For my birthday, about three weeks ago, my boyfriend treated me out to dinner. I told him the only time I went to a bouchon it was in the old Lyon and it wasn't authentic, so he brought me to the Café des Fédérations, in the 1er arrondissement.
We got there kind of late (around 9pm) and were lucky enough to get some seats because the other rooms were full and two other couples were waiting at the door but couldn't make a decision whether to eat there or another place.
You get in there and see all kinds of pig related stuffs (pictures, sculptures, you name it), some sausages hanging over the cash register and an old map of Lyon. It was quite dark inside and people were talking loudly (there were two groups and everyone was drinking) so if you're not in the mood for noise (which was my boyfriend's case that night) this might not be the right place for you.
Basically you come in and pay for a menu. Entrées and desserts are included. Prices and menus are different on lunch and dinner times.
The appetizer, or mise en bouche, was a poached egg in red wine and smoked pork sauce. It was kind of salty and the textures and flavors were very interesting, hard to explain and sort of strange but really good.
Then the entrées came, three of them.
The charcuterie lyonnaise plate was basically rosette, some terrine, and another kind of sausage (the one on the right) which was sort of hard. Everything was quite fat (which is to expect actually). Also very different from the stuff I usually buy at the grocery store and you can tell the quality is much better.
The salade lyonnaise is basically bitter greens with croutons, fried pork (kind of like bacon) and a mustard and egg dressing. Never had it before and it's a recipe I would actually like to recreate at home. Don't ask me why but I like bitter veggies ... like endives and radicchio (most people I know hate them) but yet I can't stand celery and fennel. Go figure. Anyways, the flavors were well balanced, with the saltiness from the fried pork and the tartness and tanginess from the mustard and egg vinaigrette.
The caviar de la Croix-Rousse is basically a lentil salad. I honestly do not remember the flavors and so I cannot describe to you what it tasted like but I remember liking it ... and I also remember my boyfriend telling me not to stuff myself on bread.
Then our main courses came. My boyfriend ordered a gras double, which is basically tripe fried in pork fat, served with a side of gratin dauphinois. I found it very fat and rich (and even with a little bit of my help we couldn't finish the plate) but very good. The tripe were very crispy on one side and soft on the other. The gratin was also very rich and so cute! I think presenting sides in a circular shape is a win.
For my part I had a quenelle sauce Nantua because I never had quenelle before. It's basically a folded dough with fish oven cooked in a sauce. The Nantua sauce is made with béchamel and crayfish. It was also very rich (you could tell butter was involved in every step of the recipe) and the quenelle was soft and airy inside. It felt heavier than my boyfriend's meal but I didn't have trouble eating it, because it didn't taste fat. It wasn't salty, which surprised me, because I had started getting used to the fat that French people like their food salty.
After we were finished and our plates were taken away, we got a cheese platter. Most cheeses were quite old and strong, and some of them were really tricky (ooh what's that soft sweet smelling cheese ... oh god this is the strongest shit I've had in my life). We only tried very small bits because we were too full. I liked the fact that it was a shared cheese platter, you know, à la bonne franquette. I don't mind that as long as people are respectful and don't lay their dirty hands all over the place.
Obviously a meal isn't complete if you don't have a part of cervelle des canuts which is, by the way, not actual brain (though the first time I heard about it I thought that's what it was). If you don't know what it is, it's kind of like chive and herbs Boursin, with a creamier texture.
At the end when the waitress asked us what we wanted for dessert we just said no thank you ... we seriously started hating ourselves and we couldn't shove anything down our throats anymore. In all honesty, we don't eat much in the evening and the entrées alone were enough for us. Sadly, the dessert is included in the menu. Even the table besides us was moaning (but happily, like it wasn't an actual complaint but still) "Oh no, wait, there's also dessert? Oh god no..."
Oh here, a picture of the pretty glass in which I had my beer. Maybe drinking beer wasn't much of a good idea neither.
Overall the food was good, the ambiance was very friendly, but the service ... it's hard to explain. The waitress and the chef were really nice people, but they sort of rushed us because we were taking our time eating our entrées. What happened is quenelle tends to bloat a lot once you put it in the oven. The waitress came and told us the quenelle was ready and needed to be taken out of the oven. My boyfriend told her it was fine and she could bring it out but she said "We don't do that here." So we sort of hurried up finishing our entrées, which kinda sucked and put my boyfriend in a bad mood. At the end, when it was time to pay, he told her how he felt and instead of answering "I'm sorry, I didn't realized I made you feel rushed" all she said was "Well the quenelle was rising, we had to take it out". Overall we felt like we didn't enjoy our meals as much as we could have just because of that.
Do I recommend the Café des Fédérations? I do actually. It was much more worth it (price wise and quality wise) than the bouchon I tried in the old Lyon. Now I don't think all bouchons in the old Lyon are bad, but because it's a very touristic place it's easy to trick people into thinking they're eating in an authentic bouchon (and also higher up the prices). I remember there was steak on the menu when I went ... which is not bouchon food.
For more information on the Café des Fédérations : http://www.lesfedeslyon.com/
Until next time!