The oldest wine bar of Lyon is located in the Vieux Lyon! La Cave des Voyageurs was founded by Jean Markarian (aka “Jeannot”) in 1998 (the same year that Vieux Lyon was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and its list of red and white wine includes Bourgogne, Beaujolais, Côtes-du-Rhône, Loire, Corbière, Cahors, […]
Le Bistrot Nicéphore, eatery and photographic gallery
By Katie Lodge
A place and a half
There is a smattering of places from which it is tricky to be yanked away. A child’s bedside as you hear the ebbs and flows of their breath, a dancefloor when you’re euphorically hammered, a stormy beach in winter where the sea-spray hits your face. The Nicéphore is another such place.
Let me explain why.
First of all, there’s the rickety iron door which is in dire need of WD40, so were you wanting to escape, it would take a bloody age.
Then there’s the atmosphere, the whoosh of warmth you get when you step inside this Art Deco-style, higgledy-piggeldy matchbox Bistrot that gets locals returning again and again. For a glass of something, for a cheese or cold meat planche, for an oh-so-inventive dish whipped up by a kitchen-witch, for a chat, maybe for a gander at new stories on the walls (the Nicéphore is named after Nicéphore Niépce, inventor of photography and born up the road).
I’ve tried to leave several times, but conversations domino into others, one glass of Auvergne red wine becomes a third, or you get hypnotised by the big brass Dalek posing as a coffee machine and wonder what its plans are for world domination.
Pushing open the door
If you were to be so bold as to venture up to St Just, just above Vieux Lyon, and push open the aforementioned creaky door, you would be greeted by a multitude of cheekiness from behind the bar.
A sit-your-arse-down-on-a-stool-and-have-a-natter kind of cheekiness which emanates from Tristan or Etienne (and now newbie Amandine), as their tea-towels squeak clean the insides of beer glasses, and they pull back the brass lever and fill it to the brim. Minimum froth, bien sûr.
They might have an anecdote up their sleeves, Tristan a question for you, as he slides freshly baked popcorn that Anaïs has made with its whole playlist of herbs and spices.
Amid the chatter, the contralto of Nina Simone, the toing and froing of steaming plates and empty ones licked clean, there would be nothing left for you to do but sit back and sip, look around at the intricate balance of gold and burgundy, the play of lights bouncing off the mirrors, the simple images being etched in the now.
And now to whet your appetite
You might be feeling peckish and want to order something – a roast guinea fowl with plums and caramelised Brussel sprouts for example – and Tristan will no doubt bounce over to your table, bend his knees and take your order, head height. Do not be rattled!
Proximity is what the Nicéphore is about (virus distances respected of course). It’s about pulverising those barriers put up by us prim and proper folk and daring to share a bit of yourself. As for Etienne, he’ll throw the menu board over his neck and it will hang there on a chain, as he runs his finger along the chalked-up Mont d’Or cheese for two, waiting for Anaïs to bubble it away in the oven and waft woody aromas around the Bistrot.
His finger will move to the roasted butternut squash cooked with cajun spices, coinhabiting with local lentils and red rice from the Camargue, then slide down to a Nicéphore speciality – blanquette de veau with lightning bolts of lemon zest. Did I mention the to-die-for chocolate mousse right at the bottom? Did I?
Words from the kitchen witch
‘Cooking for me is like speaking different languages,’ Anaïs says. ‘It’s about finding a way to touch people without words’.
There are adjectives in the kitchen-witch’s sauces for sure, whole stories in the association of tastes and colours, the fine-tuning of the seasons, you just have to pick up your fork and listen to their spell.
- Le Bistrot Nicéphore, 33 rue de Trion, 69005 Lyon
- Bistrot eatery, photographic gallery, dark room. Local beer, regional food and wine.
- Open for breakfast, lunch and supper, closed Sundays and Mondays.
- ‘Plat du jour’ for lunch : 9,8 euros. Menus at 14, 17 and 19 euros.
- Evening meals: 7 euros for soup, 12,5 euros for a planche or dish, 21 euros for a huge hunk of beef, 27,5 euros for the Mont d’Or to share.
- A stone’s throw from Fourvière, right opposite the St Just metro station.
- Reservations: 0478363948