Lyon is the food capital of France, and part of the reason for that is bouchon restaurants. A bouchon is a traditional Lyonnaise restaurant, usually family-run, serving traditional dishes such as tripe, brains and tête de veau (head of a calf). Pictured is the interior of one such restaurant in Lyon, Le Bouchon des Carnivores. Some might find it amusing that a vegetarian ends up eating at a French restaurant for carnivores, and indeed, my party of four thought it hilarious, but I had the last laugh. But let me rewind.
Years ago, in an upmarket restaurant in Lyon that had no vegetarian options, I asked the waiter if the chef could make something vegetarian. He tutted and said he’d ask. He came back and said: “Oui” and nothing else. It was clear I had no choice in what I would be served and that I had insulted the waiter (and probably the chef) by asking for a meal without meat. So, the prospect of visiting a bouchon with friends who were desperate to eat at one was a bit daunting. At least the warm summer air allowed us to be seated outside, away from the smell of cooking offal.
So, how was it? Not only did the bouchon offer a couple of vegetarian options, but the staff were happy to upgrade the entrée I selected to a main with a few other non-meaty items. We were less than ideal customers, with two visiting Aussies bumbling through their selections of food and wine in a mix of English and French on top of the annoying vegetarian, but the staff were friendly and patient and seemed to enjoy their work. Everyone enjoyed their food, and we finished off with delicious desserts that pleased us all, and left a typically large tourist tip to thank them for such a great night.
The old town of Lyon is full of bouchons, although we chose one closer to our hotel in the centre of town. The Tourist Office staff happily circled the streets where the restaurants are clustered in both the old and the new town. The interiors of French bouchons are intricately decorated, and most have exteriors to match. With great food, friendly staff and interesting surrounds, I recommend this eating experience for anyone planning on a trip to Lyon.