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Bocuse and Lyon


Niall
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Hi,

I have a reservation for Bocuse in November and was hoping for some advice on where to stay. We are in Lyon for two nights and would rather stay in the one place.

How easy is it to get to and from Bocuse from the City centre? How much would a taxi cost? Or is there somewhere reasonably priced close by that would be better?

Thanks

Niall

'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'

- Frank Zappa

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I was there a long time ago and at the time, I was shocked at the cost, but that was largely because Bocuse itself was a considerable splurge for us at the time. I don't have any record of the cost. Bocuse was the sort of institution that no longer really captivates my interest and I haven't been back. The last time we took taxis out of the city was almost four years ago (January 2001). A trip to la Rotonde in la Tour-de-Salvagny 11 kilometers from Lyon ran about 175 francs (US$ 25) if my notes are accurate. Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or is about 12 kilometers. A taxi to the airport that year ran 250 francs.

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.

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I have to say we were terribly unahppy at Bocuse's restaurant about 4 years ago.

We've been to a lot of top restaurants, Georges Blanc, La Tour Dargent, Jamin, Auberge D'Ill.

Bocuse was not good for the price.

....and, we got terribly lost driving to it from Condrieu.

Looked like the inside of a wedding cake, staff was rude, Bocuse was old and tottering, food was overpriced and not creative.

There is a picture by the bathroom of "The Last Supper" featuring all the Great Chefs of France which is very funny, however!

Philly Francophiles

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I think it would be very unfair to be disappointed to find the food uncreative. I don't think Bocuse has tried to be creative in at least a decade.

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 haven't been to Bocuse since my one and only visit in 1976. But who's to say that if you go and have the Soupe de Truffes VGE (Valerie Giscard 'Estaing) and the loup en croute that you won't like it? In fact, has anyone been there in the recent past and had these dishes? Of course it's with the understanding that the dishes have held up and are essentiallly unchanged. The again, you can follow the train line for a bit over an hour and end up across the street from Troisgros where you won't find the cuisine as it was in 1976.

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I would go even farther than Bux- I don't think Bocuse was ever very "creative" in the sense that we think about it today. I don't think he ever claimed to be. His cuisine, which hasn't really changed in decades, is the classic cuisine of the area at a high level. He is serving almost exactly the same dishes we had there in 1989. And they were classic then. The truffle soup, the Bresse chicken cooked in the pig's bladder, the rouget with the potato crust, the Loup en croute, the trays of fresh fruits assembled beside the table after the initial small dessert. He still pays homage to Fernand Point with one dish or another. I'm sure the Roquefort is still the best. I just wish I could go back, but my wife has refused, saying it would ruin the memory because it couldn't possibly be as before. Maybe next summer. If you go looking for tradition, I think you will be happy. If you are looking for avocado "ravioli" with crab, don't go.

Stay in the center of Lyon and take a cab if you go. I'll bet the waiter will walk you out and put you in the cab himself.

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We'll probably try to get the train there and get a taxi back.

Thank you all for your comments; We were not expecting a huge level of creativeness; just some of the best classic french cuisine. We had considered Troisgros, but decided against it this trip. I'm sure we will be back in the future for that one.

This one will be our third 3 star experience, so we are looking forward to it. So far we ahve been to lameloise and Ducasse at the Plaza Athene, both of which have been completely different, and Bocuse looks like it will be different too.

'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'

- Frank Zappa

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  • 2 years later...

Among all of the top chefs today, probably nobody is more well-respected than Paul Bocuse, the emperor of French cuisine (another reason could be that he's the oldest among the legendary chefs like Robuchon, Girardet, Paul Haeberlin or Pierre Troisgros). With numerous awards during his career and tons of contribution to the development of French cuisine as well as how a chef could actually become a celebrity, I think this is out of question that I should try to dine at restaurant Paul Bocuse once in my life, in particular since Bocuse is still in the kitchen. Honestly, I took a taxi to this place - lying on the banks of the Saone (about 10 min from Lyon) - more for historical reasons. I was very curious what it's like to eat at the original establishments of Gault Millau's chef of the century (as no more Robuchon in Jamin or Girardet at Hotel de Ville). So here I was ... dining there in the end of Spring this year

Food/Wine (93/90)

The food here is classic as expected and the portion is generous. I ordered the menu grande tradition classic

- the amuse is a plain cream puff (not very soft and weak in taste) and a glass of celery cream with shrimp and carrots (fresh but very acidic)

- duck foie gras frying pan. The duck liver is quite good with some potatoes intensified with a strong verjus sauce (I guess this is the typical Lyon cuisine - very flavorful and "heavy sauce")

- then it came the legendary black truffle (from Rhone Valley) soup that cost EUR 80 if one orders the a la carte. Well, it's very good but not fantastic since I already ate a 'simpler and similar' version of this clear soup. However, to appreciate more just think - this dish was created more than 3 decades ago ... to have such brilliant ideas in the 70's, I think Bocuse deserves a big credit for it. It might not worth the price tag IMHO, but still it's a must try for me due to its reputation. I finished it all anyway ...

