I love France, I love French food and I've eaten a reasonable amount of it, both in France and elsewhere.
I also worked for several years at Le Bouchon Breton, so finding out that I was to have a free evening in Lyon meant that there wasn't much dithering over what to do.
Having asked the lovely Sophie Senty for a recommendation we made our way to Le Nord, 18 Rue Neuve. My initial impressions were that this was exactly what I'd been looking for, crisp white table cloths, though with the white paper square the French are so keen on. Well so far, so French.
We arrived at about ten past six, and obviously they weren't open until seven, so far, so French.
Still a couple of demi pressions later (Meteor) we returned to dine.
Now up till this point we'd only spoken to the maitre d' in French, however a charming waitress who spoke perfect English was dispatched to our table with two English menus.
Now, there's a poetry to food names, terrine de foie gras sounds much better than duck liver pate, but this is a minor gripe, preferring escargots to snails? Pretentious? Moi?
@Grape_Escape suggested a couple of Kirs to whet the palette and a excellent suggestion it was indeed.
I plumped for seven escargots a la bourgogne followed by foie de veaux with pomme puree while @Grape_Escape took the terrine de foie gras then the poulet de bresse with sauce forestier.
The wine list frustratingly didn't list any vintages, so despite our previous decision to go for a Northern Rhone there was still a degree of to and froing as we tried to find something we wanted. Eventually we decided on Jann Chave's Crozes Hermitage 09 (it might have had a lieu dit name too) and I grabbed a glass of pleasantly non descript Macon Village to accompany the snails.
We'd already been given a small bowl of the hard green olives I'm seeing around a lot at the moment, but I had to ask for bread, which then arrived feeling suspiciously pre cut, odder still was that it arrived with no butter or oil. On prompting we were given a lovely little plate of Beurre Grand Cru, and excellent butter it was, with that slight sourness I like in French butter, and a pleasingly inconsistent texture that spoke of small scale or hand churning.
@Grape_Escape's terrine de foie gras was a touch on the cold side (fridge temperature) and arrived with an edge of diced muscat jelly and some strawberry confiture. However, he declared the texture excellent, and indeed when I had a small piece it had the palette coating lustre that I would expect. I found the strawberry confiture a bit laboured and though that it dominated the palette a little.
My snails came in dinkly little individual white porcelain pots in a melted butter filled flat bottomed bowl. The little pots were topped with mini circular crouton lids and the dish slunk to the table in a languid fug of garlic, butter and parsley. Checking under the little breaded lids found some gloriously plump and flavoursome snails, being a little bit picky I wasn't overwhelmed by the amount of bread crumbs that came in the pots, but this was a tiny little gripe.
@Grape_Escape's main was pronounced wonderful, the chicken having oodles of flavour and the creamy mushroom sauce being a treat of sweet dense flavour that cosseted the chicken and was enjoyed all the way to end of the meal with bread dunking and wiping to finish with.
My calves liver was less successful, on ordering I was asked how I wanted it cooked, medium-rare? I asked if they were happy to go rarer, at which the waitress cheerily assured me that they'd cook it 'rose' as that was far and away the best.
It wasn't, the liver ended up being really quite chewy, it was nicely charred at the thin edge and the mash and sauce were good, but this restaurant carries the name of Paul Bocuse, and really ought to be able to do better.
A couple of coffees rounded off the meal and we set off to try and find the airport, however that's another story.
I will come back to Lyon, in fact I'm tentatively planning a weekend jaunt to fully immerse myself in dead flesh and animal fat, however I don't think Le Nord will be on the itinerary, it felt like the out post of a chefs empire that was coasting on old regard.