Lyon is often referred to as France’s centre of gastronomy, in part due to the trail that Paul Bocuse blazed for the city, but also because of the city’s agricultural capabilities. Lyon sits in perfect proximity to the rolling vineyards of Burgundy, and the vast pastures of the Alps. The Mediterranean lies due south, meaning fresh seafood is also always within reach.
Chefs flock here annually to compete in the Bocuse d’Or, a competition where the globe’s top chefs battle it out in a marathon of culinary face-offs. And while Lyon has been a famous culinary city for the past hundred years, a new guard of innovative young chefs are making the city’s food scene feel decidedly modern. Here, discover the can’t-miss restaurants of Lyon, both new school and old.
While the Michelin-star spots may be where residents beeline to on a celebratory night, Le Garet is where the Lyonnaise spend an average Friday night. A typical bouchon (a family-run bistro that dishes out Lyonnaise cuisine) the mood here is always chaotic, convivial and energetic. Dimly lit, the tableware is eclectic, portions are large, and paintings are never hung quite straight. Opt for the three-course lunch menu for €19.50 (£16) and dine on a local dish of tablier de sapeur (crumbed tripe), terrine, rillettes, foie de veau (grilled veal liver), and crème caramel. Take note that servings are big – bouchons traditionally served meals to local labourers before long shifts, and still serve the same portion sizes.
The name of French chef Paul Bocuse’s restaurant may be a mouthful to say, so locals simply call it Bocuse. As such, the space acts as part restaurant and part museum to Monsieur Bocuse: there’s even a gift shop by the restroom. Dishes here are pulled straight from the canon of French cooking and executed to perfection. Soufflés are fluffy and light, and you will find dishes of local seafood dolloped with house-made crème fraîche. Prices aren’t for the faint-hearted – a bowl of the famed soupe aux truffes noires, served with a light puff pastry – will set you back €95 (£80), but many will say it is worth it to bite into a bit of culinary history.
In this homey riff on a traditional French bouchon, Olivier Canal and Franck Delhoum serve classic Lyonnaise food with friendly hospitality. Expect generous portions of pâté en croute, tête de veau and roast duck, all served with side dishes of cheesy pasta, fresh bread and vegetables. La Meunière is over one hundred years old, so the decor is rustic: antique pots and pans decorate the walls, wine is served in carafes, and dishes leave the kitchen in colourful cast-iron pans.
Celebrated French chef (and prodigy of the legendary Paul Bocuse) Christian Têtedoie’s namesake restaurant is worth the trip for the food alone; however, the sweeping panoramic views of the city from the dining room make it a dining experience unlike any in Lyon. Dishes showcase the best in the region, from creamy brillat-savarin cheese (a local must-try) paired with squash and truffle, and the chef’s signature: buttery lobster with crispy sautéed calf’s head. In the summertime, be sure to request outdoor seating, so you can experience Lyon’s beautiful architecture from above.
This two Michelin-star spot has been nestled on an island in the heart of the city since the 17th century, so expect classic and traditional French dishes. Menus are seasonal, though foie gras and truffles will always be served in multitudes. And while the castle-like restaurant has an air of history, it skips the stuffiness through the fresh, modern perspective of chef Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex.
Les Apothicaires opened as a way for husband and wife duo Tabata and Ludovic Mey to bring Tabata’s Brazilian heritage to Ludovic’s home of France. As such, dishes combine both French and Latin flavours, like fermented black rice with peaches and yoghurt sorbet, and smoked duck with rose. Expect evidence of the couple’s time at world-renowned restaurant Noma (where they met) in the cooking. While the city is full of white-tablecloth, Michelin-star spots, Les Apothicaires is a welcome reprieve from the formality. The passion-project restaurant has mementos of the couple’s travels on the walls, and the pricing is reasonable, with a three-course meal for around €42 (£35).
The term ‘French dim sum’ may prompt questions and confused faces, but the concept makes sense once dishes of steamed lamb dumplings with harissa and siu mai with haddock and local mustard arrive on your table. Be sure to pair your dumplings and steamed buns with a glass or two of local small-producer wines. The city’s art crowd flocks here, so expect street art to adorn the walls and music playing through the early hours.
If you’re looking for lighter fare after a few days of digging into Lyonnaise cuisine, try Le Bouchon des Filles. The women-owned and -run bouchon offers up healthier takes on the city’s rich dishes. Sausages are made in-house and flavoured with pistachios and herb butter, and light-as-air flan is filled with roasted squash and chestnuts. A three-course meal with salad bowls, a main course, and a selection of cheeses and desserts will round out to under €30 (£25).