Bellecour is Lyon’s central hub, the place from which all distance in the city is measured and a starting point for many tourists. Unsurprisingly, Europe’s largest pedestrian square – replete with a magisterial statue of Louis XIV (The Sun King) – has an equally large number of excellent eateries around it. Part of the city’s World Heritage Site, you’ll no doubt stumble upon Bellecour during your stay – so why not eat here too?
Part of the group of restaurants to which Lyon’s famous chef Paul Bocuse gave his name, Le Sud is your typical French brasserie, albeit with a greater emphasis on Mediterranean flavours. Close to both the Rhône and Place Bellecour with an outdoor seating area, Brasserie Le Sud offers a classic French dining experience from the moment spring arrives. The menu offers a choice of options such as fish, Spanish hams, beef tartare, escalopes and tajines, as well as salads and Provençal-style stews.
Not just one of Bellecour’s finest but the entire city’s, L’Institut Restaurant is symbolic of the pride in French cooking with an emphasis on technique, ingredients and presentation. As the training restaurant of the Paul Bocuse Institute, expectations are high with technical detail praised in this luminary establishment. Choose ‘from the garden’, ‘from the sea’ or ‘from the fields’ for a special dining experience while in the beautiful open plan surroundings of Pierre-Yves Rochon’s contemporary decor.
A real traditional favourite, La Mère Jean is something of a throwback with its wooden interior and old school look. The restaurant is a local favourite, with what’s on the plate really counting for the Lyonnais, with andouillette, the famous quenelle de brochet Lyonnaise and cervelle de Canut all on the menu. Simple, charming and oozing in the city’s culinary history, La Mère Jean is a real treat just off Place Bellecour.
Another bouchon, Chez Mounier offers a range of traditional, local dishes at a fair price. Usually busy with hungry Lyonnais making their way past Bellecour, this restaurant is definitely worth a stop if you’re after an old-style regional experience. If hearty food and plentiful wine are what you’re after, then this is the place for you.
If you’ve already spent much of your trip dining on local classics, you may want to sample the other options the city has available. Lyon’s food scene is not just restricted to bouchons and at Casa Nobile, you’ll find Sicily transported to Bellecour with homemade burrata and plates of parmigiana. Unsurprisingly, pasta makes the menu, as does pizza, cooked in a woodfired oven. Homely and comforting, this restaurant ranks highly among the city’s Italian eateries.
Doubling as a wine bar and eatery, L’Encart is best for food at lunchtime where a full menu is served. L’Encart’s simple, stylish interior is matched by its menu, which is limited to just a few options every day, with its chefs making daily use of local producers and markets for inspiration. Fresh seasonal produce and an extensive wine list, which is updated every 15 days, make L’Encart a new experience during every visit. In the evening, as the wine bar takes over, the food menu gives way to more tapas style dishes, which while smaller, are equally worthwhile.
Mixing high-quality French cooking and traditional Chinese recipes, Jiang Xin is one of Lyon’s brightest new restaurants. Only opened late last year, this Chinese eatery was set up by two former students of the Paul Bocuse Institute in Shanghai bringing not just high technical abilities, but also some of the best Asian food in the city. Specialising in dumplings and bao, Jiang Xin has been a revelation with rave reviews to date – be sure to try their salmon in dill spring roll for an exciting twist on a French classic.
One for all the burger lovers out there, Les Frangins is the go-to for your meat in bun goodness. All of the staples can be found here, from onion rings to bottomless fries and a variety of meat-heavy burgers, including the classic plain burger, a BBQ burger, a pulled pork option and, if meat is not for you, a vegetarian burger. Located just to the side of Place Bellecour, be sure to have your transport home arranged after filling up on these sizeable sandwiches.
Another traditional bouchon, stepping inside Chez M’man is akin to seeing Lyon’s past. Strong on local cuisine and kind on the budget, this Lyonnais classic has a menu bursting with choices only found in the city. From salade Lyonnaise to cervelle de Canut, quenelle and andouillette this is the place for anyone keen to sample some regional fare. Simple and unassuming, it is another charming option if looking for a tasty dish in the centre of town.
Unsurprisingly, L’Atelier d’Yvonne is another bouchon with this ‘workshop’ offering yet more classic Lyonnais fare. The food here is rich, hearty and simple with its quirky interior making it an interesting place to dine just around the corner from Place Bellecour. Check the chalkboards outside the restaurant for daily specials and the chef’s recommendations utilising local market food.