By MIKE CORDER
LYON, France — Salad, the menu at Notre Maison says, is for rabbits.
And they’re not kidding. Anybody coming to this traditional restaurant in Lyon’s historic old town will be disappointed if they are looking for vegetarian options — or even vegetables.
Nose-to-tail dining may be trendy around the world, but in Lyon they’ve been devouring all of the animal for centuries. And the best place to sample the cuisine is at one of the city’s many “bouchons,” small restaurants serving simple, hearty dishes with ingredient lists that can sound like an anatomy lesson.
Tucked away on a narrow street in Lyon’s historic old city, Notre Maison (Our House) lives up to its name with unassuming wooden tables and
chairs, well-used cutlery and even a cat lounging on the serving counter.
The food and its presentation are equally no-frills, with huge portions and a brick of butter slapped down on the table in its paper wrapper with a knife sticking out of it. The drinks are just as rustic — bottles of local red and white wines along with tap water served in a jug so big it almost requires a weight lifter to fill your glass.
It’s the food that takes center stage here and the friendly staff is happy to explain the menu in English to help the non-Francophone choose.
Lyon, a historic city at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers about 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Paris, is known as the French capital of charcuterie, so no surprise that local cooked meats were among the best dishes of a recent meal at Notre Maison.
The stars of the starters were a plate of slices of rosette de Lyon, a cured pork sausage that was a glorious pink flecked with white fat, as well as a surprisingly light chicken liver pate.
Main courses were huge and tasty: beef cheeks cooked slowly with honey are a sweet and savory melt-in-the-mouth experience; a casserole blends the local sabodet sausage with red wine and lentils, epitomizing Lyon cooking’s simple use of great ingredients. For non-meat lovers, the quenelle de brochet is a light dumpling made from locally caught pike in a rich, creamy sauce.
To close out the evening, try the Saint Marcellin, a soft cow’s milk cheese, and a glass of eau de vie fruit brandy to help ward off indigestion.
The morning after this meal you are going to want to work off some calories. A great way to do it is walking up the steep hill behind the old town to visit the Basilica of Fourviere and gaze over the city’s rooftops. Then walk down and cut through the city center, crossing the Rhone and Saone, to reach the Halles de Lyon indoor market, where you can browse stalls selling more of the food you ate the night before.
If You Go…
NOTRE MAISON: 2 Rue de Gadagne, 69005 Lyon, France. Telephone: +33 4 72 41 78 48.
BASILICA OF FOURVIERE: http://www.fourviere.org/fr_FR/english.php