A visit to Lyon without stopping at Bernachon is like visiting the Louvre without seeing the Mona Lisa. Lyon has a long history of producing the best chocolatiers in the whole of France, and Bernachon must surely rank with the best.
Located in the prestigious sixth arrondissement of Lyon on the tree-lined boulevard of Franklin Roosevelt, Bernachon combines chocolaterie, patisserie and confiserie into one boutique, and a restaurant/tea room next door.
Unlike many chocolatiers, Bernachon makes its own chocolate, selecting the best species and finest crops of cocoa beans from around the world.
Like coffee, there are many different kinds of beans, each with a different taste depending on where they are grown. Chocolate is like wine; the beans have their own terroir.
Tradition-centred, hand-crafted products and fresh ingredients are the hallmarks of Bernachon. From bean to box, everything is hand-made, even down to hand wrapping of individual pieces.
Like many icons of Lyon, Paul Bocuse’s influence is inescapable. Bernachon is run by Philippe Bernachon, the grandson of Paul Bocuse. Philippe’s father was in chocolate and his grandfather before him.
While Bernachon makes a large range of chocolates and patisseries, its most famous creation is Le President, a dessert created by Maurice Bernachon for the 50th birthday of President Giscard d’Estaing.
Le President is a chocolate genoise with hazelnut praline, cherry confit, and chocolate shavings formed in the shape of a gentle flower with petals as fine as Normandy lace.
As keen as we were to taste Le President, its 45 to 60 euro price tag was a little rich for us. So, we settled for its smaller cousin, the Vice President, made in individual portions.
To do this we decided to have a meal next door in Bernachon’s restaurant and tea room, called Passion. The mind boggles where they got that name. Is chocolate really an aphrodisiac?
The meal was very acceptable, but the piece de resistance was the Vice President. Initial impressions were that it was going to be a heavy cake, particularly at the end of a full meal.
However, when I decided to destroy this superb creation by lifting one of its glorious chocolate petals and gingerly put it in my mouth, it dissolved of its own accord, leaving me with an unequalled experience. The cake itself was as light as a cloud, close to heaven. Did they forget to put calories in it?
Nothing can compare to Le President, but a very good alternative is another signature product, the Palet d’Or, ganesh chocolates with real gold leaf. Bernachon also offers a wide variety of chocolates like truffles, pralines and toffee at affordable prices.
If you do visit, have the time, and speak French, Bernachon offers a tour of their factory, but check first for the times. In addition, note that they hold to the French tradition of shutting up their entire shop for their annual holidays, usually around late July early August. It is just poor planning if you take your holidays at the same time.
42 Cours Franklin Roosevelt, 69006 Lyon
+33 4 78 24 37 98
Open Tuesday to Saturday 8.30 am to 7.00 pm (Shop)
Open Tuesday to Saturday 9.00 am to 6.30 pm (Restaurant-Tearoom)
Closed July 21 to August 19