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Bouillabaisse is a fish soup that comes from Marseille and is a local delicacy. Here’s our list of the best places to eat it in the region.
The word ‘bouillabaisse’ comes from two words, to simmer and boil, in the Provençal language. It used to be made by fishermen who couldn’t sell the bony rockfish that they caught – rascasse – at market. It usually contains sea robin and European conger too.
First, a broth is made with traditional Provençal herbs, such as saffron, fennel and thyme. The sliced fish is then added bit by bit and simmered over a very long period of time. Other fish are added, like John Dory or Monkfish, depending on the catch of the day. Seafood can also be put in the mix, like crabs and sea urchins. It’s the mix of local ingredients and the time it takes, that makes Bouillabaisse such a distinctive dish.
It’s a delicacy and can’t be made quickly. If you want to eat a good version of it, expect to pay up to 80€ – it’s usually made for two people – and order it 24 hours in advance. It shouldn’t be a dish that the chef can whip up at a moment’s notice; it’s a dish made ideally from supremely fresh fish, so better versions are usually found by the sea, using the fresh catch of the day.
Many of the best bouillabaisse restaurants are naturally in Marseille – it’s France’s second largest city, it’s on the coast and it’s where the dish comes from.
The restaurant Le Château is at the water’s edge in the Calanque of Sormiou, near Marseille. The Calanques are the natural rocky bays around this stretch of the coastline. People love to hike down to the sea but you can also drive (when there isn’t a high risk of fire). It’s open from April to September and make sure you reserve. You don’t want to get all the way down to the sea, only to discover there isn’t any room. There is also reserved parking if you have a table in your name. They don’t take credit cards, so make sure you have enough cash – there aren’t any cash machines for miles around! People go for the food, the view and the atmosphere that’s been around since 1948. And, of course, the bouillabaisse is legendary…