We set off on a cool day in Lyon to meet with renowned Michelin star chef Pierre Orsi to show him the result of our film tour from a few days earlier. The weather had changed for the worse and so our plans changed. Trapped by the rain we decided on a simple lunch, the “Plat De Jour” or plate of the day in one of the thousands of cafes and bistros that fill the streets of Lyon.
No online research and no insiders tip this time, so we needed to follow the travellers rules to finding good food in a foreign place.
Tip one – A packed room.
A full house means that locals like the food, always a good start. It also means a steady flow of ingredients in and out of the kitchen ensuring freshness. Note that if everyone is drinking and no one eating this rule becomes void.
Tip two – A small menu with a vision.
The worst of food experiences come when a restaurant tries to be all things to all people. A massive menu with classic dishes from around the world is a guaranteed fail. Frozen dishes are a certainty and no cook has a passion for every kind of food. So loveless plates will always be the end result.
Tip three – Smiling Faces.
A grumpy person has never made a great dish, period.
It was Cafe Marmot, a small cafe with a grey exterior and colourful blackboard ticked all these boxes. Just five summer salads to suit the season and the menu of the day. Filled to the brim with happy locals. The daily menu started with a warm soup of cheese and courgette, subtle in flavour and moorish on a cold day. Then followed a salmon fillet parcelled in baking paper surrounded by orange juice, butter and two slices of lemon. It was soft to the touch with a hint of crunch in the skin. Beside the salmon sat roasted zucchini and roasted tomato both filled with a mixture of quinoa, bourgal and a salty goats cheese. They sat in a small smear of pesto adding extra freshness to the plate.
As we watched other plates come out to the other tables they were all a treat to the eye. A tiny cheese ravioli, a delicious tart of roasted cherry tomatoes on a grated potato base and few other dishes all heavy on fresh salad and light in the stomach. Soon our dessert arrived even my travel partner “bikini girl” who always thinks of her waistline was tempted by the cheesecake with strawberry coulis. My lemon curd was delicious served on a biscuit crust with fresh whipped cream and a topping of broken meringue. Finished in true French style with a “cafe petit” or espresso as the rest of the world knows it.
So if you are stuck in the rain don’t try to push through it. Stop, follow my three simple rules and enjoy the flavour of a life of spontaneous pleasure.
Words by Wade Ranson Photography Michelle Ranson