- another famous dish, sole fillet - named after Fernand Point (Bocuse's teacher). The sole is huge, served with pasta and wonderful "Italian style" sauce containing some mushrooms and tomato. The sauce element is very important here since sole, by default, is rather blend - but it's firm in texture

- Beaujolais Winemaker granita - this one is more like a palate cleanser, refreshing with some acidity

- ADPA and L'Arpege taught me that chicken dishes could be that incredible ... now it's the time for another timeless dish - Bresse chicken in a bladder. It's the perfect example of a simple, classic, wonderful french cuisine preparation. The chicken is tender, served with tasty and creamy sauce, some vegetables and morels. My favorite of the night ... (though not as good as the ones prepared by Moret or Anthony). While I do not deny that one could get a similar dish in other restaurants, but to prepare it as good as Bocuse ... probably not many

- cheese courses, many of them are local. I'm not familiar with "Mere Richard"'s cheese. It's fine - as far as what I could remember, the roquefort's slightly bitter, st. marcellin and goat cheese are OK

- the desserts here are served in buffet style, you could take as many as you want. Unfortunately, they're just average except for the gateau bernachon served with vanilla ice cream. I disliked the rhum baba (far inferior to Ducasse's version), the creme brulee was not bad, the medeleine-like cake was so-so

I was very full at the end. Even though I know that the food (as many have reported) is not the best among other 3-star places (not even in my top 10 lists), I was still satisfied - at least I had a chance to eat a piece of French cuisine's history. The score above is a solid 2 1/2* out of 3.

For the wine, I drank 2 glasses of whites. The 1st one is 2003 Sancerre d'Antan - Bourgeois, it's rich yet stony, with a firm mineral edge framing the lemon zest, chive and grass flavors. The 2nd one is 2003 Meursault - Bouchard, because of its concentration and softness, it goes well with chicken in a creamy sauce, and the sole fish.

Service/Ambiance (90/91)

At first the service was very rigid, but things flow much better as the meals went on. The only bad thing was that they forgot to serve me with knive and fork, the maitre d' really regeretted it - it's fine, everybody made mistake once a while. Probably, in terms of hospitality, I would say that the sommelier, John Euvrard was the nicest one - very friendly, full of energy and keep smiling - I guess it's due to the fact that He just received the 2007 "Meilleur Ouvrier de France"

The decoration os this place, from the outside - it indeed resemble a circus (very colorful), before the entrance the guests could see the names of the Bocuse d'Or medal recipients (Le Meurice's Alleno is one of them). Inside, it has many pictures about the development of the restaurants as well as many funny pictures Bocuse among the other French famous chefs, the decoration's detail is very rich indeed. The restaurant was full, about 90% of the table was filled, more than half of them are foreigners - some American, Korean or Japanese as well as Italian. If you came early enough, chef Bocuse would walked around the dining room to shake every guest. His hand is still relatively soft despite being behind the stove for more than 50 years. It's amazing, the 81-year old chef is still vibrant. When I took a picture with him inside the kitchen, Bocuse himself was the one who arranged the position how the picture should be taken (it's in the centre, with the main kitchen in the backgrounds - wow)

So how's it overally? To me it's 91/100 - a solid 2 1/4 star. With all due respect to chef Bocuse, it's not a 3-star experience for me. But ... remembering the past and what he has done for the world's cuisine, I could understood why Michelin still gave this place 3* - subjectively I don't mind at all. As long a he lives, let it be 3-star (the picture of michelin man transformed into Bocuse's physical body inside the menu was similar to chef Gusteau from Ratatouille). Do I regret coming here? No, in fact I was happy. Perhaps one day I could tell to my grand children that in the Spring of 07, your grand father had a chance to dine at Paul Bocuse, one of the most legendary chefs in the world (possibly Escoffier in the 20th century, no?). Here are the pictures,

bocuse 07

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Stay in the center of Lyon and take a cab if you go.  I'll bet the waiter will walk you out and put you in the cab himself.

