What makes Lyon the gastronomic capital of France?
- Foods not to miss in Lyon
- Popular restaurants to try in Lyon
French cuisine has truly come to rule the world, laying the foundation for many other types and delicacies through its formal techniques, its focus on fresh produce and simple flavors, its belief in appearance, and its rich and colorful heritage. However, when many think of visiting France, Paris is usually their first choice. What if we told you that Paris is not the national capital of gastronomy?
Lyon is Europe’s silk capital, but often overlooked by visitors and revered by experts as a culinary destination, it is France’s best-kept culinary secret. Lyon, the nation’s culinary center and hometown of one of France’s most renowned chefs, Paul Bocuse, is blessed with an exceptionally diverse array of cuisines. There are many options to try new cuisine and satiate your stomach, ranging from historic “bouchons” where people can savor rich specialties, such as Cervelles de Canut or Quenelles de Brochet. Let’s take a look at Lyon’s status as the culinary capital of France to help dispel any lingering doubts.
Lyon, gastronomy and the past
Lyon, a true Renaissance city located in the south-east of France, serves as a geographical center for agricultural products. His cuisine mixes northern elements like Charolais beef, Bresse chicken and lots of butter and cream with southern elements like fresh seasonal vegetables, olive oil and wine. Lyon gained a reputation as France’s food basket throughout the Renaissance. At the time, a distinction was made between public favorites and bourgeois gastronomy, which included the best wines and the best slices of meat sent to the nobility. Thus, as the trade of Lyon developed, the inhabitants created a culinary culture.
Renowned French connoisseur Curnonsky famously called Lyon the “Gastronomy Capital of the World” in 1935. And later, legendary chef Paul Bocuse greatly enhanced Lyon’s image by pioneering nouvelle cuisine, a new style of French cuisine.
Foods not to miss in Lyon
Lyon is home to many regional specialties. Try some of these traditional dishes as you learn about the food culture of the city.
Brain of Canut
La Cervelle de Canuts, commonly known as “silk workers’ brains”, is a cheese dish made from fresh cheese combined with shallots, herbs, salt, olive oil and pepper. It makes a tasty appetizer or dips for happy hour.
The quenelle is the quintessence of Lyonnaise delicacies, whether basic or flavored with pike. This is a great dish for cold winter days. It is usually baked au gratin and accompanied by a shrimp sauce (the famous Nantua sauce), a tomato sauce or a béchamel sauce.
The pink praline tart is a treat not to be missed in Lyon. It consists of a pastry crust filled with praline, a mixture of almonds dipped in sugar and lots of pink food coloring.
Saint Marcellin cheese
This creamy and delicious cheese is a regional favorite and comes from the nearby village of Saint-Marcellin. Semi-soft cheese is often shaped into circles and made from lightly salted fresh cow’s milk. It has a golden exterior and a creamy, semi-liquid core.
Popular restaurants to try in Lyon
Fortunately for connoisseurs, Lyon has a wide range of restaurants to suit all budgets and needs. Visitors won’t go hungry as there’s everything from Michelin-starred restaurants and corks to fine dining and vegetarian establishments.
To present the Brazilian origins of wife Tabata to the native France of husband Ludovic, Les Apothicaires was founded by the couple. As a result, dishes like matured black rice with apricots and yogurt sorbet and rose-roasted duck blend French and Latin flavors. A three-course menu is available for €26 and includes an egg pudding with beetroot, lemon thyme and caramelised malt, followed by a stew of butternut squash, pinfish, black radish and XO sauce. To conclude, there is pineapple, Sichuan peppers and lovage ice cream.
The Garet is a classic Bouchon; the atmosphere is constantly frenetic, social and lively. For €19.50 (£16), customers can choose the three-course lunch menu, which includes sapper apron (crumbled tripe), tartare, croquettes, calf’s liver (roasted calf’s liver), crème caramel and other regional dishes. Portions are substantial and modeled after the types of meals favored by workers who spend long hours in Lyon’s silk mills.
The Kitchen Cafe
At any time of the day, The Kitchen Café is bursting with energy. Delicious chocolate cakes and handmade chestnut gins are offered for lunch, and fresh pastries, granola and juices are on the breakfast menu. Crispy duck belly with broccoli, seaweed, tangerine and mustard, as well as Norwegian coastal fish with buckwheat, cabbage and shiitake mushrooms, are just some of the creative dishes the chef Connie creates the night.
Mathieu Rostaing-Tayard, a rising star in Lyon’s new wave of emerging chefs, creates dishes that would make any other chef cry. There are only two choices for each course of the three-course lunch ($23) and dinner ($38), which includes grilled fish, root vegetables, kombu seaweed, mustard and hazelnuts or Calf sweetbreads in tempura as a starter. It is followed by either grilled pork belly with black olives, bell pepper, clove and juniper, or red mullet, mollusk, sesame, star anise and bok choy. Anything that comes out sweet in the kitchen seems to go well with the Italian pastry red wine, Chinato.
It is obvious that Lyon is the gastronomic center of France with its heritage, its well-known basic cuisine and its exceptional restaurants to try. Be sure to include it in your next trip to France and visit Lyon for just one weekend.