Bouchons in Lyon, France
Bouchons are traditional Lyonnaise cuisine establishment and a staple of Lyon’s culinary history so it was definitely worthy of our first meal of the trip.
Bouchons reflect eating at home – the decor is basic, not fancy, the food is home made and simple, not gourmet, the portions are enormous and you do not leave hungry. The wine is all local and often used in the cooking. The dishes are those of Lyonnaise grandmothers and mothers creating hearty meals from what was available. Typical dishes include Lyonnaise salad, quenelles, and andouillette.
There are so many bouchons to choose from is it was quite a process to narrow down to a few that I felt were worthy. While there are many restaurants that call themselves “bouchons” – check for the approved seal (L’Association de defense des Bouchons Lyonnais) as there are about twenty certified bouchons.
We picked Le Garet which was just north of our Airbnb so it was a quick walk. As we began our journey north, we kept noticing heavy police activity which pushed us further west. Then we started to notice blockages with fences and vans. How were we going to get to our dinner? At the last street, where we could visualize the restaurant’s sign, there were police allowing people in after a bag check and a reason to be let in. After barely making our way though, we happily took the final few steps to Le Garet… only to notice a sign on the door that said it was closed due to the blockade (thank you Google Translate- that camera function is the best).
There was another couple there that were also disappointed by the closure, stating that they had reservations to dine there and wish someone reached out to inform them. Apparently, President Macron was in town, a frequent occurrence. We looked at each other, obviously bummed, but more importantly starving. This was the only night I had for a bouchon so I took to Google Maps to find the other back-ups I had star’ed on the map. I had a few options within close proximity so we made it back through the police barricade. After surveying a few bouchons, we picked Le Bistrot d’Abel, hoping for an authentic experience (though seal approved so already off to a good start).
We were one of the only customers at our 8PM arrival and that always makes me a little nervous. We sat down, settled in, and before we knew it, the place was mobbed and still mobbed when we left at the end of our meal.
There were several ways to enjoy dining at Le Bistrot d’Abel including a la carte or a selection of pre-fix menu options. Since the entrees are know to be heavy and large portion sizes, I opted to get two appetizers for my meal whereas Kevin chose the “Menu du Bistrot”.
After listening to wine recommendations, we ended up choosing the local wine, Viognier. We were hopeful to learn more about the wine in this region later in the trip but for now we stay satisfied with what we had.
The first round of food promptly arrived and we had smiles ear to ear looking at our plates. Both traditional dishes, we were so excited to eat.
The famous Bistrot d’Abel pate in pastry (foie gras, calve’s sweetbreads, and morel)
This was on my Lyon bucket list after seeing many pictures of it in association with bouchons so having this on the first night here was a treat. The pastry on the outside was so buttery and flaky which was a perfect compliment to the meat inside. Since the pate was a combination of foie gras, sweetbreads, and morel (our new favorite ingredient), each bite was different. Very happy with this dish!
Lyonnaise salad (bacon cubes cooked in vinegar, fried bread crumbs, and poached egg)
When I saw this, my jaw dropped looking at these hunks of bacon and bread crumbs – salad heaven. The greens were fresh, the poached egg made for a tasty salad dressing, and there are no words for the bacon and the bread crumbs. Honestly, I saw other Lyonnaise salads during the trip and this was by far the most attractive looking one. I would argue this has to be one of the best renditions of the Lyonnaise salad in Lyon.
Veal Liver cooked with garlic and parsley, home made mashed potatoes and vegetables
Kevin was asked prior how he wanted the veal liver cooked and we have grown to simply respond “as the chef recommends” in order to get the best and intended flavors. For this, it was pink so it was unclear what was going to come out (pink liver???). It was quite a surprise when the veal looked so well done with a heavy char on it (no complaints). This dish ended up being magical. The veal was incredible, like melt in your mouth, soft texture, but had this wow factor of the smokey char on the outside. Doesn’t hurt that it was swimming in garlic butter. This with the mashed potatoes, oh it was just wonderful. Bouchons, you are alright. While I still think I could not have conquered this on my own, I found myself going back to Kevin’s plate for more.
Homemade duck foie gras with artichokes
Salad number two! A generous piece of duck foie gras sat on top of an artichoke. The foie gras was very good, a bit cold but it still had a nice creamy texture.
Since Kevin got the pre fix menu, he also got to chose a dessert.
Caramel cream served with finger biscuit
He really enjoyed it though it did not do anything for me. Like flan in texture, it was basic cream with (to me) a watered down caramel sauce. At least thicken it up! But Kevin was very happy with his selection.
Stuffed, we felt victorious leaving the bouchon that we saved the night and had a wonderful authentic bouchon experience. As we went through the rest of the trip, every bouchon really looked amazing so a little research is all you need to pick out a good one. And this isn’t like “the tourist thing to do” – locals frequent bouchons and of course, have their favorites, and tell visitors that dining at a bouchon while in Lyon is a must, which it is! If we were here longer, I know we would have loved to visit another bouchon on the trip but we were grateful that Le Bistrot d’Abel was a wonderful dining experience!
Read about the rest of Lyon – COMING SOON!