Dining Review: Paul Bocuse Restaurant (l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges) – Lyon, France
One of the amazing parts of the Lyon Bourdain episode is when he dined at Paul Bocuse Restaurant, l’Auberge du Pont de Collonges. With high difficulty of executing the dishes that made Bocuse famous based on quality and creativity, and three Michelin Stars, this was certainly a worthy birthday dinner.
Unable to figure out a way to use public transport, we arrived via Uber with no issues – it was about a twenty minute drive outside of Lyon. Pulling up, the building stood out like a sore thumb, like a billboard demanding everyone’s attention that passed by.
We expected the upmost level of culinary artistry and service – a high bar but based on what we knew it was bar they are known for hitting again and again.
There are several dining styles at Paul Bocuse. First there is a traditional a la carte menu, then there are three pre-fix menu options – The “Classique Menu” gives you a choice of a starter and a meat or fish, the “Bourgeois Menu” gives you a choice of a started, meat and fish, and the “Menu Paul Bocuse” is a set menu of classic dishes served at Bocuse. Also note that while the favorites are always on the menu, there is a portion that changes out seasonally.
While tempted to go “all out” with the “Menu Paul Bocuse”, we went with the “Classique Menu” as we were satisfied with the menu choices and by selecting different dishes we each got to try twice as many items. I think we also had a feeling it was going to be far more than enough food – this didn’t seem like the type of place you leave hungry.
Wine – Domaine Pattes-loup Vent d’Ange 2015 Chablis
Chablis is one of our favorites so we knew we could not go wrong ordering this bottle. Even though we had a mix of meats and seafood coming our way, France is one of the few places that knocks white wines out of the park on a consistent and as high caliber as the red wines. Since this was a 2015, the acidity level rounded out giving a beautiful, balanced full bodied texture.
Our first taste of food! These looked just too nice to eat. The first one on the right was a goat cheese on top with a layer of fig atop a cracker. While I do not recall the ingredients for the second one in the ball shape, I do remember how fun the crisps one the outside were for texture.
Then, another one appeared! I was already happy to have gone with the smaller menu option all this extra food cam popping up and we didn’t even start yet. This dish had a puree that was more foam like topped with a creme – very light and tasty.
A traditional white bread was served one piece at a time along with a generous slab of house made butter. With the appetizer round, we also got two additional breads – a raisin bread and a wheat toast. It felt random as that was the only time but the raisin bread was so delightfully good – super light and had just a hint of sweetness. We had to cut ourselves off the bread train because the white bread and butter were just that tasty. The pile of crumbs I made was completely embarrassing.
Trilogy of “Perigord” foie gras
Beautiful! The two on the right hand side were duck – one as a foie gras and one in a more pate style. The third was goose foie gras that was smoked. There was a date in the middle with sides of balsamic and apricot jam. All three were amazing and all served at room temperature which is what I prefer – it allows you to really enjoy the texture and the favors. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the goose one – such a nice smokiness to it that worked really well.
Quenelles of lobster and pikeperch, Champagne sauce
This dish certainly did not come out looking like I thought it would. These three pillows full of delicious lobster and pikeperch – best dumplings ever. The dough was thick but soft, so good. But more importantly, this sauce was out of this world insanely delicious. It was one of those dishes that was not fair for it to end. I took every opportunity to sop my bread with this liquid gold. On its own is was so flavorful – rich, creamy, thick – but then when a dumpling opened, some juices leaked into the cream and created this seafood goodness all mixed together. If we stopped the meal here, it would have been a well worth journey.
Hare “a la Royale” as Antonin Careme
When this was brought out I thought someone was already on dessert – it looked like a chocolate cake. Nope! This was actually the rabbit preparation. Could have fooled me (and did). Just look how perfect the sauce is on the plate! The sauce is a reduction of the rabbit blood and the meat itself had an interesting texture – it was not a cut of meat like you would expect but more of a foie gras approach.
This is a unique dish that would be difficult to find anywhere else. There was also an accompanied sorbet that helped balance the strong flavors of the rabbit.