That was exactly our experience last year. We stayed at the Sofitel Royal on Place Bellecour after having driven around Burgundy for a few days. The round trip in a cab was pennies compared to the bill at Bocuse :biggrin: and it was a nice way to see the route without having to worry about driving it yourself after eating and drinking for a few hours.

I agree with the others who caution about having expectations of creativity: that's not what eating there is all about. The food was perfect, the setting is steeped in history, and our waiter warmed up when we told him we were from Northern California: it seems his goal is to make it to French Laundry :wink:

Our food-French (especially about cheese) was better than his English, so it helped us to steer him away from explainations that were translated. I can well imagine that if we were to go again in 10 years, perhaps the only thing that would be different is that we might not get a glimpse and wish of bon appetite from the man himself again.

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  • 1 year later...

Had my (at least) yearly visit yesterday. It's not only that I think that this is one of the best in France, but, as years go by, I actually think more and more highly of it. I think only a handful of restaurants in France have that level of technical mastery, and also it is a personal, powerful and intense cuisine, if undeniably a time travel as well. I posted some pics here: http://picasaweb.google.fr/ZeJulot/Bocuse02#

Thing is, I would not recommend it to inexperienced, non-French diners. As I said, the more I know about food and fine dining, the more I love Bocuse. Actually, I did not even took my younger brother with me exactly for that reason: for his first time, it's much better to take him to Guy Savoy or Ramsay or some more accessible restaurant.

Edited by julot-les-pinceaux (log)
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Thank you for the report and pictures Julot

Bocuse indeed never changes :)

The soup part ... actually some restaurants in Asia "copy" Bocuse VGE soup - meaning the soup required 30-40 min to make with very hot pastry on top and some mix of vegetables and a few beef cubes, they make it creamier. Of course not as good as the master's version

Do you actually like the dessert selections? I did not really like it

I tried about 3/4 of them, but nothing to be very good except gateau bernachon

Oh I also saw cool pictures in your picasa ... inside the Arpege's kitchen :biggrin:

Do you mind sharing the experiece? Perhaps in the Arpege's forum

I hope you also ate there and how's the food?

Thanks

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Actually, I shared your feeling on earlier visits about the desserts, and it was possibly partly due to being so full at that point, as everyone is. But this time, while I could not possibly taste many, the ones I had were very very good. I have not checked but I'm ready to bet that the pastry chef changed.

There were beef cubes in the soup. The truffle was underwhelming -- no suprise in november of a rather bad truffle year.

I'm not sure that Bocuse "never changes" -- recipes remain the same and look the same but either Bocuse changed or I did, since this was by far the best meal I had there.

About l'Arpège -- don't know when I'll talk about it in more detail. I wrote a text in French which I'll release soon.

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Had my (at least) yearly visit yesterday. It's not only that I think that this is one of the best in France, but, as years go by, I actually think more and more highly of it. I think only a handful of restaurants in France have that level of technical mastery, and also it is a personal, powerful and intense cuisine, if undeniably a time travel as well. I posted some pics here: http://picasaweb.google.fr/ZeJulot/Bocuse02#

Thing is, I would not recommend it to inexperienced, non-French diners. As I said, the more I know about food and fine dining, the more I love Bocuse. Actually, I did not even took my younger brother with me exactly for that reason: for his first time, it's much better to take him to Guy Savoy or Ramsay or some more accessible restaurant.

What do you mean my "more accessible restaurant" What makes Bocuse so hard to understand. What restaurants do you include in the class of Bocuse?

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Bocuse's style is not contemporary, and therefore diners non familiar with his style of cooking may not fully appreciate perfect stock, perfect béarnaise, homard à l'armoricaine. Who still does Béarnaise at all (Choron, served with seawof in puff pastry, is a tomato béarnaise)? To those who did not grow up among such recipes, at home and in restaurants, this may, at first, only taste rich. So it's not about understanding something, it's about developing a sensitivity that is rarely used in contemporary cuisine.

In Bocuse's class as such, doing the same king of "historical" but truly excellent cuisine, I can only think of Besson (except for desserts) and Rostang, restaurants often better appreciated by those people familiar with the tradition of cuisine.

If your question is about restaurants that are harder to appreciate for the neophyte, the list is larger, ranging from l'Ambroisie to Roellinger to Winkler. Some are in dialog with a tradition and culture. Some are just following their own route and might be puzzling at first, because one does not know where the action is going on, what to pay attention to. Expectation is essential in the restaurant experience - if you expect l'Ambroisie to be like Guy Savoy in terms of the human experience, you'll be sorely disapointed.

