Wednesday, July 25, 2007

French Café Salads

Cafe Perl's Chevre Chaud.

For your visit to Lyon, in between cheese and restaurant pilgrimages, it’s a good idea to be sure to give yourself some wiggle room in your itinerary to relax and just have a salad in a café. A relaxing salad on a terrace serves to cleanse, recalibrate and recharge. It provides a needed interval within which you can let the world turn, enjoy local wine by the pot, and people watch. You can rest your feet, discuss your experiences with your traveling companion and write a few post cards or letters before you belly up to the next gastronomic temple. When in France, who doesn’t look forward to the quintessential lunch in a French café?

In centre-ville Lyon, sadly, the good café salad is a hit or miss phenomenon. This poses a problem since greens are a physical necessity for the digestive health of any food enthusiast doing Lyon at full hilt. A place might have all kinds of great things on the menu and serve a terrible salad: It can really be quite frightening at times, wet, wilted lettuce, or even lettuce that tastes like plastic. Drowned in oil or like vinaigrette soup. Canned corn often crops up unannounced, who knows what people are thinking. You might think my standards are too high.

What makes a good café terrace salad experience? The first criteria is that is has got to be in a real café. A place where you can order a drink or a meal at any time in the day without pretense, minimum order, or long waiting times. The salad itself has to be all good, fresh, well conceived, and have personality. In addition to being centrally located, there has to be an element of tranquility to the restaurant's terrace, with a pleasant level of insulation from traffic and pedestrian spectators while at the same time giving you a chance to watch the world go by. The service must be reactive and attentive, and most of all, there must be no regret when the paycheck comes. Does it sound too much to ask?

The last thing you want is to waste your time on a place that cuts corners or traps you into paying a fortune for what should for all intents and purposes, be the reasonably priced good meal that you hope to eat in a traditional French café. When you are smack in the middle of the Presqu’ile and looking for a good café meal experience, you can pass right on by Le Grand Café des Negotiants. You’ll end up aggravated by the outrageously inflated prices and egos of the wait staff. You don’t need starched linen, boiserie and stained glass for a good café meal.

The secret, my friend, is right there next door, at Le Café Perl. It is the unobtrusive and centrally located honest café right in the middle of everything. The owner is on site. The daily specials are enticing and attractive, incorporating classic café fare with a southern regional flair and a gesture of warmth and generosity. In short, the place is steeped in a warmth and simplicity that is just right for a relaxed café afternoon. Everything from the service, to the generosity in the plates, to the sturdy seating with elbow room is comfortable. The branches sway in the breeze filtering warm dappled sunlight on our tables. It’s the place for lunch with friends, a tête à tête, or for a simple meal alone.

One of today's specials was the Pissaladière à la Crètoise, a Crete style southern onion, anchovy and olive baked raised dough tarte, served with salad on the side, of course. They say the Salade Lyonnaise, with poached eggs and thick cut smoked bacon slabs, is well received. I saw several Croque Monsieurs float by. La Salade Italienne: Tomatoes, lettuce, mozzarella, penne with pesto, Italian cured ham, slow roasted pimento in oil, black olives. La Salade Perl: Smoked sliced duck breast, smoked salmon, a thick foie gras medallion on toast, lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes. All salads are served with a bottle of the creamy house vinaigrette, on the side.

Le Café Perl
2 pl Francisque Régaud
69002 LYON
04 78 37 56 56
No need to reserve, arrive around noon to be sure to get a table on the terrace.

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Blogger Mercedes said...

I was just thinking about how I love a chevre chaud salad and always order them in France. Guess I'll have to make one myself.

Ironically, last night I made pissaladiere and salad for dinner!

9:17 PM, July 25, 2007  
Blogger Andreea said...

everything about this makes me think: summer holiday! wonderful

11:23 AM, July 26, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll make note on this café, should I pass through next time...lovely pic! I agree, a salad can't fall in between's real good or VERY bad.

3:05 PM, July 26, 2007  
Blogger Katie Zeller said...

One of my favorite meals and favorite things to do... but this time of year I find myself ordering Moules Frites, instead! Oh well,, I guess one must go with the seasons... and the location...

3:40 PM, July 27, 2007  
Blogger Stash said...

ok, now that picture is worthy of framing.

11:20 PM, July 30, 2007  

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