SIRHA Lyon 2015 - The Greatest Show on Earth (or a tale of two sittings)


I have recently returned from the World Hospitality & Foodservice Fair which not only benefits from being in Lyon (global pork mecca) but also has the Bocuse D’Or attached. It’s a feast of gastronomy, and also hosts the world chocolate carving

and creative baking competitions, I think this years theme was music or violins. Unlike many trade fairs where the unsuspecting visitors are lured on stands by smiling suggestively clad ladies this show is all about the food and as a result we are drawn to the stands by cookery demonstrations, professional tastings, amazing prepared nibbles and other culinary lures (truffle, oysters, wagyu etc)

It’s as if Willy Wonka got some management consultants in or was taken over by VC’s and told to stretch his brand to, well, everything. By day an actual gastronomic fantasia and by night a marvellous city to eat. Sometimes. This year was characterised by two wildly different experiences at wildly different ends of the spectrum like truffles and dog poo.

Truffles first; I was lucky enough to be invited to eat in a traditional Bouchon Lyonnaise. The chosen venue was L’Amphityron which was crowded, noisy, aromatic and dedicated to pig. We sat and ordered house wine, which was poured through a funnel into green bottles and dumped on the table. More wine vinegar than wine this was promptly returned and exchanged for wine from bottles with actual corks; a saint joseph and a gigondas. Much better though the wine arrived at random and so it was impossible to stick with one or the other and a lot of wine arrived before any food. Time to 'balance the carcass' and order all the bits of pig we don’t see enough of; deep fried trotters, pressed breaded tripe, boudon noir with two apples (apple and ‘apple of the soil’ i.e. potato), andouillette with mustard. The andouillette arrived with the best dauphinoise I have ever eaten, more accurately wolfed down. After that it was all a bit sketchy, I think we may have had a number of desserts including crème brulee and/or crème caramel, certainly a lot more wine 'drunk alpine style'; down thew slope as quickly as possible.

The next evening we decided to eat at a local steak chain which looked nice enough, lots of dark wood and a moving charcoal grill in the centre overflowing with sizzling smoking meat manned by a competent looking chef type. We ordered 4 cote de boeuf [ribeye on the bone] and tucked into the wine. Ten minutes later we were informed they only had one ribeye and no tartare, we should have smelt trouble, paid up and run. Instead we ordered a selection of other steaks until we had enough for 10 greedy gastronauts, along with a few other mains and starters. The starters arrived and again we should have upped sticks immediately as one unfortunate diner was presented two completely cold “poached” egg blobs in a cold soup/sauce of onion, bacon and wine. At this point we noticed that cheffy on the grill had disappeared and been replaced by a 16 year old waitress who was busy raising and lowering the grill, burning and undercooking the meat and running in and out of the kitchen.

Slowly a combination of burnt/cold/overcooked/bag-boiled ribs/duck/pork thing appeared followed irregularly and intermittently by random steaks. A number of the Italian guests suggested this must be like eating in an English restaurant and were immediately slapped down. Plus I was the only one to order onglet and, although it was bavette and unseasoned, it wasn’t too bad. A steady stream of inedible side dishes appeared, greens and beans boiled to a long and horrible death, soggy frozen fries, hilarious pasta cheese goo which went down well with the Italians and finally a risotto. To add insult to injury we were dining with the 2014 World Risotto Champion and asked our esteemed chef to try it first. Although his face was a picture he chose not to comment and I can only approximate the taste as lukewarm rice pudding covered in dehydrated powdered cheese. I to take great comfort and sadness knowing that rubbish food is now readily available and regularly consumed in France. 

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