The best bites of 2021 in Marseille, France – culinary backstreets
During the first five months of 2021, restaurant meals in Marseille were limited to take-out due to strict Covid-19 measures in France. Some chefs have managed to do magic in take-out boxes. Others have become sandwich masters – including 3 Michelin star chef Alexandria Mazzia, who started a food truck with croque-monsieur. When we wanted company, we took to the beach a pizza with anchovies so Marseille and a bottle of rosÃ© for a friendly picnic.
On May 19, restaurants were finally allowed to offer outdoor dining. Risen, Marseille looked like a big outdoor party, with terraces grow in parking lots, abandoned alleys, even stairs. After the full opening on June 9, the city exploded. In addition to locals in the region, there was an influx of Parisians who had settled in the south after being locked in the beloved capital during the pandemic. In addition, we had an even larger wave of summer tourists than in 2020.
A slew of new tables were there to welcome the rush. Certain districts such as Cours Julien and Chave are full of gastronomic offers. Established restaurateurs, such as Parpaing qui Flotte and La Mercerie, have expanded. Fortunately, most of our favorite places weathered the storm with help from the government. Many still struggle with staff shortages, a problem around the world.
Curiously, the great French cuisine love generated the highest vaccination rate in Europe when President Macron demanded a health passport (vaccination or negative Covid test) to eat in restaurants from August 9. During the first week, our pass sanitary was scanned in all Marseille restaurants. Shortly after, the checks became less and less frequent. The rebellious nature of the Marseillais – and their taste for conviviality – still strong.
Here’s a recap of my best bites of the year, from a seafood burger to a fine fish meal.
Fish burger in Limmat
In February, a friend and fellow food writer came to Marseille to research an article on the culinary scene. With the restaurants closed for in-person meals, we had to get creative. Fortunately, the pandemic had made local chefs seasoned to take-out options. Like Lili Gadola in Limmat.
The young chef had built up a loyal following for her locavore dishes, which were full of local fish and seasonal vegetables from the nearby farmer’s market. She still offered these dishes during the pandemic – but it was her fish burger that got us hooked. On a homemade brioche with poppy seeds, she has stacked a soft hake (hake) tenderloin, freshly picked purple and green curly, and a generous layer of sweet and sour mayo. In a separate container – to keep the burger intact – she put a salad of vinegared purple coleslaw and sweet potato fries topped with garlic aioli.
Everything was delightfully fresh, as we had dinner a few steps next to Vespas on a cement bench in the Cours Julien. The often bustling courtyard was gentle on this winter’s day. But it was not too cold to enjoy our food. When in-person dining reopened in May, Limmat marked one of the city’s most original patios: the colorful Cours Julien staircase. Become one of the best outdoor tables for 2021.
Eat in the Waters of Mars (or Tout in the Waters of Mars)
After a ban on eating out for seven months, the Marseillais were jostling to return to the restaurant. I was torn as to where to eat first. An old favorite? A new place on my âmust tryâ list? The answer was chosen for me when my girlfriend, Marion, invited me to lunch at Eaux de Mars. I had been eager to visit this Longchamp spot since it opened. My friends had given him unanimously positive opinions, a rarity for the obstinate French. And one of my favorite chefs said it was “the best food in town.”
We were seated at a sunny patio table. Unaccustomed to going out, Marion forgot her sunglasses. The woman at the table next to us offered to move, her tank top signifying that she was eager to take a few rays. With his kind gesture, we were off to a good start. When the waitress took our order, Marion and I went to get the 3 course meal. main course and dessert, ready to make the most of this back-to-school meal.
To start with, I had hot, grilled zucchini draped in the cool pÃ©lardon, local goat cheese. A delicious blend of textures, especially when topped with crunchy granola and squash seeds. Then I was plump, juicy kefta (spicy meatballs), Chef NoÃ©mie’s nod to the Armenian and Lebanese community in Marseille. They were served with roasted potatoes and pickled onions, beetroot ketchup and a garlic sauce, all homemade. For dessert, I savored the olive oil cake with hazelnuts garnished with whipped cream and mandarin slices.
