The Lyon of Michel Roux Jr: my kind of city
Lyon is the gastronomic city of France and it is historic, quaint, and feels small, unlike the sprawling metropolises of Paris and Marseille. It is crossed by two rivers, some say three: the Rhône, the Saône and the Beaujolais, that is to say the wine. A 90-minute drive takes you to the ski slopes of the Alps or the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea.
Something special that I should wrap?
Warm clothes; it is cold and wet because of the rivers. Even in summer, it can be cool at night.
What do you miss the most when you’re away?
The food. The pretty little bouchons – like brasseries – and offal specialties from the region like tripe. Aux Trois Cochons (0033 472 419331; chabertrestaurant.fr) does Lyon cuisine particularly well, such as the sapeur apron – breaded and fried tripe. It is an acquired taste.
What is the first thing you do when you arrive?
I go straight on Les Halles (4 78 623933; hallespaulbocuse.lyon.fr), the central food market, a feast for the senses. I am also looking for a chocolatier. I recommend Les Chocolats Bernard Dufoux (4 72 775795; chocolatsdufoux.com), and Bernachon (4 78 243798; bernachon.com), by third-generation chocolate maker Philippe Bernachon.
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Where is the best place to stay?
At the top is the Cour des Loges hotel (4 57 747474; coursdesloges.com). It is full of charm, nicely appointed and has a magnificent entrance. At the other end is the Mama Shelter (4 78 025800; mamashelter.com/en), an affordable design hotel. Hotel Le Royal (4 78 375731; lyonhotel-leroyal.com), managed by the Paul Bocuse catering institute, is very central, reasonably priced and offers an excellent breakfast.
What are your favorite places for lunch?
Aux Trois Cochons is a large old-style Lyon cork. Another favorite is the Thomas Restaurant (4 72 560476; restaurant-thomas.com). The owner here, Thomas Ponson, has several restaurants across one street and I have eaten in all of them. He cooks modern Lyonnaise cuisine, imbued with regional products.
What about for dinner?
Auberge du Pont de Collonges (4 72 429090; bocuse.com) by Paul Bocuse, the grandfather of French gastronomy. But don’t eat before you go. The portions are gargantuan and Lyon cuisine is very rich. Try the brain of canut, which is a creamy cheese. Most restaurants in Lyon serve it. And also the famous pink dayglo pralines in pie, brioche or croissant.
Where would you like to meet friends for a drink?
Au Melhour, a pretty wine bar on the top floor of the Hôtel Sofitel Lyon Bellecour (4 72 412020; sofitel.com), on the banks of the Rhône. It has great views.
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Where would you send a visitor for the first time?
An essential part of the Lyon experience is La Maison des Canuts (4 78 286204; housescanuts.com), where visitors can learn about the history of silk production. I would also send people to the Gadagne museum (4 78 420361; gadagne.musees.lyon.fr) and the magnificent Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica (4 78 251301; fourviere.org). Spend a day strolling around Vieux Lyon, and don’t forget to watch a Lyon football match – I’m a huge fan and the new stadium promises to be amazing. See you in November for the Beaujolais Festival. A solid wooden barrel of wine is transported to Place Bellecour so that people can try it for free. Or in December, the Festival of Lights is just as magnificent; the whole city is lit up and there is music everywhere.
What should I avoid?
Every city has its dark and obscure side. Use your common sense and you’ll be fine. People say to avoid going in August, but it’s a good time to go as it’s relatively quiet with most locals on vacation.
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Public transport or taxis?
I like to walk. It is a pedestrianized city, especially the center. There is also a very good tram system. Handbag or wallet? Pockets for the most part. I tend to use a purse belt to have my hands free.
What should I bring home?
Food. I bring back sausages, salami, jars of tripe and boxes of pâté. Also chocolates and pink pralines, which make good gifts.
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Anywhere that’s not your kind of town?
Moscow. The architecture was very drab, concrete, austere and cold. There was traffic everywhere. I was expecting something different and it was a bit disappointing.
Michel Roux Jr and his father Albert Roux OBE teamed up with Epsom Downs Racecourse to create the menu for Chez Rouz @ Blue Riband at the Investec Derby Festival on June 5 and 6 (epsomdowns.co.uk).
Interview with Lisa Pollen