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Marseille


Vivian Mallinson
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I've been there dining on the waterfront but it was long ago. In the month of August they have water jousting tournaments. The joustlers are dressed in white costunes and as musicians play jousting songs as they try to throw their oponets with lances into the canal.

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly....MFK Fisher

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I think that most of us, even here at Egullet feel that it is not necessary to dine at an Haute Cuisine restaurant with a world-renowned chef every night to not think that you are dining in a "desert". I have had some wonderful meals at informal bistros and small family operations that Michelin would never dream of sending a reviewer to. Certainly Italy is known for its simple, peasant-style of cuisine at less formal places, Greece as well, and I've certainly had lots and lots of wonderful food experiences and fun at the simpler restaurants in France. We have to cast aside some of our food snobbery sometimes, and just enjoy some of the simpler places. Marseille is one of those less formal restaurant towns, but certainly there is delicious food to be had there. You just have to stop thinking in an "Haute Cuisine" mode.

menton1,

You are speculating, you have a vivid imagination and you do not seem to have read my posts. That is the only logical explanation to your charges that I am just “thinking in an "Haute Cuisine" mode” when I claim that Marseille is a desert from a gastronomic point of view.

What I have said is that in my opinion it is a desert. I have made that conclusion after extensive eating in the city and after discussing this issue with several Marseille people.

My assertions that it is a desert have been backed up by facts, namely the relatively very small number of restaurants recommended by for example Michelin. I hope you do not claim that all restaurants listed in Michelin are to be considered as haute cuisine. Besides your notion that there are restaurants that guide inspectors simply won’t go to or recommend, simply has no support in reality. Michelin and other guides are full with simple eating-places. This is not to say that there are no restaurants worth visiting that are not in the guides. If you read my posts in this thread you would have seen that I have recommended Le Lunch in Marseille and chez JuJu in Beauduc and none of those are to be found in the Michelin guide and cannot be called haute cuisine from any set of references. I have used the relatively few restaurants recommended by the most credible guide in the world as a proof that the restaurant scene in Marseille is highly underdeveloped.

I repeat what I have said before. Michelin lists about only a bit more than a dozen restaurants in Marseille and of those only one is a Bib gourmand. By contrast Michelin recommends more than 40 restaurants for Lyon and of those there are seven Bib gourmands.

I also claimed that the seafood restaurants in the Marseille area do not live up to the level of the ones found in Italy. Personally I do not think this comes from the side effect of Michelin as vmilor suggests, but the reasons for the relatively low quality level eating in these restaurants as well as on the Marseille restaurant scene as a whole can be found in socio-economic reasons that I am not going to explore in this forum.

As Jonathan says I am taking the analysis a bit further. Not only are there in guide books a significantly smaller number of restaurants, simple or not, recommended in Marseille but guide books also list a surprisingly very small number of high quality restaurants, regardless of whether they would classify as haute cuisine or not. And no serious food journalist has to my knowledge contradicted this conclusion. As with everything the presence of high quality top-performing businesses drives the quality of the whole value chain from producers to suppliers to restaurants to customers. Jonathan points out Lyon and it is a good example indeed of this phenomenon. The high number of top restaurants has created a culture where customers are more demanding, restaurateurs are more knowledgeable and suppliers are supplying better raw material e t c. This is one reason why simple bistro eating in Lyon is vastly superior to that in Marseille and the selection of good simple and informal dining places is vastly larger.

What I have said does not dispute that you may have enjoyed fun eating in Marseille or anywhere else for that matter. I have made a point of the surprisingly low importance Marseille has from a gastronomic point of view and I believe that if you are looking for good or very food, simple or haute cuisine, Marseille is not the place to go to. I have made that conclusion from my own experience and compelling arguments backs it. So menton1, read the posts and do not let your imagination draw speculative conclusions.

When my glass is full, I empty it; when it is empty, I fill it.

Gastroville - the blog

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I think this debate about Marseille restaurants is almost at an end, we will all continue to believe the opinion we started out with, no one will be "convinced" of the other's frame of thought---

The only point I wish to add, is that as far as Michelin, we had a giant discussion here a few weeks ago where the consensus was that Michelin is greatly discredited and less credence should be placed in not only their rating, but whether a place was or wasn't on their list at all; They don't have the people-power to review places more often than once every 3 years, and reputation trumps facts with them, it seems.

A more local source such as Pays de Provence magazine, or the Guide Gantié can be much more informative of the Marseille restaurant scene.

Cigale-- Le Tiboulen is in the 8th, I believe you can follow the Corniche east toward Cap Croisette, but I think it is after the Corniche ends; perhaps Jellybean has some better directions; The photo in the magazine is of a gorgeous stone building, with a small room facing the sea where they put the 8 tables-- and they only serve the fish they catch that morning.

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Just a note--has anyone been to Chez Etienne for reportedly the best pizza in a pizza crazy town. For a quintisessential Marseillan experience, I highly recommend going. Off the beaten track a bit but well worth the hunt. Obviously not haute gastro--they don't even have a written menu or really fixed pricing from what I understand-- but they have some good eats with "classic" Marseillan style service. I made three side trips down from Les Baux de Provence to order the pizza avec mozza et anchois, des supions et du viande coupled with the house rose and finished off with a modest dessert and would go again--quite a step down, in terms of critical acclaim, from the two star cuisine I was cooking, but that is just the food and atmosphere I crave at the end of the week--no pretense.