Edited by julot-les-pinceaux (log)
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I think it is possible to appreciate perfection as you experienced at Bocuse even if a diner doesn't have experience with Bocuse's style of cooking. Unfortunately, I have not had much experience with traditional and if I may say " old-fashioned" cuisine. My only meal here in the USA that was traditional french cuisine was at La Mer, the restaurant at the Halekulani hotel in Oahu. Having been schooled on new york cuisine, specifically at Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, and ADNY, i was surprised by the heavy food I was served at La Mer. However, I was able to experience both Guy Savoy and L'ambrosie and enjoyed both, although i do realize that Pacaud and Savoy approach food in very different ways.

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  • 4 years later...

I'm off there in a months time. I'm looking forward to it and will report back. I'm not under any illussions that it will be inventve or what you now expect in many 2 or 3 star establishments. From all the reviews I've read you go there to experience how things were at a top quality establishment in the '70s or maybe that is unfair!?

Andrew

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  • 1 month later...

So much has been written and blogged about the Paul Bocuse restaurant it is difficult to know where to start and what you can you can add. In the end I've gone for a very personal perspective which will no doubt be heresy to many. In certain respects it should be read in conjunction my comments on other restaurants in Lyon. A three day trip, three restaurants and seven stars. Paul Bocuse was three of these stars and (unfortunately) the worst meal of the three.

It was an amazing experience. Something I have never seen but will be familiar, no doubt, to older readers who ate out in the 1960s and 1970s. The problem is that things have moved on and this restaurant has not.

As you approach you are faced with a multi coloured building with the owner's name in bright lights on the roof. The door is opened by a doorman in traditional uniform. Bizarrely he later doubles as an organ grinder.

A number of menus are on offer which you get the feeling have not changed for years. Much has been written by those with far more writing ability to describe the food but the bread and amuse bouche were fine but not spectacular. I opted for the three course menu classique with the addition of the signature truffle soup. From a choice of four starters I choose the quenelle of pike with prawns in a sauce nantua. This was good, a huge portion with a sauce of real depth of flavour. The presentation let them down.

Next was the famous truffle soup. According to the booklet provided when your order the soup it is based on the concept of an English chicken pie. As you pierce the light fluffy pastry the heady truffle aroma takes over. Unfortunately that disappears after about five seconds leaving with the rich and overpowering taste of beef stock with truffle and foie gras.

A Beaujolais sorbet is served before the main course. This had an overwhelming and quite unpleasant flavour of alcohol. Rather than clearing the palate it blew the head away!

A man course beef filet Rossini was one of the worst examples I've had. The beef although cooked as I asked (medium rare) was tough and stringy. It certainly was not a filet steak. It had a huge slab of foie gras on top that was quite greasy. That quality of the beef should not have left the kitchen and no one questioned why most of it went untouched.

The cheeses was good quality and a huge 25+ selection. A huge array of desserts are laid out for you. Quantity is not the issue, the problem is quality. Quality is fine but that is just it. They are fine, nothing special, no wow factor, what you would expect at your local good restaurant with great volume.

Service was attentive although there were two weird events. The patron was visiting his son in the US so rather than him greeting his guests his wife came round to each table. The problem was she clearly was uncomfortable doing this and spent 10 seconds at each table saying hello and moving onto the next before anyone could reply.

The next event was just weird. Towards the end of the meal the doorman wheeled a musical organ grinder into the centre of the room, played it for 30 seconds and left. I don't know if in just sensitive to these things but it felt like a scene from a colonial past with the black servant all dressed up performing for the masters.

The menu I choose was the cheapest (€148) and added the soup (€82) - is this the most expensive soup in the world!? With a coffee, water and a few glasses of wine the bill came to €320.

I do not understand how Michelin can award it three stars apart from loyalty. The meal is over priced (which I can live with) but the quality is average. None of the dishes were great, in fact if this were one star cooking I'd be surprised. It is a dreadful thing to say but I can only assume whilst the owner is alive they will keep awarding the three stars out of sentimentality.

Why go? So you can say you've been. There are far better restaurants in Lyon.

Andrew

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Andrew, I ate at Paul Bocuse 7 or 8 years ago and I'm still puzzled and slightly angry with the whole affair. My experience mimics your own in terms of quality of food, and I also found the organ grinder bit very bizarre. I could also say that we found the service to be very poor, but who knows if that's the norm. I'll certainly never return.

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Simon,

Couldn't agree more. Certainly I wouldn't go back and it is not somewhere I would recommend anyone else to go. However, there are some amazing restaurants in Lyon that are worth visiting.

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