Food Lover’s Guide To Marseille’s 10 Great Cultural Restaurants
Designated the European Capital of Culture in 2013, Marseille is one of France’s most diverse cities, presenting an exciting mash-up of cultures. Located on the Mediterranean coast, Marseille, nicknamed ‘La Cité Phocéene’, is a great seafood destination, offering an extraordinary mix of local cuisine and reflecting the deep-rooted influences from Spain, Italy and North Africa. Here are some of Marseille’s best-loved restaurants.
For the best bouillabaisse in town, stop by Chez Fonfon. The restaurant has perfected the preparation of this Marseillaise delicacy, a fish soup/broth with tomatoes, saffron and five varieties of rockfish accompanied by croutons, rouille (hot chilli) and garlic. The menu offers other signature fish dishes such as sole, sea bream and sea bass, clay-baked, grilled or baked in salt crust. Chez Fonfon’s stylish dining room is amply lit, spacious and colourful, featuring wooden floors, and interesting artwork and photographs on its interior grey walls. Situated along the small port of Vallon des Auffes, Chez Fonfon provides a convivial setting and a chance to socialise with the locals while indulging in authentic traditional cuisine.
Renowned for serving the best of Southern French cuisine with a contemporary innovative twist, Une Table Au Sud (A Table in the South) is a culinary treasure. A favourite dining spot among local residents and visitors alike, the restaurant is discretely nestled in the heart of the quieter Vieux Port, the oldest port in Marseille overlooking the harbour below. A three-course meal combination could include a starter of foie gras des Landes, followed by marinated seared scallops with Fregola Sarda (Sardinian pasta) in lamb sauce as mains, completed with a dessert of homemade soufflé with bourbon vanilla ice-cream and caramel. Run by the couple Lionel and Florence Levy, the modestly decorated restaurant provides a friendly family-orientated environment perfect for a typical Marseillaise food outing.
An upmarket seafood haven, L’Epuisette opened its doors just after the Second World War, and has since become one of the most sought-after dining destinations in Marseille. Run by head chef Guillaume Sourrieu, the restaurant’s menu is full of sophisticated Mediterranean-inspired recipes. Choose from classics such as bourride du Vallon, a slow-cooked dish of poached monkfish and mussels in a savoury garlic-flavoured broth, and the spiced grilled lobster with crab sauce, or simply have the catch of the day, seasoned and baked superbly. Artfully perched on top of a protruding strip of rocks on the seafront, l’Epuisette provides diners with stunning views of both the sea, and the animated to-and-fro of the local fishermen in the port of Vallon des Auffes.
For the ultimate gourmet dining in Marseille, visit Le Petit Nice restaurant. Awarded three Michelin stars, the restaurant is run by the celebrated French chef Gerald Passedat. Established in 1917 in two pristine villas converted into an exclusive hotel and restaurant, Le Petit Nice has held on to its steadfast reputation of culinary extravagance over the decades. Serving traditional haute cuisine with an emphasis on seafood, there are more than 65 fish varieties, fresh from the Mediterranean Sea, that pass through Passedat’s famous kitchen. Le Petit Nice also has an entire menu dedicated to bouillabaisse, the Marseillaise fish stew specialty. With outdoor dining on the lovely terrace and a spectacular view of the sea, Le Petit Nice is perfect for an opulent yet authentic meal.
A local favourite in the centre of Marseille, Le Café Des Epices offers a fiery take on Mediterranean cuisine. Fused with exotic spices and unique Caribbean flavours, the ever-changing selection of dishes is imaginative and mouth-watering. Apart from its basic décor and cosy seating, the interior features an open-plan kitchen, filling the restaurant with tantalising aromas and giving diners a sneak peek of the gastronomic magic at work. Looking out on to Place Bargemon, adorned with rows of picturesque olive trees in giant pots, the restaurant’s large terrace offers a serene dining place for sunny days and warm evenings. Always packed with regulars and curious visitors, Le Café Des Epices promises a fabulous dinner in a vibrant comfortable setting.
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For those spending a day in Marseille and not in the mood for seafood, La Côte De Boeuf is an excellent choice and Marseille’s prime destination for carnivores, from grilled veal kidney, tartar, beef fillet to the house specialty côte de boeuf served with a choice of savoury sauces. There are also a number of yummy duck, chicken and pork dishes to pick from. Many of the meat options are prepared the old fashioned way, slowly roasted to perfection over a wood fire. Apart from its carnivorous offering, the restaurant is famous for its wonderful extensive wine list with over 1,300 quality bottles from all over the world. Housed in a renovated warehouse, La Côte De Boeuf resembles a cosy cellar, great for an intimate date.
Offering a gastronomic piece of Bretagne in the middle of Marseille, La Table Ronde is a fantastic crêperie serving a creative and extensive menu of galettes (savoury crêpes) and crêpes. Try the classic galette with ham, egg and cheese or a more daring galette with minced meat, onions, salad, creamed mushrooms, croutons and nuts. Leave space for dessert as the menu of sweet crêpes is just as exciting, with a range of toppings from simple chocolate, caramel and butter on one end to more inventive creations involving sorbet, fruits and ice-cream on the other. In true Breton style, the crêpes can be washed down with a delightful jug of cider or Breton liqueur.
North African cuisine has, undoubtedly, become a big part of Marseille’s culinary offering, and a visit to Le Souk is an unbeatable opportunity to indulge in authentic Moroccan food. From tajines, couscous, and kefta (ground seasoned meat) to homemade sweet delicacies, the dishes are prepared and served in true Moroccan style and in copious portions. More than just a restaurant, Le Souk provides a charming oriental environment featuring colourful Moorish décor, mosaic tabletops and beautiful tableware, not to mention a breezy terrace overlooking the port. Garbed in traditional clothes, the waiters add to Le Souk’s warm welcome and allure. Serving up delicious ethnic dishes at very reasonable prices, a visit to Le Souk is a must.
A prime spot for karaoke and eating out, Chez Ida (Ida’s Place) is committed to providing both great food and entertainment. Serving a contemporary mix of French and international cuisine, the menu options vary daily with a number of starters, main courses and desserts to choose from. From handcrafted lasagne and Thai pork and rice, to grilled codfish with garlic, Chez Ida’s dishes are wholesome and generously served. The restaurant’s interior is colourful and lively, ideal for a family outing or large groups. Enjoy a hearty meal, and join in the karaoke sessions in between. Whether it’s singing along to a medley of French and international songs, hitting the small dance floor or simply watching the folly unravel, a visit to Chez Ida is an unforgettable, fun experience.
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Set up as an elegant boutique library, Les Arcenaulx is a chic restaurant serving a superb selection of classic Provencal dishes. Established in a renovated building that was once Louis XIV’s arsenal, the restaurant has high ceilings and beautiful stonewalls, clad with overflowing bookshelves, big lampshades and small, round tables. The menu offers a delightful selection of the finest Mediterranean cuisine including fish, meat and vegetable dishes. For dessert choose from Les Arcenaulx’ homemade ice cream and sorbets, or opt for plate of French cheese. After a splendid lunch, take some time to browse through the wide range of antique and new books while sipping on a hot drink out on the terrace – Les Arcenaulx’s offering of world teas, hot chocolates, coffees and fruity infusions is quite tempting.