When I first began dating my ex-boyfriend, a Frenchman, he proudly informed me that Lyon, France was the world capital of gastronomy. I think I snorted in response and suggested that it must be Paris, or New York, or somewhere else with a million celebrity chefs.
He calmly challenged me to Google it.
To my surprise, a search for “world capital of gastronomy,” turned up the following indisputable result.
Now, that’s not to say other cities wouldn’t claim the same title. But we all know that when you get that special little box at the top of a Google search, you pretty much own the domain of whatever the search was.
If you were to search why Lyon is the world capital of gastronomy, a big part of the answer would surely be Paul Bocuse.
For some quick and interesting background about Bocuse, watch Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode about Lyon to see how truly influential this man has been to the culinary arts in France and around the world (Bourdain also shares some history about why Lyon’s culinary scene is so renowned).
So when I found out we were going to a Bocuse restaurant for our final lunch in France last August, you can understand why I felt like it was a rare and special treat. I also felt underdressed. (We were already in the parking lot when I learned where we were eating, and we had come directly from playing with a one-year-old in a park.)
When we first pulled up to Fond Rose, I had the immediate impression that we were at some sort of a country club. The restaurant has an expansive front lawn with mature trees and meticulous landscaping. The parking lot is a good distance from the entrance, by restaurant standards. And the dining areas themselves are quite large. The building has a huge wrap-around patio that is nearly as big as the indoor seating area. A wedding party was there at the same time, so I assume there are banquet areas that were out of sight. A quick glance at their website confirms this.
We sat down at a large round table in the middle of the patio in the shade. The natural setting made the restaurant feel more homey and familial.
The menu had ample options, I assume all of which are delectable in their own right. Four out of the six of us opted for the menu du jour, a three-course set menu with a couple of options for each course.
To start off, we helped ourselves to a bottle of rosé and some finger foods (jambon, pain, mini pickles and pickled onions). Before we knew it, the first course arrived.
I had chosen the asparagus soup for the first course. Well, I actually thought I had ordered whole asparagus in cream sauce – clearly my limited knowledge of the French language failed me there. Nonetheless, it was a sensational dish.
I don’t know if I’ve ever said that about a chilled green soup in my life.
The consistency was incredibly smooth, like a thick smoothie. Teeny tiny diced carrots and other vegetables, along with some petite croutons, added crunch and flavor.
I would have licked the bowl if it had been socially acceptable.
Then came the main course: a white fish filet with puréed eggplant and zucchini in a Parmesan cream sauce.
Let me guess what you’re thinking. White fish = bland. Puréed eggplant = baby food. Parmesan cream sauce = the only part of the dish that sounds remotely appetizing.
But I’m telling you, everything together was a song. The eggplant and zucchini were incredibly flavorful and gave the light flavor of the fish a nice boost. Those who know me know I love cream and cheese, so the creamy Parmesan sauce on top of the fish and veggies was heaven to me (and the parm flavor wasn’t too strong – the fish and veggies still stood out in their own right). Tying it all together, a handful of some kind of seed gave the dish some sweetness and nuttiness. I felt like one of the judges on Top Chef when they say “every bite offers something different!” and “it’s so balanced!” …that’s exactly what it was.
Despite rapidly running out of room in my belly, I cleaned my plate.
I chose the Tarte Sableé aux Framboises for dessert. By this point I was seeking something light and fruity since I was getting so full.
The tarte itself didn’t knock my socks off, but then again I chose a pretty standard dessert. Those with more tummy space were more adventurous: one person got an elaborate meringue, and another got crispy waffles – both probably more worthy of a write-up.
For what it was, though, the tarte delivered. It was light, fruity, sweet, not too filling, with a buttery-sweet crunchy crust that I could have eaten on its own. Some chantilly and a scoop of raspberry sorbet topped it off.
The company was as excellent as the food. Though I struggle to converse in French, the family I was with was patient and inclusive. I’ve been reminded that a lot can be communicated through gestures and body language – even things funny enough to produce a belly laugh.
I should also note that the service was quite good, as one would expect. One of our party left the table with a fussy child when the main course was served, and the wait staff kept the plate warm for her until she returned. Small gestures like that make for a great experience!
What to Know if You Visit:
- Name: Restaurant Fond Rose
- Location: 25 Chemin de Fond-Rose, 69300 Caluire-et-Cuire, France
- Phone: 04 78 29 34 61
- Reservations: Recommended, though we were able to get a same-day Saturday lunch reservation.
- Prix-fixe menu du jour – 26.50-34.70€ depending on the day and number of courses.
- A la carte: 12.50-22.50€ for appetizers, 21.10-36.50€ for meat or seafood.
- Dress: Business casual.
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