In the corner of a cobbled, tiny street in Sathonay, past a couple of wine bars and small shops selling all sorts of antiquities, you’ll come across a small restaurant, glass windows with grey/brown lining and dim-looking from the outside. This is Le Bouchon des Filles restaurant, listed in the Michelin guide 2017, if you care about those kinds of stuff. It promises traditional Lyonnaise cuisine with staggering reviews and a moderate bill, and that’s why we are there.
When you step inside you’ll immediately notice that it’s really tiny. The walls are lined with magenta wallpaper of flowery design, and the tables are long, suggesting a social environment. We make a reservation prior, and our table is at the back, next to the bar where the food comes out of the kitchen, so we have a really good view of the plates that emerge – fluffy mashed pomme de terre (literally translated into ‘apple of the earth’, or potatoes), steak in saucy reductions, clear glasses showcasing snowy-white sorbet, and small casserole dishes with something steaming inside.
The waiters are accommodating and friendly, and they all speak enough Anglais (English) to assist you in ordering what you’d like. The menu comes in sets, you pay a fixed amount to get appetizers, starters, any main course of your preference and dessert. I get excited just looking at the menu. I have no idea what they mean in detail, but why is it that when it’s in French, everything sounds delicious anyway? For all I know they actually wrote “deep fried rubber gloves”.
The appetizers come, three different types of salad and a basket of warm, soft, carb-o-licious baguette de campagne – lentil salad in creamy rich dressing, a bowl of light, fragrant crunchy salad made of julienned carrots and radishes with coriander and dill, and a plate of shredded purple cabbage tossed with raw slices of tuna. I am hungry because it is late, so I wolf them down in large amounts, not at all unlike the French lady who sits across the room eating from her plate delicately with each bite-sized portions into her mouth.
Eventually the plates are cleared and in comes the pumpkin puree infused with lemongrass, served in shot glasses, and I wonder if the waiter just wants me to look en classe based on what he’d seen before. It was light and delicious. By this time, I’m already a little concerned that I no longer have enough room for the main course.
Beef kidneys! Who would've thought.
This is about the time when the main course appears, of which we ordered fish and beef kidney. Yes, you read that right. I don’t even eat beef kidney in Malaysian cooking because I don’t like the texture, but hey, we’re in France. Maybe rein de beouf would change my mind here (spoiler alert: it didn’t. Not really). The fish though, oh my Lord. It’s a traditional Lyonnaise dish, fish in some kind of flour/bread mixture, in a yellow, creamy sauce, with a piece of coiled fried herby crunchy thing that was just the perfect complement to this hearty dish.
Quinelle, a fish dish.
Eventually, when the main dish is done, a little small plate of fromage (cheese) lands right in front of us. The great thing about this little platter is that the waiter explains where the cheese comes from – the slice of goat’s cheese comes from the mountains near Lyon, and the dollop of cream cheese infused with garlic and herbs is made within Lyon itself. The portion is perfect, small enough to not make you feel stuffy and big enough so that you can taste everything. And darling, trust me, you would want to taste everything.
Last, and my most favourite part, is the dessert. The restaurant has a list of seven options – from the praline cake, homemade vanilla ice cream with Chantilly, to the decadent molten chocolate cake with meringue and even a simple serving of sliced l’orange with herby syrup. The ones most worthy of mention would of course be the chocolate cake and the citrus sorbet. After all, is it really French cuisine without a dose of dark, bittersweet, superior-quality chocolate in a form of soft, gooey cake? No. The answer is no. The citrus sorbet is a perfect counter to the otherwise rich main course and cheese platter – sharp, sour, and oh so Goddamn refreshing.
Clockwise from Top Right: Citrus sorbet, creme caramel, oranges in fragrant herby syrup, praline cake, vanilla ice cream with meringue, molten chocolate cake.
Molten dark chocolate cake with salted butter and caramel sauce.
When you’re done, you realise that the rest of the tables are being cleared, and like a comforting meal at home no one seems to be rushing you out or giving you the eye. The waiters would consistently come by and ask you if they food is okay, and you will gleefully say tres bien because a.) that’s the only French you know and b.) it really is tres bien (very good).
Eventually, as you put on your jacket again and step outside into the cold, walking down the old, quiet cobbled street back home, you’ll realise you’ll probably have to eat just a crepe for lunch tomorrow but you would want to do this again very, very soon.