Marseille, where a good meal once meant pizza, bouillabaisse or fish, is suddenly becoming one of the more interesting food cities in France.
It is a trend mirrored in the new Mucem (Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée), designed by architect Rudy Ricciottiat at the entrance to Le Vieux Port.
The museum opened to coincide with Marseille’s reign as one of this year’s European capitals of culture and its mission is described in its name: to highlight the city’s real identity.
Of course Marseille is French, but it’s also a simmering cauldron of peoples and cuisines from all around the Mediterranean.
Le Bistrot d’Edouard
“Today, Marseille is embracing its Mediterranean identity,” says Edouard Giribone, whose convivial tapas and pinxo restaurant in an old provencale cottage in the Prado district has been packed from the day it opened. “A new generation is proud of the city’s diversity and we all love eating each other’s food.” Grab a table in the tiny garden for a light supper of Spanish ham, poutargue (cured fish roe), grilled aubergine with chopped mint, raw artichoke salad and tortilla.
Address: rue Jean Mermoz Contact +33 4 9171 1652 Open Tuesday to Saturday, 12pm to 2pm and 8pm-10pm Average menu pricing €35
Le Café des Épices
Until chef Arnaud Carton de Grammont opened this small, charming restaurant on the edge of the Le Panier district in 2004, Marseille was one of the only French cities with no bistro culture of its own. After working in Lyon, Uruguay and the US, Aix en Provence native de Grammont pioneered the Marseille bistro with a changes-daily chalkboard menu of dishes from around the Mediterranean. Grilled turbot with a puree of escalivada (a Catalan dish of aubergines, peppers, garlic, onions and olive oil) and slow-roasted free-range pork with girolles and butternut squash puree show off a cooking style that’s consistently precise, generous and inventive.
Address: 4 rue du Lacydon Email: cafedesepices.com Open Tuesday to Friday 9am to 3pm and 6pm to 12am; Saturday 9.30am to 4pm. Lunch menu €24 to €27 and fixed price dinner menu €45
Located on the increasingly chic rue de Paradis, this popular brasserie is where well-heeled locals take a break from shopping over beautifully prepared Mediterranean comfort food. The great looking setting comprises an open kitchen and dining room with a found-in-the-attic decor of factory lamps, flea-market chairs and tables overlooking a courtyard garden. The menu changes often, but runs to dishes such as panisses (fried bars of chickpea-flour), caponata (a Sicilian compote of aubergines and onions, and peppers garnished with capers and pine nuts) and grilled rougets with tapenade.
Address: 110 rue Paradis Contact: +33 4 91 02 53 96 Open Mondays to Saturday 12pm to 2.30pm and 8pm to 11pm; Sunday 11am to 3pm Average menu pricing €40
This dressy brasserie with a clubby clientele of local power-brokers, bourgeois families out for a special occasion, and slightly furtive couples coming in for a good feed, is the place to come for bouillabaisse in Marseille. Yes, it’s expensive, but there are not many fish left in the Mediterranean and a real bouillabaisse requires a huge amount of local rockfish. Service can be a little shirty with unknowns as well, but ignore that and focus on the seriously good cooking.
Address: 6 rue des Catalans Website: restaurant-michel-13.fr Open daily 12pm to 2pm and 7.30pm to 11pm Average menu pricing €70
Pizzeria Chez Etienne
After the Suez Canal opened in 1869 the port of Marseille boomed and drew migrants from around the Mediterranean: especially Italy. In Le Panier, the city’s oldest neighbourhood, the Cassaro family’s simple but much-loved restaurant offers a delicious time capsule of how southern Italian cooking evolved in Marseille, with excellent wood-oven-baked pizzas, cuttlefish cooked with garlic and parsley, good steaks and rosé de Provence to wash it all down. Service can be gruff, but don’t take it personally they treat everyone that way.
Address: 43 rue de Lorette. Closed Sunday Average menu pricing €35
Built on a craggy stone point jutting out into the Mediterranean, this casually elegant sea shack of a restaurant offers views over the sea as well as some of the finest seafood cooking in the south of France. Chef Guillaume Sourrieu, who trained with Bernard Loiseau, among others, works exclusively with the local small-boat catch of the day to create signature dishes, such as his shrimp terrine and slow-cooked sea bass, along with local seafood stews or soups such as bouillabaisse and the lesser-known bourride.
Address: Vallon des Auffes Website: l-epuisette.com. Open Tuesday to Saturday 12pm to 1.30pm and 7.30pm to 9.30pm Average menu pricing €70 to €125
Le Goût des Choses
After running restaurants in Antibes, Fort Lauderdale and Florida, Sylvie and Olivier Rathery returned home and opened this popular value-for-money bistro in Marseille’s rapidly gentrifying sixth arrondissement. The menu varies between provençal classics, such as half-salted cod with bouillabaisse sauce and black rice or veal kidneys sautéed in white port, and worldly dishes such as crab cakes with tartare sauce or prawns sauteed with ginger and served sesame-seasoned basmati rice.
Address: 4 place Notre Dame du Mont Website: legoutdeschoses.com Open Tuesday to Saturday 12pm to 1.45pm and 7.30pm to 10.30pm Lunch menu €15 and €25. Supper menu €25 and €33 Average menu pricing €45
Le Grain de Sel
After working in Barcelona for a several years, talented young chef Pierre Giannetti, a native of Martigues, 40km northwest of Marseille, came home and opened a “Mediterranean-inspired” bistro in a cement-floored atelier on a side street near the port. His impeccably-sourced local produce and savvy cross-cultural references — tiny Sardinian gnocchi are served in a light tomato sauce with small clams from the Rhone delta, and salt-cod tartare with rocket comes with chickpea puree laced with sesame oil — has made this one of the most successful restaurants to open in Marseille for many years.
Address: 39 rue de la Paix Marcel Paul Contact: +33 4 91 54 47 30 Open Tuesday to Saturday 12pm to 1.30pm and 8pm to 9.30pm Lunch menu €18.50 Average menu pricing €40