lyon restaurant

Hailed as the gastronomic capital of France (and by extension, the world), a trip to Lyon is on every foodie’s bucket list. Chef Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex takes us around the city’s buzzing food scene where his restaurant, Auberge de L’Ile Barbe, continues to pave the way for gourmet globetrotters.

The saying goes that if Paris is the heart of France, Lyon is its stomach. Nowhere is this more apparent than at Auberge de L’Ile Barbe, a gourmand’s haven where dishes such as cold foie-gras brioche and quince ketchup with grenadine or lobster with fresh figs in a sweet wine reduction are served in the most charmingly romantic setting – a 17th-century auberge (guest house) perched on a tiny, lush, green island nestled between the banks of the river Saône.

The building dates back to 1621 and has been in the Ansanay-Alex family since 1968. In 1991, aged 25 Jean-Christophe took the helm of the family business and began to transform it into the gastronomic reference point it is today. The restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star in 1993 and has continued to go from strength to strength, as Ansanay-Alex develops his unique brand of creative yet subtle French cuisine using the finest local, seasonal produce.

But it hasn’t always been plane sailing for Ansanay-Alex. In 1990, he was seriously injured in a moped accident and lost the use of his right arm. This could have been a disaster for the young chef’s budding career, but Ansanay-Alex turned what might have been a weakness into strength.

“Where others might have given up, I worked harder than ever to learn new techniques and find ways to be even better than before the accident,” he recalls. “I remember being at the hospital and thinking “I need to get out of here, I need to get my kitchen back”. Cooking is and always has been my special passion, so there was no way I would quit. In fact, it was this passion that helped me recover.”

Today, l’Auberge remains a member of the prestigious families Michelin, Relais & Châteaux and Les Grandes Tables du Monde, with Ansanay-Alex celebrating his 25th year heading up the kitchen in 2016.

Ansanay-Alex’s insider guide to Lyon…

Thomas

Ansanay-Alex’s former second in command, Thomas Ponson, heads up four gastronomic proposals in the same street. The restaurant serves classic French fare, while the bistro is set up like a wine bar, offering a huge selection of local grapes alongside platters of cheese and charcuterie. The café serves small, tapas-style dishes for sharing. Last but not least, the bouchon (butcher’s house) is Ponson’s take on the most classic of Lyon eateries, in which regional wines and the meatiest of meat products (sausages, pâtés, roast meats and offal dishes) take pride of place.

Bocuse Brasseries

Chef Paul Bocuse has four brasseries in the city of Lyon: “Bocuse brasseries have set the new standard for day-to-day food, and many of the staff have worked for me in the past. I always go with the chef’s suggestion,” says Ansanay-Alex.

Bouchons

There are quite a few traditional Lyonnais bouchons dotted around the city of Lyon. You can’t go wrong if you select one that bears the “authentique bouchon Lyonnais” label.

Pizzeria Napoli Chez Nicolo & Franco 

This humble pizzeria serves by far and away the best pizza in Lyon. Period.

Halles Paul Bocuse

Although not a restaurant per se, Lyon’s prestigious indoor food market is a must for any visiting gastronome. With some 60 independent vendors selling the finest regional market produce, from cheese to oysters and local wines, this is an absolute must.

“Les Halles Paul Bocuse is not to be missed. I recommend oysters with a glass of wine, especially a weekend morning around 11AM. Buying produce from Charcuterie Sibillia and fromagerie Mère Richard is also a delight – make sure you ask for vacuum packing if you’re going to transport it.”

Thomas

Bocuse Brasserie

Pizzeria Napoli Chez Nicolo & Franco 

Halles Paul Bocuse

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