Bouchons

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: AM

Food is life, food is Lyon. You simply cannot come to this city and not sample some of its traditional cooking, cooking is an intricate part of Lyon, just like the air we breathe and the most traditional type of restaurants - found only in Lyon - are of course the famous bouchons. The tradition of the bouchons comes from the small inns which were initially visited by the silk workers (Canuts) either passing through Lyon or heading home after work in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - quickly their reputation spread and it wasn't long until these bouchons attracted businessmen, dignitaries and the like.

At the helm of these bouchons where the mothers of Lyon - Mères Lyonnaises - and it is these strong women who can be credited with the type of cooking that Lyon is famous for, these women of modest means, often former domestic employees, having perhaps lost their jobs decided to work for themselves, these women who were used to using the whole animal created this homemade, traditional and hearty fair specialising in offal, that is the cornerstone of a real bouchon and it is precisely these mothers that are at the origin of Lyons gastronomic reputation. A strong feminine force in 18th century France and a force to be reckoned with. A town that celebrates its traditions of mothers to this extent, just had to be at the centre of our French issue.

It is authenticity that lies at the heart of a true bouchon, as in life they are not always perfect but they are real, true, warm, homely and friendly. The bouchon we chose was small, yet filled with locals, serving locally sourced traditional specialities. We ordered a pot of crisp refreshing rosé, whilst we perused the small menu, our daughters dove straight in and ordered the tablier de sapeur, tripe dipped in breadcrumbs and fried to perfection, we chose the saucisson chaud sauce au vin rouge, salade lyonnaise, salade de chèvre chaud and the cervelle de Canut, sometimes referred to as silk workers brains - a delicious light cheese dip with herbs seasoned to perfection.

When choosing your bouchon, we recommend that you chose one that feels right to you - that makes you feel at home - so pick a neighbourhood and spend the morning leisurely walking the streets, reading the menus, soaking in the atmosphere, building up an appetite, until you find the right bouchon for you - this is exactly how we found our little gem. You could try the vibrant Croix-Rousse neighbourhood - which also has one of the best street markets in Lyon - as it is peppered with bouchons, or the 5th, the 1st or even the 2nd.

And so, as with all great things, they do eventually end, nevertheless, four happy people, two courses of deliciousness each, plenty of wine and a bill which came to only €70 - we left more than just a little satisfied.

October 2017