Lyon

Lyon

By
Luke Nguyen
Contains
8 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742707181
Photographer
Alan Benson

If you’re in any way a foodie, you have to visit Lyon. It’s regarded as the French gastronomic capital, and that’s really saying something in a country where the food is always so astounding.

Lyon has a geographical location that puts it smack in the middle of where the best meats, fresh produce, fish, dairy products and wines in France are located. Around all of these stunning raw materials they’ve developed a really simple, stylish cuisine. Famous dishes include salade Lyonnaise, tripes à la Lyonnaise, and unique sausages such as andouille (made using intestines) and cervelas, an uncured pork sausage.

Lyon moves at a gentler pace than Paris, with less hustle and bustle, but still plenty of culture and atmosphere. I love the historic city squares, side streets and distinctive pre-18th century arcades, called traboules, which make for great aimless wandering. Just on midday, the narrow streets swarm with diners off to fill the hundreds of restaurants — Lyon has more per capita than any other French city.

The people I meet exude warmth and take me into their dining rooms and kitchens so willingly. I love the Lyonnaise reverence for food: even if they are making a simple salad, all the ingredients have to be top quality and everything assembled and mixed at just the right time or it’s not worth the effort. Famous chefs like Fernand Point, Alain Chapel and Paul Bocuse are associated with Lyon, and the city still has plenty of brilliant chefs, such as Jean-Paul Lacombe, of the famous brasserie Léon de Lyon — a wonderful place to try the famed local cuisine bourgeoise. Essentially, this translates to simple cooking based on first-class seasonal produce, but in reality my meal here is a sumptuous feast for all the senses. The pike quenelles in lobster sauce, pâté en croûte (pork, duck, sweetbreads and pistachio nuts baked in pastry), slow-cooked veal, and for dessert, praliné assiette, all perfectly presented and served, really stop me in my tracks.

Then there are the famous bouchons, unique to Lyon, which are very homey, small, family-run restaurants, in which mum typically does all the cooking and ordering, and dad looks after the bar. They’re low on frills and offer limited menus, but the dishes they serve are universally knock-out. My favourite was Chez Hugon, where I managed to extract a secret family recipe for chicken liver gâteau from owner Arlette Hugon. (Her husband, Henri, wasn’t so keen for me to have it!) The way in which the bouchons work, with everyone pitching in and helping with whatever needs doing, reminds me of the way we started our Red Lantern restaurant in Sydney, where we all helped each other along.

It makes me feel I’m among family, and it was in Lyon that I was able to reunite with my ex-chef from Red Lantern — Momo Lakhneche who, after working there for many years, returned to his home town of Lyon to pursue his pâtisserie career. Seeing him was like seeing my brother again, and his passion for food and pastry was electric.

Recipes in this Chapter

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