The French-English Lounge Serves English Specialties on a Quaint Corner in the Presqu’île
by Jenna Careri
The doorway of Bourbon’s House is laced in green vines of white flowers. Paneled windows betray an orange glow from the exposed lightbulbs inside, flooding the cream and grey space with a needed dose of comfort.
The Coziest Corner on the Presqu’île
The newly opened Bourbon’s House is a French-English lounge in the heart of Lyon, on Rue Gentil around the corner from the Cordeliers metro. It’s a “cozy corner” of the Presqu’île, meant to bring friends and family together to savor life’s small moments, and some small pastries, too.
Opened by brother and sister duo Camille and Marin Bourbon, Bourbon’s House is bringing the longtime English tradition of afternoon tea to Lyon, in its most classic and elegant form.
“We wanted to create a cozy corner, so it’s like going into a little hotel,” said Camille, who manages the lounge.
Guests are ushered in through the small, downstairs bar area, and up the stairs to the second-floor lounge. White walls and light wood tables for two fill the small space. Perfectly-arranged pastel flowers in glass jars serve as centerpieces, setting off the grey wingback armchairs on either side.
Carrying on the Afternoon Tea Tradition
On this day, the two-person tables have been pushed together on the right side of the room, creating a banquet fit for a feast. And that’s exactly what we’re about to get.
Next to each bouquet, a three-tiered tower displays our afternoon tea assortment. Three sandwiches on the bottom, three desserts in the middle, and a parfait on top. Scones, jams, and a scattering of tea leaves litter the table in between our plates.
“It’s a tradition that goes back to the beginning of the 19th century,” explains Camille, our afternoon tea expert for the afternoon. “I like to say it’s the brunch of the afternoon, because in the end it’s kind of the same concept. We have as much savory as sweet.”
We’re presented with our choice of teas, which includes everything from jasmine to rooibos to traditional English breakfast. Bourbon House’s teas come from the Rare Tea Company, Camille explains, a business that sources direct trade teas from all over the world.
“It’s a company that has really important values and is very engaged directly with producers,” she said.
We’re served our tea in pristine white teapots and advised to help ourselves to the assortment that looks much too pretty to eat, starting with the sandwiches on the bottom and working our way up to the parfaits.
On the menu today, in addition to this strawberry shortcake-esque trifle, are berry scones, a mix of brie, curry, and capocollo sandwiches, lemon curd tartlets, hazelnut brownies, and millionaire shortbread which, in case you’re not familiar, includes a large amount of very sticky caramel.
Talk about a warm welcome.
An International Background Leads to a Local Pursuit
Camille has been interested in the hospitality business ever since she received her BAC, and her international influences followed shortly after. When she finished her studies, she worked in hospitality services in England for eight months before a three-month internship at the Naval Museum in Washington, D.C.
She then moved on to Switzerland to pursue a degree in Hospitality Management at the École Hôtelière de Lausanne. But it wasn’t until a job at the Eurostar Business Lounge in London in 2015 that she was fully integrated into the English afternoon tea tradition.
“During my last year in London, my friends and I had a habit of getting together over an afternoon tea in a London hotel for birthdays and celebrations,” Camille said. “It was always such a nice moment that left me some very sweet memories.”
And so it happened that when she returned to Lyon it was in the hope of opening her very own space in the center of the city. When it came time to decide what to serve, afternoon tea was a no-brainer.
“It’s completely coherent with our concept for a cozy French-English space. For me, afternoon tea represents a moment that is timeless, cozy, and happy, a moment that we take part in with people we are close to,” she said. “It’s about appreciating the pure sweetness of life.”
Bringing England to France
Because the food is all made in-house, the Bourbon House menu changes depending on the products they receive. In addition to afternoon tea, they also offer breakfast, lunch, snacks, gourmet aperitifs, and brunch.
Camille’s brother, Marin, is the lounge’s bartender and always on hand for drinks at the bar or the “Not so serious lunch” upstairs.
But the afternoon tea is where Bourbon’s House really shines. By reservation only, but with no minimum number of attendees, the English-turned-French classic is perfect for a relaxed catch-up or celebration.
“It’s a bit of an excuse to eat a little something with tea in the middle of the afternoon,” said Camille. “It’s also very much a shared moment.”
Bourbon’s House will soon be adding an “Epicerie Fine” to the mix, selling their own products and those imported from England, including shortbread, biscuits, jams, chutneys, peanut butter, tea, cheese, candy and more.
They’ll also be looking to hosts events like garden parties and expose local artists’ works on their walls.
But today, it’s all about the tea, and the three-level pastry stand that comes with it.
Descending from our second-floor pastel castle, we make our way out onto the street, newly imbued with a distinct sense of calm and a brewing food coma to last us until next Tuesday.