The bouchon is a Lyonnaise institution. When you arrive in this beautiful city in south eastern France you will find the streets littered with these tiny restaurants. One of the best in the city happens to be Daniel et Denise on the Rue de Créqui.
Joseph Viola is the chef behind this particular bouchon. Other restaurants in the group can also be found in Lyon specialising in the same traditional cuisine. Joseph won an award in 2009 for his foie gras pate en croute, the best in France for that year.
Food in Lyon is like a religion. This is the belly of France. Bouchons provide a great example of how traditional cuisine in this region is done. The famous pike quenelle (a mousse of pike with a crayfish sauce) and the famous Bresse chicken are mainstays on virtually every menu across the city’s bouchons.
Daniel et Denise stands out in the guide books and review sites as the top dog in town when it comes to the bouchon scene. We headed out for dinner to see if all the hype was justified. The restaurant was a short journey from our base in the Montchat area of the city.
In the windows of the restaurant hang the traditional net curtains. These go back to the second world war when locals would have secret meetings within the bouchons. Curtains were designed to be able to obscure the view inside the bouchon but whoever was inside could see outwards.
The room at Daniel et Denise was split into two dining rooms, we headed to the rear dining room and took a seat alongside a couple from Canada. Seating is quite close together, as you would expect from a small restaurant, but not uncomfortably so.
You can choose from an a la carte menu and also from a specials menu written in chalk. If you really want Joseph Viola’s greatest hits then you have to go for the €51 menu degustation. Five courses with wine pairing, outstanding for the price.
Pate en Croute
The opening act is the famous foie gras and sweetbread pate en croute. A perfect slice of marbled terrine complete with a fruit chutney and dressed salad leaves. The perfection in this slice of pastry is astonishing with each flavour inside the terrine a standout. This is next level.
Pike Quenelle, Sauce Nantua
Next up, the famous pike quenelle with a sauce nantua – a cream sauce made with crayfish. The quenelle sat beautifully presented in a small pan doused in the rich sauce. For those of you not too keen on ‘fishy’ fish this is spot on. The flavour was subtle in the quenelle but beautifully rich in the bisque giving the dish the perfect balance.
The next dish was a bit of a mystery. All we could tell from the menu was that it featured the fresh fish of the day from the market prepared in the Grenobloise style. What arrived was a tasty portion of fish, possibly pollock, with parsley, garlic and capers – good but not quite as good as the previous dishes.
Bresse Chicken with Morels
Anything that had gone before was quickly eclipsed by the next course. The Bresse chicken is a prized bird, some rank it as the best on the planet. This chicken is unlike your average supermarket free range bird. Almost gamey in taste and rich with a creamy, intense morel sauce to douse it all in.
The chicken was mind blowing but this course really did fill us up. Plates were covering the table containing all the garnishes for the dish. Sweet carrots, huge slices of potatoes cooked in goose fat along with a creamy gratin dauphinoise – don’t count the calories!
Desserts and Petit Fours
Baba au Rhum is everywhere in France, who doesn’t like their brioche soaked in Havana Club? Served with chantilly cream (yes, more cream!) this is sublime and easily one of my favourites.
By now the wine had taken effect and everyone was talking freely and having a great evening. Our desserts were a selection all on a tiered stand, afternoon tea style. Small bites of chocolate eclair, lemon tart, madeleines and strawberry choux buns were all excellent and the perfect way to end the meal.
The service slowed slightly towards the end with the restaurant full on both sides. We settled the bill and staggered out into the night. The bouchon experience surpassed all expectations. Joseph Viola is the bouchon king in Lyon for a very good reason.
Lyon’s hearty cuisine has stood the test of time down the years. The bouchons keep the history of Lyonnaise regional cuisine alive. When food is this good, you can see exactly why very little has changed down the years.
Opening Times: Monday – Friday 1200-1400, 1900-2145
Nearest Metro: Place Guichard