Helpfully located between Burgundy and the Côtes du Rhône, Lyon is a wine lover's paradise. PHILIPP BLOM explores the city

Helpfully located between Burgundy and the Côtes du Rhône, Lyon is a wine lover’s paradise. PHILIPP BLOM explores the city

yon is situated between Burgundy and Beaujolais on the one hand and the Côtes du Rhône on the other. The entire city is obsessed with eating good food – it is a small, Michelin-starred gourmet heaven. It is also surprisingly beautiful with its Renaissance quarter, its silk-weaving history and historic wealth – you may feel tempted to pack your bags straight away.The city’s history rolls down the Fourvière hill (Roman buildings, a 19th-century basilica) to Vieux-Lyon. Situated between the Rhône and Saône rivers, Lyon was an important trading point between the Mediterranean and northern Europe. The architecture of the old quarter with its palazzos, elaborate courtyards and family towers, bears testimony to Lyon’s Florentine connections. The silk trade and industry flourished here, and the weavers settled on Lyon’s second hill, the Croix-Rousse, a warren of workshops and little streets. The Presqu-Ile, a peninsula between the two rivers, is dominated by signs of the city’s 18th-century wealth: typically French grand avenues and a majestic Hôtel de Ville covered in statues.

WHERE TO STAY

The city is an ideal springboard from which to tour the surrounding wine country, and you can choose from several very good hotels. Perhaps the two most beautiful are converted palazzos in the Italianate Renaissance quarter. Cour des Loges, which surrounds a beautifully restored courtyard, combines the serenity of the 15th century with some very Gallic modern design but somehow manages to seem relaxed. It also sports the best concierge in the world, the all-knowing Gérard Ravet. La Tour Rose, just next door, is possibly yet more beautiful. Its rooms were designed individually by Lyonnais silk makers in styles ranging from the classical Louis XVI to the ultra modern. Every room and courtyard here is a

performance. It is the brainchild of Lyon’s moody and chain-smoking genius of haute cuisine, Philippe Chavent. If you can be persuaded to get up early it is worth your while heading straight to the quai St-Antoine, where a wonderful daily market offers fresh fruit and veg, fish, cheese and other local produce. Later in the day, the cathedral in the old quarter is a beautiful place to visit, as is the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the country’s second museum, on the Presqu-Ile.

Cour des Loges, 6 rue du Boeuf, 69005 Tel: +33 4 72 77 44 44

Fax: +33 4 72 40 93 61

La Tour Rose, 22 rue du Boeuf, 69005 Tel: +33 4 78 37 25 90

Fax: +33 4 78 42 26 02

EATING OUT

No place for people on a diet, Lyon offers a plethora of excellent restaurants. Chavent’s La Tour Rose, billed as the ‘symbole de la nouvelle cuisine lyonnaise’ is as eclectic as its master. In the beautiful surroundings of his Renaissance hotel, Chavent celebrates his own combination of grand tradition and new ideas with superb craftsmanship. A less formidable alternative is Oxalis, a small and stylish restaurant opened by the enthusiastic and personable Paris journalist-turned-chef Sonia Ezgulian, whose cooking is as classy as the interior. Something altogether different is the Maison Rousseau in La Halle de Lyon –

the city’s main market. An unpretentious bouchon lyonnais, Maison Rousseau is the ideal place to eat a dozen oysters together with a small bottle of Macon and to sit back and watch the locals. Wine nuts are advised to stray from the beaten track and try La Brunoise, where food is an excuse to sample the enormous and very reasonably priced wine list.

La Tour Rose, 22 rue du Boeuf, 69005 Tel: +33 4 78 37 25 90

Fax: +33 4 78 42 26 02

Oxalis, 23 rue de l’Arbre sec, 69001

Tel: +33 4 72 07 95 94

Maison Rousseau, Halle de Lyon,

102 cours Lafayette, 69003

Tel: +33 4 78 62 37 65

Fax: +33 4 78 60 20 12

La Brunoise, 4 rue Alexandre Boutin (Metro Charpennes), 69100, Villeurbanne Tel: +33 4 78 52 07 77

Fax: +33 4 72 83 54 96

BUYING WINE

Both Burgundy and the Rhône are close enough to buy directly from the producers, although it can be a long drive. For those unwilling to brave the journey there are several good wine shops in Lyon. The Cave Malleval is an elegant, chic affair close to some of the top shopping haunts. Sommelier Damien Gateau offers the usual suspects but is happy to indulge customers looking for rarer finds and who want to discuss lesser-known producers, many of which are represented here. He also offers a fine range of whisky and port.La Cave d’à Côté is the perfect place to make exciting discoveries. A small boutique with carefully chosen bottles nestles next to a great cave stocked with barrels from which you can buy wines by the litre. The shop prides itself on finding smaller and little-known wines, such as the delicious Le Tariquet from the Languedoc. And two sommeliers are on hand to help those curious enough to go off the beaten track.

Cave Malleval, 11 rue Emile Zola, 69002 Tel: +33 4 78 42 02 07

Fax: +33 4 78 38 33 00

La Cave d’à Côté, 5 rue Pleney, 69001 Tel: +33 4 78 39 93 20

Fax : +33 4 78 28 76 20

Written by PHILIP BLOM