Once you collect your rental car at Aéroport Marseille-Provence (also known as Aéroport Marseille-Marignane), you’re just 28km from the city of Marseille, a gritty ethnic mix of French, North African, Corsican, Italian, and Armenian influences. European Capital of Culture for 2013, the port city has undergone a transformation, with a waterfront refurbishment, gleaming tram system, new hotels, and a constellation of emerging restaurant stars.
Marseille for Foodies
With its heady southern European culture and influences from nearby North Africa, Marseille is a melting pot of steamy flavours. Savour this fusion at packed street markets brimming with local produce, Algerian bazaars, and docks spilling with fresh catches. Then browse the cornucopia of eateries for a tasting platter of the best cuisine southern France has to offer.
Brunch at La Cantinetta
Yes, it’s Italian, and Marseille is in France, but we did tell you to be prepared for a global convention of culinary experiences. La Cantinetta
(24, cours Julien) serves reliably superb Italian food. Prosciutto from the giant overhead hams is sliced before your eyes, and luscious mozzarella is a special cow’s milk variety from Puglia. Pasta, seafood, and meat dishes change daily and sometimes include wafer-thin veal in a mustard, white wine, and anchovy sauce.
Take a Cookery Class
Chef Christian Ernst offers wine classes and cookery courses for all ages at his restaurant, Le Moment
(5, place Sadi Carnot). Learn how to cook everything from bouillabaisse to sashimi in sessions that last two and a half hours. If that sounds like too much hard work, simply dine at Ernst’s restaurant instead. His daily five-course tasting menus showcase such delights as red mullet served with baby octopus, blackened olives, and saffron foam or Asian-style rabbit.
Dine at Le Ventre de l’Architecte
Pioneering chef Alexandre Mazzia thinks nothing of sprinkling his papaya-tequila sorbet with bits of bacon. That’s just one of the gastronomic innovations he has introduced at Le Ventre de l’Architecte at Hotel Le Corbusier
(Boulevard Michelet) since he took over as chef in 2009. He combines Asian and Mediterranean influences to create anything from shrimp served in a decadent curry foam to sardine tempura presented on a juicy piece of suckling pig with mango coulis.
Eat with the Fishes
For a memorable lunch at Marseille’s most unique eatery, go right to the end of the Canebiere (the long boulevard to the port) to La Boîte à Sardine
, a fishmongers that is also a restaurant. A handful of tables book out every day for Fabien’s classic plateau de fruits de mer, local dishes like oursins (sea urchins), and freshly-caught lobster. Dishes of the day include scallop carpaccio and frilled sea bass, with garlicky aioli or anchoiade a Friday favourite.
Sample the Ultimate Marseille Specialty
You simply have to try the famous bouillabaisse when you’re in Marseille. Once a humble fish soup, it has developed into a gourmet specialty that reaches the heights of perfection with three-Michelin-star chef Gérald Passédat’s version, which will cost you €160. Avoid the cheap tourist imitations and compromise with the delicious interpretation offered by Chez Madie les Galinettes (138 quai du Port). The dish must be reserved in advance.
Visit a Marseille Institution
Eating at Chez Etienne (43 rue de Lorette) takes you back in time to the heyday of Marseille’s Le Panier (Old Town) You can’t bring your phone, make a reservation, or use your credit card, so make sure you have euros in your wallet. Monsieur Etienne insists he has the best pizzas in town, but you should also consider his fried soupions (tiny squid) and pieds et paquets (lamb tripe and trotters). The atmosphere is gloriously loud, the food is wonderful, and the prices are reasonable.