Edited by Simon Sunwoo (log)
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Just a note--has anyone been to Chez Etienne for reportedly the best pizza in a pizza crazy town. For a quintisessential Marseillan experience, I highly recommend going. Off the beaten track a bit but well worth the hunt. Obviously not haute gastro--they don't even have a written menu or really fixed pricing from what I understand-- but they have some good eats with "classic" Marseillan style service. I made three side trips down from Les Baux de Provence to order the pizza avec mozza et anchois, des supions et du viande coupled with the house rose and finished off with a modest dessert and would go again--quite a step down, in terms of critical acclaim, from the two star cuisine I was cooking, but that is just the food and atmosphere I crave at the end of the week--no pretense.

This is the place I was thinking about when I wrote earlier in the thread about walking around in le Panier, the old part of Marseille, and just grab a pizza. It is in the heart of le Panier, a part of Marseille with lots of soul.

When my glass is full, I empty it; when it is empty, I fill it.

Gastroville - the blog

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Have anyone been over to Sete? I'll have to pull my notes and look at the fabulous pictures before I name names, but that sea town has it all.

Isn't Sête another 70 miles west of Marseille, on the other side of the Camargue, near Montpellier? I've only whizzed by it on the Autoroute. It may be a very nice seaside resort, but I doubt that Sête would pass the muster of the Eg-ers here demanding a high level of cuisine. (Might be another food desert)....

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Í'm another fan of Chez Juju. Th loup cooked on fennel stalks is wonderful. you pick your fish from a tank, they weigh it than cook it.

Have you tried(also in the Camargue) La Chassagnette?

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly....MFK Fisher

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Sete is a nice town, but it's never been a restaurant destination. It's well on the other side of Montpellier from Marseille and not a provencal city. It's in the Bas Languedoc.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Not to miss in Marseille is a visit to the traiteur and cheese affineur Georges Batailles, one of the best cheese stores in Southern France.

Jellybean, how do we find this store please?

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Not to miss in Marseille is a visit to the traiteur and cheese affineur Georges Batailles, one of the best cheese stores in Southern France.

Jellybean, how do we find this store please?

Georges Bataille

18 r Fontange ND du Mont

13006 Marseille

Tel: 04 91 47 06 23

As for Sete. As Bux says it is a nice small town. They have a few interesting specialities but it is not a gastronomic epicentre of Southern France.

When my glass is full, I empty it; when it is empty, I fill it.

Gastroville - the blog

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I've been in Sete several times, but don't recall stopping for more than a stroll around town and the harbor, or a drink in a cafe. There were some unused warehouses in a commerical area near the water than we thought would make good studios, but no one ever moved to inquire about the asking price.

You will find dishes à la Setoise. Offhand, I can't make a connection but to say that I recall them as either fish soups or seafood dishes that would remind one of Provencal cooking--olive oil, black olives, onions, garlic and tomatoes.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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My impression of the Sête area was a lot of industry, a town mainly patronized by the folks from Montpellier seeking waterfront activities. I'm sure it would qualify as a "food desert" with nothing particularly distiguishable, although I'm sure there is some very good food to be had. Looking at this photo, I think I would prefer Cassis or Le Lavandou, they seem much prettier. Sête Waterfront Photo

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think you should make it a point to get outside of Marseilles to eat. When I told my mother-in-law (who is from the South) that I wanted bouilebaisse she said there were only a couple of places around that were worthwhile. Instead we went to a place in Toulon where the fishing boats were docked. Not only did I get the freshest seafood around but got to hear the loudest and most "charming" fisherman speak! When in Rome eat as the Romans do - so we ate fish where the fisherman ate fish!

All I can say is when you're there take the opportunity to try everything you can and if you get a chance visit a Carrefour supermarket - you'll find a whole aisle devoted just to yogurts and other milk products!!

And, try to learn a few French phrases and food names before you go...it'll make it a lot easier. I ran around with my little pocket guide to food of Franch by Lonely Planet - it was about the only things my mother-in-law and I could communicate about (thank goodness my French is a little better now!)

Laura Langlois-Zurro

http://movingtoargentina.typepad.com/

"People who know nothing about cheeses reel away from Camembert, Roquefort, and Stilton because the plebeian proboscis is not equipped to differentiate between the sordid and the sublime."

Harvey Day

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  • 10 months later...

FYI - 2005

Just a note to let you know that I just recently was told that Chez Ju Ju was razed along with all the little cabanas on the beach. A local from St. remy told me and in researching on the Internet it seems that it's very true. It's so sad as the little cabanas on the beach of Beauduc were so quaint and Camarguais! Just a little bulletin for those planning on exploring Provence and the South.

Zoe

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  • 2 years later...
  • 3 weeks later...

The London Financial Times food writer Nick Lander wrote an article on bouillabaisse in 2005 (you can easily find it on his wife Jancis Robinson's website by searching for Marseille). He recommends a place called Chez Fonfon.

We are spending the last day of our holiday in Marseille this year and want to eat bouillabaisee too - does anyone else have any other suggestions of restaurants for an authentic, not-mucked-about with fish stew before we follow Mr Lander to Fonfon?

Thanks,

Gareth

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From the Digest February 12th

Friday, in Les Echos Jean Louis Galesne reviewed several restaurants in Marseille : L'Epuisette, Les Trois Forts, Une Table au Sud, Le Café des Epices, La Cantinetta + Pizzeria L'Eau à la Bouche.  In the same issue is a longish article on bouillabaisse that talks about fishing for its components, a cookbook devoted to it and how to take a tour of the Vieux Port.

And from April 23rd

May’s Gourmet had recipes for bouillabaisse and rouille from l’Epuisette in Marseille, which Alexander Lobrano says is the best……  He also gives three places in the Auvergne for aligot – Chez Germaine, Le Buron du Bes + Michel Bras and a recipe.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Many thanks John. Have just discovered the Digest. What a resource - thank you.

Lander's article implied that L'Epuisette was superb but didn't serve bouillabaisse. Clearly a misleading impression.

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  • 11 months later...
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