Gastronomy of Lyon

Succumb to the charm of our city’s atmosphere, where everything is gourmandise, sometimes for the eyes and at other times for the taste buds. For amongst all the arts, the art of fine living is the pride of Lyon and the reason for its renown throughout the world. You will find 2000 restaurants in Lyon!

The gastronomic delights of Lyon have been known for centuries and owe much of their fame to a group of women known as the ‘Mères Lyonnaises’, or Lyon mothers. Their story begins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when prominent bourgeois families had to let go their cooks. Some of these former domestic employees went towork in restaurants or into business for themselves. They offered family-style cooking, in particular for the silk weavers. Service was often gruff and the menu limited, but what wason it was cooked to perfection. This is the origin of the very special character of Lyon gastronomy: a combination of grand bourgeois cuisine and the more humble fare offered in the ‘bouchons’.

‘Mère Filloux’ became famous by adding dishes to the menu of her husband’s café, which later became a prestigious restaurant in the rue Duquesne. In this way, vegetable velouté with truffles, pike quenelles casserole with crayfish butter, artichoke hearts with foie grasand the celebrated pullet hen with black truffles became standards of Lyon gastronomy. Mère Filloux’s success attracted like-minded talents, and other cooks tried their luck opening a restaurant.

Mère Brazier carved a place for herself in Lyon’s culinary history by becoming the first woman to receive three Michelin stars. Her career started in Mère Filloux’s restaurant, but it was not easy for these two strong-willed women to collaborate. In 1921 she opened her own eatery in the rue Royale, then another at the col de la Luère in the verdant hills outside Lyon. Frequented by celebrities of the period, the restaurant inspired Lyon Mayor Edouard Herriot to say that Eugénie Brazier, the ‘other mayor’, did more than he did to promote their city. It was at Mère Brazier that Paul Bocuse did his apprenticeship before becoming one of the greatest chefs of the century.

The Bouchons

The origin of the term“bouchon”, as the traditional little Lyon restaurants are called, goes back to the days when inns that served wine outside mealtimes did their advertising by hanging a truss of straw on their signboards. This sign was associated with the normal stopping points for mail and stagecoaches in front of the inns. So whilst the horses were being rubbed down with straw, coach drivers could go in for a drink.

In certain “bouchons” in Lyon, you can still taste the traditional “mâchon”, a snack taken outside normal eating hours. In days gone by, silk-workers ate their “mâchon” – mainly charcuterie washed down by Beaujolais wine (to be consumed with moderation) – in a convivial moment spent together with silk manufacturers or merchants.

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