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You can’t come to Lyon without visiting a bouchon…unless you’re a vegetarian! These types of restaurants serve traditional Lyonnais fare. Think rich, heavy and offal.

One of the most well-known bouchons in the city is Café des Federations. It’s a very traditional bouchon in terms of décor and food. It’s nothing fancy either. As you can see from my pictures, they don’t really focus on presentation by any means.

Café des Federations is a very popular restaurant, even with the locals, so reservations are recommended. I made one online through their website two weeks before my visit and received a response within two days.

The interior

Upon entering the restaurant, we were seated at a banquette meant for 6 people. We shared it with another twosome who were locals.

If you’re here for dinner, your food will cost you 26€ which includes an amuse bouche, several starters, a main course, a selection of cheese and dessert. You get a choice of the main and dessert while the others are fixed. It’s really great value – make sure you come hungry!

Café des Fédérations

There’s no wine list either. You can pick either red or white and they’ll provide you with a “pot” (around half a litre) of wine on tap for around 9€.

We started off with Oeufs en Meurette as an amuse. It consisted of a soft poached egg covered in a rich, intense red wine sauce with lardons. I’m definitely not used to starting off my meal with such a heavy and substantial amuse bouche!

Oeufs en Meurette

Next up were four (yes FOUR) starters. My favourite was the Lyon Salad which was essentially a frisee salad with lardons (strips/cubes of pork fat), a soft poached egg and croutons covered in a mustard vinaigrette. It’s definitely my kinda salad! We finished the entire bowl between the two of us.

Lyon Salad

We were also served a Selection of Sausage – Lyonnais sausage and pork sausage. I’m a big fan of Lyonnais sausage which contains half pork and half beef.

Selection of Sausage

Another salad we were given was the Caviar de la Croix Rousse aka lentil salad or poor man’s caviar. The lentils were coated in a creamy dressing and while the salad was decent, it wasn’t particularly memorable.

Caviar de la Croix Rousse

The last starter was a Wild Boar Terrine which arrived with a knife sticking out of it. The terrine had a thick layer of solidified fat on it which I didn’t find too appetizing. I had a bite of what was underneath the fat and like the lentil salad, didn’t find it very memorable.

Wild Boar Terrine

The mains served here include typical Lyonnais classics like andouilette, black pudding and quenelles de brochet. I was feeling a little adventurous and decided to go with the Tête de Veau aka calf’s head.

Tête de Veau

I was a little afraid of what it would look like but it didn’t look like a head at all! It’s not the most attractive dish but I dove in anyway. The meat was surrounded by a thick, gelatinous skin which I avoided since I could still see small hairs protruding from it.

Tête de Veau

The meat itself was very tasty and tender. It tasted great on its own and didn’t even require much of the “sauce ravigote” which came with it. The sauce had a slightly acidic taste to it and was flavoured with herbs.

At the end of the day, I was glad I tried the tête de veau but would I order it again? Doubtful. It’s probably an acquired taste.

Tête de Veau

Mike went with a safer choice, the Pork Cheek Stew which arrived in a large pot with tender pieces of melt-in-your-mouth pork topped with potatoes.

Pork Cheek Stew

A very rustic-looking dish. While we thought the meat was prepared well, we didn’t love the sauce…perhaps it was a little too strong on the wine?

Pork Cheek Stew

After we finished our main courses, we were given a communal Cheese Plate to share with our neighbors. Hope you don’t mind sharing with strangers!

It was quite the cheese plate, consisting of 7 different kinds. The cheese featured in the centre was a very potent blue cheese. One of the locals sitting with us warned us of its potency – he said he enjoys blue cheese but even this was too strong for him. That piqued our curiousity so we each tried a teeny tiny bit of it. He was right. I’m glad we were warned – that stuff is potent!

Cheese Plate

As if that wasn’t enough food, we were also given a communal bowl of Cervelle des Canuts, a cream cheese dish with shallots, garlic and chives. Ever since trying this at Brasserie Georges, I’ve been hooked! Despite how full I was, I still ate a large spoonful.

Cervelle des Canuts

After we had our fill of cheese, our server came by to recite the dessert list to us. I chose the Tarte a la Praline, a local specialty. A traditional tart crust was filled with a sweet and sticky pink praline filling. While it was quite sweet, I still enjoyed it.

Tarte a la Praline

Mike was too full for most of the heavy desserts and went with a simple Fruit Cup. Nothing special about it but he needed something light and refreshing to end off the meal.

Fruit Cup

While there were some dishes I didn’t love, I still enjoyed my experience at Café des Federations. Tons of food, cheap wine and great company with the locals we shared our table with (although I can’t promise you the same). Eating at a traditional bouchon is an experience not to be missed. Come hungry – they’ll feed you until they have to roll you out the door!

At a glance:
• An old bouchon serving up traditional Lyonnais cuisine
• Very rich dishes with an offal-focused menu; not for vegetarians
• 26€ for dinner – includes an amuse, several starters, a main, a cheese course and dessert
• Only 2 wines (on tap) – red or white (9.50€ for approximately half a litre)
• Loud, lively and casual atmosphere
• Reservations are recommended; they can be made online through their website
• Open for lunch and dinner; closed on Sundays
• Great value; tons of food – come hungry!

Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 3 stars
• Service: 2 stars
• Atmosphere: 3 stars

  1. Ken (Reply) on Monday 24, 2013

    This seems like a ridiculous amount of food. 26€ seems like a deal, esp with gratuity included. I imagine this would be a great place to sit and eat and chat with friends for 3-4 hrs and just nibble on the cheeses.
    I’m getting the impression that french desserts (as opposed to pastries) are all ridiculously sweet. Maybe it comes down to their penchant for using fondants and jams?
    Let me know if you come across any places in Toronto with Cervelle des Canuts .. !!

    • Jess (Reply) on Monday 24, 2013

      It was a really ridiculous amount of food – the bouchons in Lyon are known for their good value and stuffing you to the brim. Definitely can’t eat like that everyday. Unfortunately I don’t know any places in Toronto with cervelle des canuts 🙁 Guess I’ll have to find a recipe if I want to satisfy a craving!