Four days in Paris and we were done with the city. The urge to leave and explorethe rest of France was Real. Initially our intention was to rent a car and drive to Champagne to visit vineyards and get drunk real bad and good. Unfortunately there was an ongoing Oil Refinery Strike in France. Faced with the unrelenting French government, the French oil refineries suspended much operations. As such, as said all over in the news, only 20% of petrol stations in France were stocked with petrol. Not wanting to risk getting stuck in some French countryside, we decided to take an inter-city train out. Unfortunately there was also a train strike for god-knows-what. Our choices were limited. Seriously, the country is filled with the laziest people I have ever come across. I repeat. L.a.z.y.
Lyon is slightly more than two hours away from Paris. I do not remember why we decided to go but it was highly because we checked train schedules beforehand and saw the express trains were operating at full service. It was a comfortable 2-hour train ride across the picturesque French countryside. We arrived in Lyon in the afternoon, checked-in to the Novotel hotel by the train station, dropped our bags, and set off to hunt for food.
Unbeknownst to us then, Lyon is a gastronomic city and its’ most famous and favourite chef is Paul Bocuse. He has been credited for introducing and spreading Lyonnaise food around the world. Lyon loves him so much that bronze sculptures of him can be seen frequently throughout Lyon. However as we learnt after three days in the city, Lyonnaise cuisine is not for the faint-hearted. It is meaty, creamy & cheesy, carby, and downright rich to the point of overwhelming. We had two Lyonnaise meals and we were so Done. After that, all I wanted was white rice. On the flight back home, for the first time ever, I went for the Asian options and gobbled up every grain of rice and strand of noodle.
Anyway back to Lyon, one of the best things Chef Paul Bocuse has done for the city is set up an indoor food market, Halles de Lyon-Paul Bocuse, that has nearly five-dozen stalls selling countless gourmet delights. It is hugely famous in Lyon. One can find all kinds of merchants selling products for cooking. Bakers, caterers, butchers or fishmongers, all selling high-quality fresh products. It is an impressive local showcase which brings together the town’s best merchants and products. People come here to find top-quality meat, poultry or cheese. Halles de Lyon-Paul Bocuse was just a 15 minutes walk away from our hotel/ central train station. You bet I counted my blessings when I first saw the proximity on Google Maps.
Unfortunately, we arrived just after lunch. While the produce purveyors were operating and ready to sell us their delicious produce, a lot of the little restaurants within the market were closed for lunch service. We walked around to many and enquired if they were still open.
It was sheer dumb luck Resto Halle was open and specialized in local Bouchon cuisine because it turned out to be our favourite and most delicious meal in Lyon. Every dish delivered on flavour and the rustic meaty dishes went straight to our hearts. Plus it wasn’t weird (later I will post on the weird Lyonnaise cuisine). Joyously, we polished off every plate. If you are ever in Lyon, visit the market and find this restaurant:
At Resto Halle, English menus are provided and upon comparison with the French menu, prices on both menus were the same. More importantly, the selection was identical. After four days of looking at French menus in Paris, I could roughly decipher the simple French words on the menu – really not difficult as almost all restaurants serve the same type of meat. Turns out Resto Halle ain’t some kind of tourist trap. Phew! Although people in Lyon did not speak as much English as Parisians, we were served by a wonderful wonderful wonderful and uber-efficient waiter who spoke a bit of English. He was amazing!!! Patiently describing to us the restaurant’s offerings and bringing us our drinks promptly despite him being the only waiter of the fairly-crowded place.
We skipped the appetizers and ordered three main courses that afternoon. Before lunch arrived, we were served with the usual cold bread with cold butter. I am still not taken with the French way of starting with rock-solid bread.
When our dishes arrived, we were shocked cause boy oh boy were the portions huge! Carbohydrates aplenty too. It was this meal that we realized Lyoannise don’t eat light and the next few days was not going to be easy on our tummies.
I ordered “the Deep-fried Tripe” and look what arrived…
Seriously a whole slab of it was not what I envisioned. Little pieces of it like fritters was what I had in mind… But when presented with a whole slab with whipped herbed-butter on the side, I said a little prayer, apologized to my body, and tucked in. My knife went through it effortless! Amazing!! Plus it tasted very clean and lacked any oily aftertaste. The French effortless ability to handle the difficult organ impressed me the most during the trip. Every tripe we had was perfectly tender and clean-tasting. If you have bought it from the market, you will know that organ is dirttyyy and cooking the muscular organ is a tedious task.
Our second dish was the Steak Tartare served with hand-cut fries and green salad.
The steak tartare was another splendid dish. My first of the trip. The roughly chopped chewy beef was boldly seasoned and coated in an olive oil-based marinate that still, strangely, tasted refreshing. The flavours and textures had us completely smitten.
I was so over frites/ fries at that point till this Gratin de ravioles nature au St Marcellin arrived. Much to the detriment of my waistline, I discovered the smooth, creamy gratin could be put to good use; by dipping every fry into it till it was nicely coated. Good gracious. Everybody say with me: h.e.a.v.e.n.
In Lyon, these tiny raviolis were commonly seen in their gratin. A surprise to us but we thoroughly enjoyed our new discovery.
And it was this dish that I discovered the true purpose of French’s smelliest cheese: in gratin dishes, the foul-smelling cheese with a pungent mushroomy aftertaste actually offsets the monotonous flavor of the cream. Very soon we found the St Marcellin cheese, produced in the Rhône-Alpes region, addictive. I love love love St Marcellin cheese now. The ravioli gratin was comfort food at its’ best. By the way, anyone know where I can find St Marcellin in Singapore?
With Resto Halle, we felt it was a very good start to Lyon. It helped set the standard for the rest of our meals in the city albeit an extremely high one. Thereafter we were unable to find a similar restaurant that could match Resto Halle. If you are ever in Lyon, do make a trip to the indoor market and indulge in good Bouchon fare here.
Resto Halle 102, Cours Lafayette, 69003, Lyon, France Open Tuesday to Saturday: 9h to 20h, Sunday and Public holidays: 8 am to 15h