Friday, October 4, 2013

Luscious Lyon

After two and a half weeks I'm still a little bemused by French food. I understand the conventions, and have a reasonable grasp of the complexities of what you can eat where and when. But what I hadn't reckoned on is the Lyonnaise determination to ensure that there is not just enough food, there is too much food ( well for me, anyway). Up until now I've always been confident that French restaurant " formules" worked perfectly well because the helpings were small, so you go for that appealingly affordable three- course option. Not any more. The helpings in Lyon are enormous. I am having to learn to leave some, no matter how delicious. I had resolved to have small dinners but tonight I ended up over in Old Lyon, the world heritage listed  area of largely Renaissance buildings on the further bank of the Saone - I'd just been on an excellent guided walk there. 

It's filled with restaurants all claiming to be "veritable bouchon Lyonnaise" , renowned for low-priced menus of Lyon classics. So I decided I had to stay there for dinner, as it would be my only chance - it's too far to go back to at night from the hotel. 
    But where to go? I did what the French do - wandered round reading all the menus. One caught my fancy, Les Paves de Saint Jean. It looked cheerful and well-tended ( in Lyon red checked tablecloths don't mean " tourist trap" as they do in most cities) and  offered a three-course "Menu Bouchon" for 15 euro, considerably less than I'd been paying over near my hotel in Presqu'ile. But most importantly, I could see how to put together a dinner of homely Lyonnaise classics I would really like, without going near tripe, etc. And they had fillettes of decent wine - 250 ml, two glasses - for 6 euro. 
     It was only 6 pm, too early for dinner - they don't start serving till 7 - but the patron heard me asking the waitress and called out that for me, they could manage 6.30. So I sat happily in the warm light evening with water while the staff had their dinner. Then came the food. First, a Salade Lyonnaise - very like a Caesar salad but without the anchovies or Parmesan - it has a delicious tangy dressing all its own. I had been dreaming of poached eggs, and it comes with one.

Then the local sausage, with a lovely rich sauce (i tasted cloves in it, I think) and plain steamed potatoes, exactly what I wanted. 

There was, as usual in Lyon, far too much, and I did manage to leave some, assuring the staff that it was tres bon but just un peu trop ( sorry, blogger doesn't do accents on the iPad) - especially as I wanted to leave room for dessert. They were all maison (made on the premises) and I was ushered in to look at them all, under their big glass cloche or in the fridge, and choose. The praline tart was said to be tres typique, so I had that. A luscious texture, very sweet but satisfying. 

This time I didn't mind taking photos. I told them I was a food writer from New Zealand ("Ah" said the waitress, " i thought i could hear a little accent", which i took as a compliment). Then i took two more outside. While I was having dinner, a steady stream of French customers arrived. I've made a few foolish decisions about food in France, but tonight everything was perfect.

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