Fricassee of Bresse chicken in cream sauce, morel mushrooms
A tray with a dutch over came out from the kitchen and it was fun to guess what was inside – I was happy to learn it was ultimately this chicken dish. Plating was done table side with the chicken first followed by the morels and cream sauce, then a scope of rice and a scope of vegetables.
It was so pretty! As expected, the chicken was delicious. Bresse chicken is said to be the best chicken in the world. The morels and the cream sauce were as expected, amazing. Thick, cream sauce paired just wonderfully with the chicken and the earthiness of the morels. Excellent choice!
Fresh and matured cheese from our terroirs
And then my birthday dreams came true. A large tray full of cheeses was plopped right next to the table with almost twenty cheeses! Honestly, just looking at this is bringing immediately joy. We each got to pick three cheeses which pretty much meant we got to try six cheese from the cart which isn’t such a bad percentage. There was no way by sight any of us knew these cheeses so when we were casually asked “which would you like?” I almost giggled.
We ask him to give us each a cheese from cow, goat, and sheep but different ones for each of us. Kevin then asked about the cup of wet cheese on the cart next to the cheese tray and magically that appeared in front of us as well – seven cheeses! These cheeses were all exceptional. The wet cheese in a cup ended up being what is known as simply “white cheese” – it is fresh cheese that is then served with cream on top and white sugar on top of all of it. Not surprisingly, this was also amazing.
First of all, we were so full at this point, it was hard to believe we still had a round of dessert ahead of us! First, there was a palate cleanser sorbet that was brought out to get rid of all the funky cheese tastes.
Delicacies and Temptations
Four carts came over to our side of the dining room – all for dessert. We both looked at each other finding it impossible to be staring at this much dessert. All my birthday hopes and dreams – first unlimited cheese and now unlimited dessert! Once again, we were met with a casual “what would you like?” when it was nearly impossible to tell from four carts of dessert what the choices were!
The possibilities were just overwhelming in the best way. After an orientation period, I chose a chocolate cake with raspberries and ice cream, Kevin got a fruit and cream filled pastry with ice cream along with a creme brulee. Everything was superb.
Then, a sound box started to play happy birthday and another dessert appeared with a candle.
Thank you Bocuse! I could not bare to eat any more dessert (and quite frankly it was way too tart to do so).
Fantasies and Chocolate
When we thought the eating had ended, another trio of small desserts was presented. The first was a raspberry flavored cake, the second was a hazelnut cookie, and the last one was a chocolate nougat. A lovely way to end the night!
Interior and service
The interior was beautiful – decorated with bright, clean whites and large modern light fixtures – it was more like eating in a home instead of at a restaurant. Given the reputation, the environment was way more comfortable than I would have expected. The service was perfect and gracious. Everyone was constantly swarming around the dining floor like a choreographed dance. Instead of trays being held over head by one hand as in most restaurants, Bocuse uses silver trays like you would think tea is served on. This small element was elevating to the entire experience. On the way to the bathroom (which is beautiful), you get an open view of the kitchen. It is amazing how many people are working in the controlled chaos.
We also saw the table service of the red snapper and the chicken bladder at neighboring tables so while we did not get to eat them, seeing the presentation was enough to feel like we did.
Needless to say, this is another birthday meal I will never forget. It really was such an incredible experience and we feel so fortunate we were able to dine here. If you are in the Lyon area, this is an obvious must-do dining experience if you are able. The attention to detail is really so special – from the dining room, to the food, to the service – showcasing that simplicity is sometimes all it takes to create something magical. They certainly make highly technical techniques seem easy with dishes that come out as perfect in the tradition of Bocuse.
We got an Uber back to Lyon, amazed by the evening we just had. Needing to walk off our enormous stomachs, we did a lap around the block before settling in. I am still so happy to have stuck with the smaller meal – I can’t image the level of full we would be if we went with the larger menus! Thank you Bocuse for a special birthday dinner I will never forget!