Auberge de l’Ile has a beautiful setting on a little island called Ile Barbe, perched between the banks of the Saône, one of Lyon’s two rivers. You can access it by car from one of the bridges over the river, but as soon as you leave the road it feels as if you have entered some ancient French country village. Just eight families live on the island, plus the restaurant, which is in one of the old buildings on the island; there is an 11th century monastery building, but this is no longer in use. A pretty courtyard opens out in front of the restaurant dining room, sheltered by trees with a few couches and tables at which you browse the menu and sip your aperitif. It is hard to imagine that you are just a few minutes from the city centre of Lyon. The building where the restaurant is housed (built in 1601) has been in the chef/patron’s family since 1968, but has been functioning as a restaurant since 1990. The dining room has a view onto the small kitchen and has soft candle lighting.
To begin were vegetable crisps and herbs, with lotus root and beetroot giving some colourful contrast to the parsley and other herbs (17/20). A little saucisson (slices of sausage) from a local supplier also went down well. Bread was a choice of white and brown slices, made from scratch and both excellent (18/20), with butter from Mere Richard in Lyon, who also is the cheese supplier. As an amuse-bouche a spoon of sheep cheese and dill was delicious, alongside a tomato soup with a little horseradish (17/20).
A Dover sole salad with almonds on green beans suffered from a lack of seasoning (15/20). Better was lobster, tender and served with a sweet wine reduction and figs. For me the reduction was a little too sweet, and I wonder whether figs are an ideal foil for lobster (16/20). Char with shiitake mushrooms and a creamy sauce was better, the fish well timed and (this time) correctly seasoned (17/20).
The best dish was veal with girolles, pink radishes and potato, the meat having lovely taste and going well with the mushrooms, the radishes adding a little bite (18/20). This was followed by excellent cappuccino of morels, which were of very high quality (18/20). Vanilla macaroons were particularly good as mignardise, though blueberry macaroons were also good (18/20). Cherry klafoutis had cherries with lovely taste, but could have done with a greater proportion of batter, which itself was slightly overcooked at the edges (16/20). Coffee was very good. Service was relaxed but capable throughout the evening.
Chef/patron Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex is a charming host.