I must have spent too many hours on the M25. When I think of a bouchon, I think of a traffic jam – or I did until I went to Lyon last weekend. Now the word has entirely new associations.
Bouchon is the Lyonnais word for a bistro. These restaurants specialise in hearty traditional fare.
Nouvelle cuisine they are not.
Plenty of places in the city call themselves bouchons, but only 22 are recognised by L’Association de Défense des Bouchons Lyonnais. Each gets a sticker and a certificate to display proudly on the premises.
Among them is Aux Trois Cochons in Rue des Marroniers on the peninsula, the presqu’île. As its name suggests, pig takes pride of place on the menu.
Damon and I were lucky enough to get the window table for lunch last Sunday. We started with delicious whitebait for me, while he had the lightest, most soufflé-like onion tart I have ever tasted.
We thought we might have peaked, gastronomically, but no.
The whole restaurant stared in open-mouthed envy as my main was brought through: frogs’ legs in garlic butter. So fresh from the oven was it that it sizzled as the waiter ferried it to the table.
I could smell the garlic even before he put the dish in front of me.
You don’t often see frogs’ legs on a menu in Britain, so I couldn’t resist ordering them. As anyone who has ever had them knows, the garlic butter is actually the star of the dish.
Just as it is with snails.
“The whole restaurant stared in open-mouthed envy as my main was brought through: frogs’ legs in garlic butter”
Damon, meanwhile, opted for a local sausage dish, which came served with cervelle de canut – a fromage blanc mixed with shallots and herbs. It is named after the city’s former silk workers, the canuts.
It may seem an odd combination – and a rather unflattering reflection on the weavers’ intelligence – but the cheese dip really enhanced the flavour of the sausage.
As for my garlic-heavy Sunday lunch, let’s just say my colleagues were pleased when I worked from home on Monday. I could still taste the garlic.
My memory still can. It was delicious. Waiter, may I have some more please?