts on Lyon. It's a great city for rustic fare. Tripe is a specialty in several forms.

We dined at Paul Bocuse a good number of years ago and, in a way, I suppose everyone should dine there once, but it's an institution more than a restaurant. Bocuse is Lyon's most famous son, but his restaurant just doesn't seem to be where the excitement is. It's a long drive from Lyon as well. A taxi both ways could be the price of dinner elsewhere.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I am one who finds eating in Lyon overrated. There's nothing wrong with it. You can have a good meal at a number of bouchons (local style reataurants) and some of the better restaurants like Lyon de Lyon are very fine. But I would not go out of my way to visit the city based on the food. Unless you are a tripe fanatic. I think that Lyon is the tripe capital of the world hands down, But there are a number of good shopping stops. Bernachon for chocolates, and there is a great food market (Les Halles.) But I think the place is basically a dud as a city and if anything doesn't warrant more than a days visit. My personal favorite of the other cities in France I have been to is Nice. The place has soul. Avignon is also a nice, if smaller city.

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I don't agree that Lyon is overrated. For one thing it doesn't seem to be rated highly. Certainly it's not as highly rated as Paris, yet one stands so much more chance of actually having a terrible meal in Paris than in Lyon. Lyon doesn't reach the heights of Paris. Paris is foie gras and caviar to Lyon's sausages. Paris is Champagne and first growth Bordeaux. Lyon is local Beaujolais. Perhaps part of Lyon's appeal to me is that it has little tourist appeal. Nice and Avignon are full of charm and tourists. Lyon is full of Frenchmen and a wonderful place to experience ordinary Frenchness. It does help if you love tripe and St. Marcellin cheese.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Bux - Well regardless of your personal definition of overrated, I was using it in the context of the question asked. Is it worth going out of your way to go there? My answer is still no. There is no overwhelming draw. But if you happen to end up there for a day or so it doesn't suck. But there must be 200 or more places to eat in Paris that I would choose before I decided to go to Lyon to eat. Of course this isn't true if you like tripe. As for beaujolais, it isn't local and it's all macerated plonk. I am sure that you will find artisinal beaujolais in Paris (or NYC) before you find it in Lyon.

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Is it worth going out of your way to go there? My answer is still no. There is no overwhelming draw. But if you happen to end up there for a day or so it doesn't suck.

Steve,

A number of comments re Lyon. It is a perfect stop-over place on a route to Annecy or from Roanne or on the way to St Bonnet etc. In fact, that is just what we are doing --- Roanne, St Bonnet, Lyon, Annecy.

Also, I don't think that Lyon dining is dead or dying. If you use Michelin as any kind of gauge, Michelin seems to feel there are up and coming restaurants in the area; this year Michelin awarded 2 stars to Auberge de I'll in Lyon and 1 star to Christian Tetedoie also in Lyon. Last year, Michelin gave 2 stars to Rotonde in La Tour de-Salvagny (11 km from Lyon). Also, of interest, the chef from La Cote Rotie, is relocating his restaurant to Lyon. If he maintains the style and quality he was doing in Ampuis, this will be a great addition to Lyon dining.

As mentioned before, chef Nicolas Le Bec from Brittany is now at Les Loges and was cited by Gault Millau, 2002 as chef of the year.

La Tour Rose just lost its only star, but according to someone who was just there, there is a new chef who has completely revamped the menu and is doing new and interesting cuisine.

Also, I am very partial to Leon de Lyon - pigs trotters, tradtional Lyonnaise cuisine, perfectly prepared.

The only restaurant I would definitely not recommend is Les Terrasses de Lyon - poorly prepared food, worse service. Comments about Bocuse, unfortunately, are true. "We dined at Paul Bocuse a good number of years ago and, in a way, I suppose everyone should dine there once, but it's an institution more than a restaurant." (Bux)

I have not been back to Lyon since 1997, so I can't give any first hand reports. We will be there this year and have plans to eat at Leon de Lyon, Christian Tetedoie, Auberge de I'll and La Tour Rose. (Les Loges is closed when we are there).

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Gee I hate defending statements I never made. All I said is that I wouldn't go out of my way to visit the city. And while there are a few good meals there, there isn't a single meal I would call compelling enough to go. There isn't even a style of food that makes me long for the place (you need to like tripe.) But of course if you happen to find yourself in the region for a variety of reasons including a stopover between gastronomic haunts that straddle the city, or a visit to the Cote Rotie region for tasting, then the town is perfectly lively, pleasant, has some excellent food shopping and some good B level non-food shopping. But all in all I prefer a place like Nice which has all of the above times a factor of five or six times plus the beach and some world class art to view as well.

