In Lyon, France's second city but culinary capital, diners are spoiled for choice yet they flock to Rue Le Bec. One of Lyon's hottest dining destinations, it's located in the newly fashionable Confluence district, a former industrial area in the heart of Lyon where the Rhône and Saône rivers converge.
The clientele go not only for the cuisine but also for the boldness of chef Nicolas Le Bec's concept. A 39-year-old Breton, and something of a local hero for his two-Michelin-star restaurant on rue Grolée, Le Bec has developed a vast 2,000-sq-m space on two floors. Once a factory, it is now a cross between a restaurant and a covered market, with alfresco dining in the garden and a large terrace on the Saône River.
The ground floor consists of a restaurant with a series of open kitchens, a wine bar and a café, as well as shops where you can buy bread, wine, fruit, vegetables and cheese. Coping with as many as 350 people at a time, young servers relay orders on headsets as diners choose from the lengthy menu. There's plenty of Asian-influenced food (Le Bec's interest in Asian cuisine derives from his China-born wife and his longtime Japanese protégé, chef Takao Takano), with expensive delicacies like Wagyu beef sitting alongside familiar French bistro fare. Diners need not worry about missing out on the higher-end creations for which Le Bec is famed either. A fine-dining restaurant, La Table de Nicolas, opens on the second floor in January.
At 150 hectares, the Confluence redevelopment is the largest urban regeneration project in France and won't be fully completed until 2020 but when it comes to great food, it seems to have gotten off to a flying start. For more information, see nicolaslebec.com.