Chef Chistophe Roure opened his first restaurant in the Loire in 2003, quickly winning a Michelin star. In 2007 he was awarded the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) and the following year a second Michelin star. He moved to Lyon in 2014 and has continued to hold two stars at his current venture, which is near the Brotteaux train station in the city. The restaurant is on the corner of an unprepossessing street in central Lyon.
The dining room has quite modern decor, with no tablecloths, well-spaced tables and a midnight blue carpet contributing to pleasingly quiet noise levels. The décor is modern; doubtless some would describe it as avant-garde, others as if it was like a 1990s estate agent’s office. The light fittings resemble a stack of oversized popadoms but work well enough. There were several menu options, with four courses at €88, five courses at €115 and tasting menus at €135 and €148.
The wine list had around 550 labels, starting at €35 and with plenty of choice under €60. Sample wines were Charles Audoin Marsannay 2014 at €50 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for €23, Matrot Meursault 2014 at €80 compared to its retail price of €41, and Domaine d'Arlot Nuits St Georges 2013 at €135 for a wine that will set you back €97 in the shops. There were a few prestige wines at bargain prices too, such as Romanee Conti Cuvée Duvault Bouchée 2008 a steal at €385 given that its current market value has ballooned to €1,358.
The meal began with a series of nibbles. A clam tartlet came with a rice mousse with tuna and a perfume of lime. The pastry was very delicate and the citrus was a logical pairing for the shellfish (16/20). This was followed by a superb cereal cracker on which was a pretty display of peas, foie gras pate and air-dried Spanish beef. The peas were an excellent foil for the richness of the meat, the crisp cracker providing a textural contrast. The pate in particular was superb, and the peas had terrific flavour (19/20).
Quail egg with lardo di colonatta came with smoked salt on crisp bread, and was also impressive, the lardo nicely enhancing the flavour of the excellent egg (18/20). Bread was from the nearby Malatier bakery and was very pleasant, with a nice crust and good crumb (easily 17/20).
Langoustines were attractively presented with artichokes, a garnish of orange confit and a consommé of langoustine flavoured with saffron. On the side was a dish of prawn crackers, or in this case langoustine crackers. The shellfish were carefully cooked, as was the artichoke, but the star were the ultra-delicate crackers, packed with flavour. It is one thing to cook a lovely langoustine properly, but it takes talent to make a humble prawn cracker taste like this (18/20 overall, more for the crackers).
Scallops had been pan-fried and fused together and presented as a cylinder, garnished with black truffle, Noilly Prat foam and a savoury version of "floating islands". The scallops were high quality and beautifully cooked, the truffle nicely lifting their flavour. The mildly bitter taste of the vermouth foam added an interesting extra flavour note, and the egg white “islands” were very delicate (19/20).
Brill with root vegetables featured fillet of fish with rutabaga, turnip, pumpkin and pumpkin gnocchi. This was another dish that tasted a lot better than it may sound. The pumpkin gnocchi was ultra-light and the turnip was remarkable. I have no idea how the kitchen managed to take turnip, normally the dullest of vegetables, and make it into something this delicious, but it must have required something close to wizardry. The fish itself was precisely cooked and had good flavour, but I was left staring in amazement at the turnip (19/20).
Wagyu beef from David Blackmore was a cut from the neck called "persille" in French, and had plenty of flavour. This came with excellent celeriac that had been cooked in a salt crust, and was a lovely, earthy foil to the rich foie gras sauce, itself complemented by a lighter watercress sauce (18/20).
A wide selection of cheese was presented in lovely condition on a large trolley. Camembert was in its prime, as was fresh goat cheese and St Nectaire. There was even some Stilton in much better nick than my local delicatessen can manage. Pre-dessert was panna cotta with a sponge in the centre, lime cookie, mint foam and biscuit pieces. This was superb, the panna cotta ultra-light, the mint flavour carefully controlled, the biscuits providing an extra texture and the lime bringing freshness (19/20).
Pistachio soufflé was classy, cooked evenly and as light as you could wish, the flavour of the nuts coming through well. On the side was what was announced as a chocolate marshmallow but more resembled a "walnut whip" made instead with pistachio on a biscuit base, again with very good texture (19/20).
Even better was a dazzling chocolate ganache served with chocolate sorbet, caramel sauce and cream, prettily presented with a lacy tuile. The depth of flavour of the ganache was remarkable, the sorbet having flawless texture, the caramel lovely. This was top of the range French dessert making (20/20).
To finish was a stunning panettone. I was never a fan of this often-disappointing bread-based Italian creation until I tried the super-light version at three-star Michelin Le Calandre. I became an instant convert but assumed I would never try a better one. I was wrong. The panettone today was extraordinary, light as a feather and with a few raisins tucked away inside (20/20).
Service was spot on, with flawless topping up and the dishes appearing at a nice pace. Our waiter had worked for a time at Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea and spoke excellent English. The bill came to €217 (£188) each with a bottle of Louis Roederer champagne. If you had the cheapest menu and shared one of the many modestly prices wines on the list then your bill might come to around €115 (£100). This seems to be almost absurdly cheap given the evident quality of the cooking here. This was another example of top notch French cooking in a restaurant that is barely known outside the country. There are plenty of three star restaurants worse than this, both in France and elsewhere.