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Gee I hate defending statements I never made. All I said is that I wouldn't go out of my way to visit the city. And while there are a few good meals there, there isn't a single meal I would call compelling enough to go.

Steve,

I didn't say that you said that Lyon cuisine is dead; that was my own spin. But, I do think you have a vision of Lyon that is out-dated. Again, I can't justify this statement with first-hand knowledge, but it seems that many young chefs are being drawn to Lyon and just might be infusing the city with culinary excitement i.e. the chef from Cote Rotie.

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Steve, there is an implication in your post that Lyon does't have attraction for art lovers. Le Vieux Lyon probably classifies as an architectural site of some significance to those who appreciate or enjoy gothic and renaissance architecture. It's a rare district of urban houses from the 15th and 16th century. Although I prefer to stay in the presqu'ile, one has the opportunity to sleep as well as dine in several elegant hotels in restored structures. The Musée des Beaux-Arts may not be world class, but I've found it's size renders it easy to see and navigate. It often has excellent temporary shows as well and has been recently renovated. On the other hand, the fabric museum (Musée des Tissus) is world class as might be fitting Lyon's historical role as a silk center. The contemporary museum is quite active and well worth a visit if one wants "art," rather than "culture." Lyon is a larger city than Nice and has opera and theater, but neither has a three star restaurant in town. Nice desn't really have a beach but is certainly closer to a beach than Lyon. Does "beach" fit the "cultural" category?

The original poster asked about cities that offer great dining and cultural activites. "Great" may be hard to justify without at least two 3 star restaurants within the city limits, but how many cities are there with 3 star restaurants and how many can compete with Lyon as a cultural center, or even come close. The issue I raise, is that Lyon is not a dud. It's actually a neat city. Although not as cutely appealing as Nice for the average tourist, it has a lot to offer the tourist and resident.

Lizzie has made an appealing case for consideration of Lyon over Nice as a city that's "happening" in terms of young chefs. I'd make the case that there's more soul food in Lyon than Nice just in the form of tablier de sapeurs and andouillettes. There's really great food in Lyon and a lot of it may be found outside the great restaurants. I also find Lyon is a city in which I feel good just because I pass so many appealing windows of food shops and, as you note, it has what may well be the finest chocolate shop in Europe--or at least a prime contender. I like Nice almost as well.

:hmmm:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Beachfan, I received a report two days ago from two trusted names in French gastronomic travel. They loved L'Auberge de L'Ile more than Leon de Lyon, the latter of which they said had good (but not great) food and lousy service. If it were me, I would go to the former or to Les Loges. Any place that has the Gault-Millau chef of the year makes for a compelling choice.

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I would recommend both restaurants and the choice might depend entirely on your interests. We ate at les Loges this spring. My comments are here in the thread entitled Les Loges. We have eaten at Leon de Lyon three times over a very long period. Neither my last meal at Leon de Lyon, nor my only meal at les Loges made me feel I was having a three star experience, although earlier meals at Leon de Lyon left me feeling it was close to three stars.

The dining room at les Loges is a bit precious and the staff sometimes reflected that attitude. Some of the staff were exceptionally caring, others performed their tasks with an air of aloofness that matched my guess that many of the diners were there for the drama of the room, because they were staying at the hotel or because it was the chic new place in town. Watching people at Leon de Lyon, I had the more distinct feeling they were connoiseurs of food. Nevertheless, the food was more interesting and perhaps better at les Loges, although not as satisfying as my first two experiences at Leon de Lyon which was very creative 20 years ago and now rather traditional. My overall memories would draw me to Leon de Lyon, but if I focused on my last meal there, I might favor les Loges. I did not want to speak too early on this topic. I trust you will understand that my thoughts on the meal were colored with issues unrelated to the food when you read my earlier post.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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My subjective input:

Troisgros -- less than 2 hours by train from Lyons -- not my favorite restaurant, but one of my favorites :laugh:

Paul Bocuse -- terrible cuisine, but close to Lyons and a "must" for historical reasons only

La Mere Brazier -- for the "chicken in half mourning" dish which is the subject of another thread; very reasonably priced, in Lyons itself

:laugh:

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