Our guide is packed with local knowledge to help you track down what to eat and drink in the gastronomic capital of France, and the nearby wine country
words FIONA FORMAN recipe GERALD STRAGA
Lyon has it all – culture, beautiful architecture and, above all, incredible food. It’s smaller than Paris, but France’s second city is home to no less than 15 Michelin-starred restaurants. The rolling hills, renowned vineyards and wines of Beaujolais are just a 40-minute drive away, so you can combine city break and rural retreat in one trip.
The region is a hub for fine dining, however for authentic local fare at a fraction of the price, eat at a bouchon, where they still serve the sort of peasant food that fuelled the city’s silk workers in the 1800s. Bouchons take nose-to-tail eating seriously – in one meal you can eat pig’s brain, calf’s head and calves trotters. But it’s not all, there’s pan-fried fish, delicious lentil salads and never-ending cheese trollies, and plenty of bottles of Beaujolais.
3 must-visit restaurants
Brasserie Georges, Lyon
Opened primarily as a brewery in 1836 by a family from Alsace, Brasserie Georges is an institution. The oldest brasserie in the city, it still has four of its own beers on tap. Set in a beautiful Art Deco room that seats 650, the atmosphere is jolly and the food is hearty. Alongside Alsatian sauerkraut there are local sausages studded with pistachios, and the city’s vivid pink pralines are served in no less than four desserts. Turn to next page for a recipe from head chef Gérald Straga.
Le Bouchon de Filles, Lyon
It may look traditional, with red-and-white check tablecloths and a chalkboard wine list, but Le Bouchon de Filles is a modern affair. Taken over by three young women who found the classic bouchon dishes too heavy, here you’ll find lighter versions of local specialties including quenelles and andouillette (a sausage made from tripe). Tel: 00 33 47830 4044
La Feuillée, Theize
A pretty village in southern Beaujolais, Theize is a good place to stop for a leisurely lunch in between wine tastings. In the village square, a stone’s throw from the church, you’ll find La Feuillée. Locals sit out on the terrace drinking bottles of Beaujolais and eating generous plates of grilled goat’s cheese on toast, steak with blue cheese sauce, and apple tart, all made using local produce.
10 things to eat and drink
Cervelle de canut
A dip made from creamy white cheese, garlic and herbs, good with crusty bread. The name translates as ‘silk workers brain’, so-called because it’s soft – craftsmen were often looked down on by the affluent residents of Lyon.
Quenelles de brochet
Lyon’s signature dish of pike dumplings served with a creamy crayfish, lobster or mushroom sauce. You’ll find them at every bouchon in the city.
These hang from the ceilings of every bouchon and wine bar in Lyon. Rosette de Lyon is the most famous, and for good reason – a garlicky sausage air-dried for up to six months, it has a deep, rich flavour. Other local specialties include Jésus (tied in a pear shape, it’s said to resemble the shape of a swaddled baby Jesus), and cured sausages with truffles and pistachios.
Tablier de sapeur
Tripe marinated in white wine, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. It’s an acquired taste!
A sweet, deep-fried treat. Strips of dough flavoured with vanilla, lemon zest, orange water or rum are twisted into different shapes, fried and dusted with icing sugar. Traditionally made for Mardi Gras, they are now so popular that many bakeries, including A La Marquise (alamarquise.fr), sell them all year round.
A perfect combination of bitter frisée lettuce, crisp salty lardons, poached eggs and a sharp mustardy dressing.
Gâteau de foie de volaille
Another bouchon staple. Chicken livers are blitzed with cream, garlic, eggs and herbs, then baked to make these light, moussy ‘cakes’. Often eaten as a main course with a tomato sauce and salad.
Château de la Chaize Brouilly
The 17th-century Château de la Chaize is surrounded by the Brouilly hills, where pink granite soil and old vines (half of them are over 50 years old) produce a silky red wine. The estate’s owner, Caroline de Roussy de Sales, runs tours of the eco-friendly vineyard and holds tastings in what is the longest cellar in Beaujolais. Buy some Brouilly to take home, and after a few months, it’ll taste even better.