In similar places in town, a 3-course lunch starts at 24 euros and includes smaller portions. The Waters of Mars â¬ 20 tab made it even more divine – although we would have paid double for such a delicious bite.
Calamari and sea bass at Chez Michel
Reservations often have to be made a month in advance at this iconic fish restaurant. Particularly for the highly coveted French Sunday lunch institution. Yet after our plans for dining out were drenched in the rain, my boyfriend and I walked inside hoping to get a table. Ironically, the surprise downpour worked in our favor, because âa couple had to cancel after getting soaked,â explains the butler. âFortunately, I have a table for two.
He seated us under the colorful frescoes of fishermen moored at the Calanques. Chez Michel has been serving bouillabaisse and freshly caught delicacies since 1946. My friend’s parents dined here on their wedding night and their 40s.e birthday. The legendary restaurant has attracted notable stars for decades – the photo collage on the wall shows Serge Gainsbourg and Charles Aznavour and others. Our waiter, with his white hair to match his crisp white blazer, served them all.
He brought shimmering money Wolf (bar) for our approval. While the chef cooked it on the grill, we nibbled on crostini brushed with rust (saffron aioli) and sautÃ©ed squid with garlic and parsley, a beloved Marseille classic. We sipped my boyfriend’s favorite white, Chateau de Pibarnon, from nearby Bandol. After presenting our whole grilled fish, our waiter skillfully filleted it at the table, handing us platters of succulent fish. As is the ProvenÃ§al tradition, we simply sprinkled with a drizzle of olive oil and squeezed lemon over it.
Like bouillabaisse, many legendary restaurants in Marseille do not live up to their reputation. Fortunately, Chez Michel resisted this trend. Next time, I’ll even order our famous fish stew.
Pan bagnat at the Bar des Amis
The seaside district of Pointe-Rouge is far from my home. Yet it is also home to one of my favorites neighborhood bars, Friends Bar. To walk around town, I need a reason: a hike in the Calanques or a flea market in nearby Emmaus. When my friend VÃ©rane FrÃ©diani made a dedication for her fantastic Marseille Cooking the World (well, a book that celebrates Marseille cuisine!), I jumped at the chance to go.
Le Bar des Amis is the local bar you wish you had in your neighborhood. Super friendly staff, friendly atmosphere and open non-stop day and night for food and drink. In fact, owners Ivan and MÃ©lanie used to frequent the bar before buying it in 2019. They kept the local vibe while upping the bar of peanuts and fries. Born in Nice, Ivan was passionate about serving the best Pan bagnat in Marseille at the BDA.
Here, the NiÃ§oise sandwich is at its best. A fresh bun is smeared with olive oil, then stuffed with sliced ââhard-boiled eggs, canned tuna, anchovies, sliced ââradishes, celery, tomato, onion, and olives. The mix of crunchy raw vegetables, salted fish and salted eggs makes this the most appetizing sandwich. Especially when enjoyed with the sunset over the Mediterranean.
Mantous and Chez Romain and Marion
As we approach Chez Romain and Marion, the pink sign had disappeared in front of it. I feared they had succumbed to the pandemic. Fortunately, I saw Romain serving the customers inside. He explained that the panel had just been repaired.
Romain runs this little Afghan corner with his mother, Myriam. (The only role her sister, Marion, plays in the restaurant is in her name). Here, the menu consists of everything Myriam cooks in the ribbon of a kitchen behind the dining room. We were lucky that day, because Miriam had done mantous, beef-stuffed ravioli topped with a tasty yogurt and dill sauce. We enjoyed them with beef meatballs in tomato sauce, yellow lentils and white rice.
When we cleaned our plate with pita bread, Romain asked if we wanted seconds. My friend immediately answered “yes”, patting her pregnant belly. Stuffed, I only asked for mantous, unable to resist the tender ravioli. Nor the pistachio flan for dessert. On leaving, we stopped in front of the white tile wall at the entrance. It was labeled with colorful messages, like in a bathroom stall, but instead of rude words, customers scribbled “yum”, “delicious as always” and “thank you, mom.”