Marseille is an exciting food city, thanks to a dining scene that is as diverse as its citizens. Choose from Michelin-star tables, young bistronomy-driven chefs and heritage haunts that have been making couscous and pizzas for more than half a century. With so much on the menu, the best restaurants in Marseille are bound to keep you coming back for more.
Restaurant, French, Mediterranean
This aptly named market cae is a dream for foodies. Food journalist Julia Sammut stocks the shelves with delectable Mediterranean goods. Italian charcuterie, French cheeses and housemade anchoïade (anchovies) are perfect for picnics; or pick up greek olive oil, Marseille-made orgeat (almond syrup) or their lemon and garlic condiment sublime for souvenirs and gifts. The friendly staff are happy to help you shop. For lunch, chef Aurelien creates tasty plates plucked from the market. Think dill and potato salad with smoked trout and fantastic focaccia loaded with spinach, olives and anchovies. Come early to secure a seat at this trendy spot. Locals in the know swing by for small plates, pastis and wine at their Friday night apéro (aperatif).
No other meal in Marseille – or elsewhere for that matter – compares to one at AM. Ingenious chef Alexandre Mazzia takes guests on a journey between his two home continents – Africa and Europe. Using the best-quality provençal produce and Mediterranean fish, the former basketball star plays with spice, smoke and creative flavour combinations such as eel and chocolate. His fantastic creations have just earned him a second Michelin star. Without menus, diners are free to discover and delight in each bite. Choose from a seat at the kitchen counter, in the concrete-and-wood dining room or at the new table for two in the heart of the kitchen: the ultimate dinner theatre.
Don’t be fooled by the name. Though it’s called “tinned sardines” in French, this restaurant serves the freshest catch in town. Enigmatic co-owner Fabien sources seafood and fish from local fishermen. He’ll shuck platters of Camargue oysters or have chef and co-owner Céline make their signature beignet d’anémone (mackerel swimming in herb sauce) and house-smoked tuna. “She can cook any fish in the Mediterranean,” says Fabien. This nautically kitsch spot is best at lunch, when you can enjoy a lingering meal as the sun streams through the walls of windows. If you prefer dinner, note that La Boîte à Sardine only serves an evening meal on Thursdays and Fridays.
On a first-name basis with local farmers, young chef Mathieu Roche transforms the bounty of Provence into fabulous dishes at this jewel-box of a bistro. His contemporary provençal cuisine elevates each ingredient to its most delectable – and most beautiful, thanks to his artistic plating. Run alongside his sweetheart, Camille, Ourea pours natural wine that pairs perfectly with the organically sourced plates. Come for à la carte lunch and or a set four-course dinner. Solo diners will appreciate the counter seats with a kitchen view. Ourea represents a trend of southern-born chefs returning to their roots after training in Paris – a boon for Marseille’s food scene.
For a splurge that is purely Marseille, book a table at Le Petit Nice. Its dining room boasts views of the Mediterranean and the famous cliffs from which daredevils jump into the sea. Its menu teems with the freshest local fish. You can taste chef Gérald Passedat’s passion for the sea in his exhilarating plates. The only three-Michelin-star table in the city is famous for its Bouille Abaisse (a multi-course spectacle of the mythical dish). Run by three generations of Passedats since 1917, Le Petit Nice is beloved for its refined, yet unfussy service. This icon is also an intimate hotel, for those who can’t pry themselves away from the stellar view.
Located in the historic Le Panier neighbourhood, this local institution has been packed since 1943. Politicians, tourists and regulars clamour for the wood-fired pizzas. They only serve two flavours of Marseille’s signature dish: anchovy or fromage. Or, order like a local with a moite-moite (half-and-half). Etienne’s son, Pascal, runs the pizzeria with as much amore as his late father. More than pizzas, the menu includes wood-fired meats, garlicky salade à l’ail, and deliciously caramelized squid sautéed in garlic and parsley. Pascal reveals his secret is the “squid’s freshness and the cast-iron pan”. Be sure to bring cash and arrive early to this no-reservation joint.
Take a footbridge to reach this pretty chalet, hidden away at the edge of the city’s oldest park. The verdant setting is apt for Sepia’s seasonally driven, locally sourced cuisine. With a pedigree in top Parisian tables and with notable Marseille chef Lionel Levy, young chef Paul Langlère’s bistronomic cuisine is infused with traditional techniques. His octopus is the city’s best, as is his finesse with meat, fish and farm-fresh vegetables. Dine in the homely interior or on the sprawling patio, which serves tapas in the summer. Popular since day one, be sure to book your table in advance.
Whisk away to Algeria at this family-run spot in the heart of Noailles. For many years, the Kachetel family has dished up Berber cooking to a loyal following. Le Fémina is famous for their buttery orge (barley) couscous served with giant crocks of garlic, cumin chickpea and vegetable stew. Other dishes include briks (deep-fried pastry) and grilled meats such as slow-roasted méchoui (lamb) – each served on artisan pottery made in Algeria. Finish your meal with traditional pastries and mint tea. You’ve come to the right place if you have a big appetite – the couscous is all-you-can-eat.
For waterfront dining that feels like you’re eating at sea, set sail for l’Épuisette. This Michelin-star restaurant has topped “best of” lists in Marseille for decades, thanks to its fresh-from-the sea dishes, its exquisite service and its sublime setting. Chef Guillaume Sourrieu works with local fishermen to make his famous bouillabaisse, lobster tagine and seafaring plates. A fitting splurge for a celebration, l’Épuisette shines at sunset or for a sun-kissed lunch. Make time to wander the postcard-perfect Vallon des Auffes fishing village before or after your meal.
Discover the tastiest Tunisian cuisine at this casual spot. Run by three brothers, Chez Yassine is popular with the city’s North African population and is making a name for itself as a foodie hotspot. Try vegetarian-friendly ojja (eggs simmered with tomatoes, peppers and olives); kefteji (grilled veggies); and leblebi (chickpea soup), whose abundant garlic would cure any cold. Wondering why seafood pasta is on the menu? It comes from Tunisia’s large Italian immigrant community. Open all day, come to Chez Yassine during off-peak hours to avoid the wait. If it’s too busy, get your Tunisian fix at the brothers’ Koujina Express across the street, which serves two traditional sandwiches: fricasse and chapati.