Tête de veau
Calf’s head, including the brains, is simmered in a broth for hours and served with a mustardy sauce. Try it (if you dare) at Daniel & Denise (danieletdenise.fr), which does such Lyonnaise classics very well.
Locals love these rosy sugared almonds, often used to adorn brioche, stuff croissants, and mixed with cream in the hot pink tartes aux pralines, found in bakeries and on dessert menus across Lyon.
French onion soup from Brasserie Georges
Paris and Lyon disagree over the origins of this soup – both claim they invented it. Gérald Straga, head chef at Brasserie Georges, says: ‘We’ve been serving this classic for over 100 years. According to Lyon’s renowned chef Paul Bocuse, this recipe with croutons and Gruyère is unmistakably Lyonnaise.’
4 onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, a few thyme sprigs and parsley stalks tied together with kitchen string)
50g plain flour
1.5 litres chicken stock
300g Gruyère, grated
1 baguette, sliced into cubes
1 Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onions and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 1 hr 35 mins with a lid on until the onions are lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 1 min more, then stir in the flour and cook to a sandy-coloured paste.
2 Pour in the madeira and bring to a simmer, stirring so the onions don’t stick. Pour in the stock, add the bouquet garni, then season and leave to simmer for 30-45 mins.
3 Meanwhile, put the croutons on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10-12 mins until golden brown. When done, take out and heat the grill.
4 Ladle the soup into heatproof bowls, put five or six croutons on top of each soup, sprinkle over the cheese and grill for 2-3 mins until golden brown and bubbling. good to know calcium • 1 of 5-a-day
PER SERVING 540 kcals • fat 25g • saturates 15g •
carbs 39g • sugars 10g • fibre 5g • protein 26g • salt 2.0g
5 foodie travel tips
Explore the Beaujolais wine route
Driving routes wind through scenic countryside and medieval villages, with vineyard tours and cellar tastings along the way. For a map of the route, visit beaujolaisvignoble.com. Most of the wine in the region is produced from the gamay grape, but forget Beaujolais Nouveau – the older wines are far superior. To hire a car with a chauffeur who will arrange your route and book tastings and meals, visit gatelyon.fr.
Eat in a B&B
Lots of vineyards have B&Bs attached, and most offer table d’hôte: a fixed-price dinner, often eaten with the winemaker and their family. At Domaine David-Beaupere, in the village of Juliénas, hostess Claire serves a four-course supper made from local, organic produce.
Shop at a local market
The main market in Lyon, Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, is crammed with high-end local produce. Make a beeline for La Mère Richard – the creamy Saint Marcelin cheese is the region’s best, and staff will vacuum-pack it for you to take home; and Charcuterie Sibilia, where local legend Colette Sibilia makes the city’s top charcuterie.
Locals love to linger over a meal. Eat a relaxed lunch at neighbourhood favourite AOC (+33 4 72 60 79 57), a wine bar at Les Halles that uses produce such as platters of charcuterie and succulent steaks straight from the surrounding stalls, or pay homage to chef Paul Bocuse with a visit to his popular bistro, Le Sud (nordsudbrasseries.com).
Go grape picking
Visit in September to take part in the harvest. At Domaine Paire in southern Beaujolais, join the charismatic Jean-Jacques Paire for a morning in the vines, then sit down to a three-course lunch, followed by a tour of the wine museum and cellar, and a tasting of his organic wines. To book, email email@example.com.
Where to stay
• It’s hard to believe that the quirky, stylish Philippe Starck-designed Mama Shelter in Lyon is a budget hotel. Doubles from Rs6,169 a night (mamashelter.com).
• The spectacular 13th-century Château de Bagnols in Beaujolais has rooms from Rs15,603 a night (excluding breakfast), based on two sharing a suite with a garden view (chateaudebagnols.com).