One of the things I’m planning to do more of over the next year is food travel posts. It probably won’t surprise you to know that whenever I go abroad, the thing I look forward to the most is the food. In September we took a three day mini break to Marseille in Southern France. Here’s my guide to where to eat in Marseille.
Where to eat lunch in Marseille: La Cantine
We needed somewhere central opposite our AirBnb when we arrived with a glass of wine before we could drop off our bags. We stumbled across La Cantine and it seemed popular with locals, always a good sign. In Marseille everyone drinks rosé – tables upon tables of businessmen, friends at lunch and couples all basking in the sun, eating outside and drinking rosé. I was a bit concerned when an English laminated version of the menu was given to us but the food was surprisingly tasty. The octopus was well cooked and the fig and blue cheese salad was delicious, as was the burrata with grilled Mediterranean veg and pesto. The red wine was some of the best we had all trip too.
Not necessarily a destination lunch per se, but a good one within walking distance of the fish market (see below) and Old Port with good food and service. Bonus: It’s in a really pretty square which happened to be where our AirBnb was.
Tip: Head to the nearby patisserie I mention below for dessert/to pick up goodies to eat later.
For the freshest fish in Marseille: Marché aux Poissons
In the Old Port (Vieux Port) right by the Metro entrance every morning there’s a small fish market with all kinds of the freshest fish. This area is beautiful and worth a visit in its own right so the fish market is a nice bonus – especially if you have an AirBnb like ours where you can cook.
Special Occasion Dinner in Marseille: L’Epuisette
Perched on the edge of the bay with the most incredible views sits fish-focused Michelin star restaurant, L’Epuisette. Watching the sun set over the bay here is probably one of the most calming settings for dinner. When the sun has disappeared you can see the locals scrambling across rocks with their head-torches to catch the fish you’ll see on the menus across Marseille the next day.
The food is beautiful and they had some really inventive uses for the fish. The cheese trolley was the stuff of dreams and the dessert was glorious.
It was the most romantic setting for a meal but, for me, the menu at L’Epuisette, though incredibly clever, was very fish-heavy. L’Epuisette is well worth a visit for a special occasion meal.
Price: £££, the tasting menu we tried had 7 courses and was £87 per head plus wine and service.
Dinner: Chez FonFon
I’m including this on the list because a) it’s quite famous b) Bouillabaisse is *apparently* the dish of Marseille and Chez Fonfon offer a very traditional version. I say apparently because I’m not sure how many locals actually eat Bouillabaisse… Bouillabaisse consists of a tomato and saffron broth with whole pieces of fish and boiled potatoes that you dip thin toasts with aioli on in… You get 5 or 6 really big freshly cooked chunks of fish which they bring to your table before they’re cooked to show you.
Chez Fonfon sits pretty much opposite L’Epuisette and you can see the fishermen catching the fish in the bay below.
This was my favourite wine of the trip, it was one of the palest rosés I’ve ever tried and it was so light and delicate, perfect with the fish.
Be warned, at almost £50 a portion, Bouillabaisse at Chez Fonfon does not come cheap… The rest of the meal was decent, if a touch overpriced. Still less expensive than some other places offering Bouillabaisse though!
Where the locals eat dinner in Marseille: La Bonne Mère
Forget Bouillabaisse, what locals in Marseille really eat for dinner is pizza! Marseille’s love affair with pizza goes as far as claiming that they were the original creators of the wood-fired pizza! If you venture off the beaten track into residential neighbourhoods, you’ll find some incredible pizzerias. One of the best meals we had was in a proper local hang-out. Not a word of English spoken and certainly they were skeptical of us tourists, but after a good amount of Google-translate-led persuasion we bagged a table in the tiny La Bonne Mère.
It sits conveniently near the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde and is easily walkable.
The Italian red wine we had was under £15 a bottle and the pizzas were around £10-12 each and huge. Amazing pizza, incredible value and a truly local experience. Go and visit, but book if you can – it’s hailed as one of France’s best pizza spots and is very popular with the locals.
For cheese lovers: Les Bons Fromages
Whilst wandering the back residential streets around La Bonne Mère, we found a magical cheese shop. If you like cheese, you have to visit Les Bons Fromages. They actually import some British cheese from Neal’s Yard and have a phenomenal selection of French cheeses. Very reasonably priced and friendly, knowledgeable owner too.
For sweet treats: Patisserie Sylvain Depuichaffray
Another local go-to with barely any tourists hidden in the residential backstreets, around a 10 minute walk from the Old Port. You NEED to visit this place if you like cakes. This is some of the best patisserie I have ever had the joy of tasting. It’s rare for me to visit somewhere more than once when travelling but we went here for breakfast three days running…! It was that good. Everything we ate was a work of art both in appearance and in the balance of flavours.
I’d have sold a kidney for their chocolate dome cake but thankfully it was a good price so I didn’t have to.
A 2 Michelin star day trip: La Villa Madie, Cassis
The Calanques are breathtakingly stunning and more than make up for the hassle of getting to them from the train station in Cassis. The train journey is an easy, quick and cheap one from Marseille and definitely worth doing but Cassis station sits outside of the town centre and is a bit of a trek from both town and the Calanques. There is a bus apparently but we didn’t see it and ended up walking, taxis are few and far between in Cassis! In hindsight, it may be better to hire a car. Come prepared for some tiring hill walking paired with views like this.
Our trip was spontaneous so we didn’t get to visit La Villa Madie which has two Michelin stars. The Calanques are beautiful, so it’s worth considering as a day trip if you’re a more organised traveller and can book a table in advance!