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Lyon – Gastronomy

Mères Lyonnaises

For centuries Lyon has been recognised for its gastronomy. This is partly due to a group of women known as the ‘Mères Lyonnaises’, (Lyon mothers). Their story dates from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when a number of well-to-do families fell on hard times and had to dismiss their cooks.

Some of these former domestic employees went to work in restaurants or into business for themselves providing family-style cooking in particular for the silk weavers. Service was frequently not the best and the menu limited, but what was offered on the menu was cooked to perfection. The Mères Lyonnaises set the style of Lyon gastronomy: a combination of the excellent cuisine demanded by the bourgois families they had worked for combined with the more humble fare offered in the ‘bouchons’.

‘Mère Filloux, for one,’ became famous by adding dishes to the menu of her husband’s café, which later became a prestigious restaurant in the rue Duquesne.

In this way, vegetable velouté with truffles, pike quenelles casserole with crayfish butter, artichoke hearts with foie gras and the celebrated pullet hen with black truffles became standards of Lyon gastronomy.

Mère Filloux’s success attracted like-minded talents, and other cooks tried their luck opening restaurants.

Mère Brazier carved a place for herself in Lyon’s culinary history by becoming the first woman to receive three Michelin stars. Her career started in Mère Filloux’s restaurant, but it was difficult for the two strong-willed women to work together. In 1921 she opened her own establishment in the rue Royale, followed by another at the col de la Luèreoutside Lyon. Frequented by celebrities of the period, the restaurant inspired Lyon Mayor Edouard Herriot to say that Eugénie Brazier, the ‘other mayor’, did more to promote their city than he did.

It was at Mère Brazier that Paul Bocuse did his apprenticeship before becoming one of the greatest chefs of the century.


The origin of the term “bouchon”, as the traditional little Lyon restaurants are called, goes back to the days when inns that served wine outside mealtimes did their advertising by hanging a twist of straw on their inn signs. The inns quickly became recognised as stopping places for mail and stagecoaches; whilst the horses were being tended the coach drivers and passengers could enjoy a drink.

In certain “bouchons” in Lyon, it is still possible to sample the traditional “mâchon”, a snack usually of charcuterie taken outside normal mealtimes. In days gone by, silk-workers ate their “mâchon” accompanied by a glass of Beaujolais whilst passing the time of day with silk manufacturers or merchants.

Lyon’s stars of gastronomy

There are some 1830 restaurants in Lyon, 16 of which are star rated in the 2011 Michelin guide.

1 three-star restaurant: Paul Bocuse

Paul Bocuse : Legendary chef noted for his innovative approach to cuisine. Born 11 February 1926. He is closely associated with the modern nouvelle cuisine movement that favoured lighter dishes using fresh ingredients of the highest quality. One of his most famous dishes Soupe VGE was served at the Elysee Palace, Paris on 25 February1975, when President Valery Giscard d’Estaing (VGE) awarded him the Cross of Legion of Honour as an ambassador of French cuisine.

If budgets don’t stretch to eating at the Paul Bocuse restaurant on the outskirts of Lyon there are several more opportunites of eating in one of his restaurants. In 1994 Paul Bocuse opened four brasseries in Lyon: the Nord – North; the Sud – South ; the Est – East; and the Ouest – West. Each restaurant has its own individual theme and character. More recently he has also opened the Ouest Express in the Pathé Cinema multiplex in Vaise and in the Part-Dieu commercial centre. On the menu: sandwiches, salads, vegetable soups, fresh fruit juices, pancakes, waffles, desserts and ice creams.

4 two-star restaurants:

La Mère Brazier, Auberge de l’Ile, Philippe Gauvreau and Guy Lassausaie.

11 one-star restaurants:

Takao Takano, Pierre Orsi, Les Terrasses de Lyon), Têtedoie, Les Trois Dômes, L’Auberge de Fond-Rose, L’Alexandrin, Le Gourmet de Sèze, Larivoire, La Maison Clovis, Au 14 Février

Incredible market

Lyon market

Lyon’s Food Markets

Halles de Lyon – Paul Bocuse, 102 cours Lafayette, 3e arr.

Since their creation in 1859, the “Halles” have been at the centre of Lyon gastronomy. Originally located at the Place des Cordeliers which eventually fell into disrepair the new Halles de Lyon were built at their present location in the Part-Dieu neighbourhood. In December 2006, the “Halles” received a complete face-lift (with a large glass canopy) and are now known as the “Halles de Lyon – Paul Bocuse”, in homage to the great Lyon chef, who regularly shops there.

Fifty-six merchants and artisans share the market, amongst them the renowned Mere Richards (cheese) and Sibilia cooked meats. All sorts of regional products are available here, all of exceptional quality along with a number of restaurants and seafood bars.
Opening time: every day except Mondays and bank holidays from 7 am to 7 pm (shops close
between midday and 3 pm).

Saint-Antoine food market, quai Saint-Antoine, 2e arr.

The Quai Saint Antoine food market is held on the banks of the Saone close to the Place Bellecour, every day of the week, except Mondays.

Opening times: 6 am – 12.30 pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and 6 am – 1.30 pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Croix Rousse food market, Place de la Croix Rousse, 4e arr.

The Croix Rousse is a village inside a city. This friendly market offers wide range of products.
Opening times: 6 am – 12.30 pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and 6 am – 1.30 pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The Foody Traveller would like to thank the Lyon Tourist Board for their help in producing the Destination – Lyon articles.


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