Loosen your belt and your purse strings, and join GayMenOnHoliday as we head for Les Bouchon in Lyon, France. With over 2000 restaurants, Lyon is the undisputed capital of gastronomy. It has rich culinary traditions and iconic chefs like Paul Bocuse. There are many Michelin Star restaurants to be found in this city but we decided to try out several of the bouchons instead. They are mostly found in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements, sitting between the Rhône and Saône Rivers.
Bouchons are a special type of restaurant particular to Lyon, serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. All their menus are strikingly similar with plenty of pork sausage, in fact pork anything, including stomach, feet and head. Pork is the speciality of Lyon. However, you will also commonly see duck or game pate, tripe soup or breaded tripe, stingray and quenelles (ground fish dumplings) and desserts like tarte praline, cream carmel or regional cheeses.
To find out more information about bouchons – (http://travel.michelin.com/web/destination/France-Auvergne_Rhone_Valley-Lyons/news-Les_Bouchons_Lyonnais_Lyon_s_answer_to_the_tavern). OR
You will find most of the dishes are quite fatty and prepared from meat which is mostly offal. One evening, for entree, we had the blood sausage with warm apples and for our main the slowly simmered pork cheeks. On another occasion we tried the traditional lentil salad, veal kidneys with mustard sauce, or you might prefer a beef pie in a red wine sauce. All slow cooked, heavy fare but one bite and you’re hooked. We have to admit we aren’t as adventurous as some but everything we tried was delicious and very filling.
Another endearing feature of these restaurants is that they have a very homely feel. Often family run, they are mostly decorated with a vast amount of ornaments, old photographs, bottles, artworks, and things that are of interest to the owner and entertaining for the diners. Originally, this style of food and dining was the choice of the working class in Lyon, created to feed the silk workers in the small inns around the old town. Today, the many bouchons in Lyons try to continue these homely traditions and we found them well patronised by locals as well as tourists, both at lunchtime and for dinner each day. On the only Sunday we were in town, we found it almost impossible to find a table for lunch.
Officially there are only 20 certified bouchons in Lyon but there are many more unofficial ones. In the old town there are a number of bouchons, as well as other many fine restaurants, to be found among the winding narrow streets and magnificent ancient buildings. Most of the bouchons offer a daily menu which includes three courses from about 19€, not including wine. Arlette Hugon, manager of Chez Hugon‘s restaurant, suggests Café des Fédérations, La Meunière, Chez Georges or Au Jura as good restaurants in which to try traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. She says, “We don’t all use the same working methods, but this doesn’t make the food any less delicious! There’s no jealousy among us, because if one of us is busy, then the others are most certainly busy as well.“
Our first bouchon experience was in the eating lane called Rue des Marronniers at the Bouchon de Carnivores, one of the four restaurants which belong to la famille Chabert (3 in the same street). Little did we know then that we would try the sister restaurant (Chabert et Fils) opposite, on a Sunday when it had a vacated table and everywhere else was packed. Both were excellent and the waiters made us feel like we had sat down at the family dining table (although a little squashed, as only the French can do).
We found Les P‘tits Pères at 23 Rue de L‘Arbre Sec to have excellent food and a friendly gay clientele. Chef Yannick and his very cute and friendly waiter Escabane made our night really special and then pointed us in the direction of a couple of the best gay bars in town (La Ruche and XS Bar). Yannick’s very popular restaurant is only two streets away from the bars and his restaurant motif is, of course, a French Coq. So when dinner was over, we made a bee line to la Ruche (the hive).
On our last night in Lyon we stumbled across a really delightful place called La Meunière. Here we were served the most amazing freshly harvested field mushrooms cooked in wine with a poached egg and pâté de campagne en croûte which was sliced at the table and served with a jar of cornichons and a salad. For main course we chose the homemade Lyonnaise sausage with rich sauce and boiled potatoes. Washed down with a delicious bottle of French white, we left feeling very satisfied but a little sad our time in this stunning city had come to an end.
If, like us, a trip to France has always meant going straight to Paris, do yourself a big favour and add Lyon to your itinerary. This city is simply divine and a tour of the bouchons alone will keep you very busy. Oh but, be sure to pack the jogging shoes. You might just need the exercise.