“Make sure you eat at a bouchon” was the number one recommendation I got when I asked people what to do in Lyon.
I knew dining was definitely going to be a heavy part of the Lyon itinerary, as Lyon is known as the gastronomical capital of France, but what the hell was a bouchon? How is it different from the typical French cafe? And how would I know whether a place was a bouchon or just a normal restaurant??
As I explored Lyon and learned more about it, I learned that a bouchon is a restaurant that serves traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. The food is mostly very rich and fatty and heavily based on meat. Lyon’s gourmet reputation was created in the late 1800s when the Mères Lyonnaises (Lyon mothers) started their own restaurants when they could no longer be employed by wealthy families. They started off serving the working class, but soon the reputation lured in wealthier clientele. Eating at a bouchon is supposed to be a warm and cozy affair, one to make you feel like you’re dining at a Lyonnaise mother’s home.
A quick research also tells me that an official organization bestows annual certifications to restaurants as “authentic” bouchons. Only twenty or so restaurants are certified as authentic bouchons, though a lot of eateries bill themselves as one (so do your research if this matters to you).
We had met another nomadic couple in Lyon and eating at a bouchon was at the top of the list for all four of us. So on a Saturday evening, we met Gavin and Eva at Daniel et Denise.
Daniel et Denise has three locations, and we chose the one in Saint-Jean, on the edge of Old Town. Each location has a different decor and slightly different feel. But there is a standard “look” for most bouchons: red checkered tablecloths, wooden furnishings, busy walls crammed full with hundreds of photos, and a generally darker cozy atmosphere. Unlike most bouchons, Daniel et Denise lacks the checked tablecloth and the interior is bright and quirky, with baby blue trimmings and copper pots hanging off the walls. But like most bouchons, it is cozy. And by that, I mean quite literally. Tables are so tightly squished together that you’re practically rubbing backs with the diners from the next over. But that’s all part of the experience. (And this is why I failed to get a picture of the interior).
Since this may be our only bouchon experience, we all went for the set dinner in order to sample the most things. Most of us ended up choosing completely different items, and thanks to Gavin and Eva being so tolerant of my obsessive photo taking, I have twice the dishes to show and tell!
(And I apologize for the photo quality. Bad lighting + iPhone camera = poor photos that my standard free photo editor cannot fix.)
We all arrived ravenous. Having heard that the portion sizes are quite hefty at bouchons, we all made sure to properly starve ourselves before the meal. First up, appetizers!
Gavin went for the pâté croûte, a traditional Lyonnaise charcuterie item featuring terrine wrapped in puff pastry. This one here is a foie gras and sweetbread pâté.
And D went for the traditional Lyonnaise salad, consisting of an old wine vinaigrette, thick cut bacon pieces, croutons, and a poached egg…
… while Eva and I went for something a little more daring: a trio of salads consisting of beef nose, veal foot, and green lentils with shallots. They certainly don’t waste any part of an animal!
Even though it’s no surprise that I love food, I actually don’t consider myself to be that adventurous of an eater. Animals parts not usually meant for consumption scare me, and this was pushing the edge of my food comfort envelope. It took me a while to work up the nerve to pop the gelatinous pieces into my mouth, but surprisingly, they were delicious! Spoiler alert: this actually ended up being my favorite course!
Next, D got an extra course from the rest of us because of his (more pricey) menu option: pistachio sausage in brioche, with a side of red wine Beaujolais sauce. I was really jealous of this one!
For our mains, we all picked different dishes.
Eva got andouillette sausage cooked three different ways: grilled, fried, and gratinated,
and Gavin got the pig shoulder (so incredibly tender, according to him),
while D ordered the farm reared chicken with morel mushrooms in cream sauce, based on the waiter’s recommendation. D thought this was a bit on the salty side. (Edit: actually, D thought it needed some salt to bring more of the flavor out!)
I went for what is perhaps the most traditional bouchon dish of all: the pike quenelle in Nantua sauce. Quenelle is creamed pike with eggs, butter, and flour (which gives it a very fluffy mousse-like consistency) and poached to cook, and served with a heavy crayfish seafood sauce. Basically, it was one GIANT fishball. I quite liked this but the sauce was quite salty.
All the food is pretty heavy, so not even half way into our mains, we were all getting full. But as if all this wasn’t enough, the main dishes were also accompanied by two large dishes of fried potato chips and cheesy pasta (which we called mac n cheese). We had no idea that these sides came with the set dinners!
I really wonder how they honestly expect a person to eat everything, plus two whole large dishes of potatoes and pasta. Seriously, nothing here is in dainty portions.
After all these were cleared, next came the cheese course!
I was looking forward to this course, well, because who doesn’t like cheese? I selected fresh cheese with herbs and mature white wine. All I can say is that this was way too sour. So much so that in fact, it tasted exactly like sour cream that you would put on a baked potato. Too bad that at this point, the waiter already cleared those potato chips, because otherwise this would go so well with them.
The other cheese options were fresh cheese with a pot of cream (which was confirmed to be very sour as well) and Lyon’s traditional Saint Marcellin. If you’re a hardcore cheese lover, you may want to go for this, but I find Saint Marcellin to be way too punchy/stinky. It’s hard to describe the smell & taste of cheese, but let’s just say that even the smell is offputting to me as it resembles an elephant enclosure at the zoo.
At this point, we were all stuffed to the point of bursting. But there’s still dessert to be had, and somehow we can always magically find more space for dessert.
I was blown away by the sizes of these desserts as well. If you haven’t already guessed, the chocolate pots + madelines was mine. The chocolate was incredibly creamy, like pure thick ganache. And you can tell they are pretty decent sized pots by the size of the spoon. I can’t imagine how anyone will ever need to eat TWO pots of it!
Was this an amazing mind-blowing meal? Definitely not. But good value? Definitely. It was too bad that I found a lot of the food to be overly salted and too rich for my liking. However, a couple of new friends, a dash of new flavors, a few glasses of wine, endless good conservation, and 4 absolutely stuffed bellies = a successful recipe for a memorable meal experience.
So if you have a visit to Lyon in the books, make sure you eat at bouchon. :)
Locations: there are three –
- Créqui: 156 rue de Créqui 69003 Lyon
- Saint-Jean: 36 rue Tramassac, 69005 Lyon
- Croix Rousse: 8 rue Cuire 69004 Lyon
Reservations are highly recommended. The restaurant was absolutely packed practically as soon as they opened for dinner.
Pricing: set menu prices are 30-40€ (as of 2015). However, you could build your own meal from the menu.
Have you visited Lyon, or had any similar foods anywhere else?
Today’s Travel Tuesday is THEMED! The theme is a memorable meal experience, so link up any food-related posts! I’ll be looking forward to reading all the delicious posts!
To join the blog party, just link up below!
1. SHARE a post about travel! Anything goes here… whether it’s trips abroad or local adventures, past travels or dream vacations, travel tips and tricks, or anything in between! Just make it about travel!
2. GRAB the lovely button above! And link back to your lovely hosts: that would be Bonnie and yours truly.
3. LINKUP goes live! Every Tuesday at 8 am GMT.
4. HOP around and meet new travel loving bloggers! Link up will be open for a few days, make sure to check back to visit some of the newer travel posts!
1. Please only one linked up post per blogger. Save other posts for future linkups!
2. The last Tuesday of every month will be a themed prompt if you want to join in!
Powered by Linky Tools
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…
Also linking up with All About France linkup!