4 December 2007

Le Sud

Le Sud
11 Place Antonin-Poncet
Lyon, France
Ph: +33 04 72 77 80 00

I’VE heard of the man, I’ve read of his restaurants and now I’ve tasted the food for myself. Legendary French chef Paul Bocuse is best known for his three Michelin-starred restaurant l'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, just out of Lyon in the south of France.

But for those of us on a more moderate budget, Bocuse also owns four brasseries in Lyon: Le Nord, l'Est, Le Sud and l'ouest (French for north, east, south and west). Each specialises in a different aspect of French cuisine and each is affordable.

I was thrilled to be in the vicinity of such culinary royalty so on my first night in Lyon, I decided to go south where Le Sud focuses on “sun-drenched southern dishes inspired by the culinary traditions of Provence, Italy, Spain and North Africa".

As soon as we rushed in from the rain a waiter (who was stereotypically French…only as polite as he had to be) showed us to our table and promptly gave us bread and a bowl of olives and small, sweet onions.

While I waited for my Kir Royale to arrive I had time to soak up the atmosphere of Le Sud. If there’s one thing Bocuse is clearly good at, it’s attention to detail: the linen napkins were embroidered with the restaurant’s star logo and the crockery was embossed. The restaurant’s trademark star even featured on the wall mirrors and lightshades.

But of course, I wasn’t at Le Sud for a lesson in interior decorating. For me, it was all about the food and with the very reasonably priced set menu (les menu du jour) at 21.80 euros looked promising with the inclusion of an entrée, main and dessert.

There was no choice for entrée but once I tasted the mussel soup (soupe de moules de bouchot) I wasn’t complaining. With cumin and a tasty blend of seafood, vegetables and a sprinkling of herbs, it was quite possibly the best soups I’ve had the pleasure of eating.

There were three options for mains: fish, duck or a chicken tagine. My duck (magret de canard roti au mile) was served with a jus, field mushrooms and quartered potatoes and it was sublime. A thick layer of fat on the breast did nothing for my waistline but it set my taste buds on fire. The duck had been rendered perfectly and showed off the brilliant skill of the kitchen staff (as much as I’d like to think it was Bocuse, I’m not that naive. I’m sure he barely pops his head in once a week).

My buddy’s chicken tagine with apricots and cous cous (tagine aux abricots) was equally impressive and featured some of the most tender chicken I’ve sampled in a long time. Although my buddy’s comment was the cous cous was a little dry.

Four choices for dessert, two featuring strawberries. Neither of us could resist the strawberry tart (tarte sablee aux fraises) and neither of us were disappointed. Undoubtedly locally grown, the plump berries filled the fine pastry casing and the slice was a surprisingly light way to finish a filling meal.

I’m not sure if I was just hungry, still captivated by the fresh produce I”d seen earlier that day at a local market or simply in awe of dining at a Bocuse establishment. But Le Sud was le bloody brilliant.



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