1 Chez Fon­fon

France - - Bon Appétit -

If you are seek­ing to de­fine Mar­seille by a dish, it would surely be bouil­l­abaisse – the leg­endary broth and stew orig­i­nally cooked by fish­er­men from their un­sold catch, with a flavour as dis­tinc­tive and sun-in­fused as the city it­self. For an au­then­tic ver­sion, head south-west out of the city cen­tre to Val­lon des Auffes, a tucked-away cove bob­bing with fish­ing boats, and home to Chez Fon­fon.

Al­though it opened in 1952, this land­mark fish restau­rant feels re­fresh­ingly con­tem­po­rary, set with twin­kling table­ware and fre­quented by well-heeled lo­cals. Walls hang with black-and-white pho­to­graphs show­ing the orig­i­nal owner, Alphonse ‘Fon­fon’ Mounier, with a who’s who of celebrity din­ers. The menu hasn’t al­tered much, of­fer­ing time-hon­oured clas­sics such as co­quilles Saint-jac­ques and salt-crusted sea bream. Nev­er­the­less, al­most ev­ery­one comes for bouil­l­abaisse.

Its serv­ing is a rit­u­al­is­tic spec­ta­cle. First ar­rive gar­licky aïoli and saf­fron- in­fused rouille to be slathered on to crou­tons. A bowl of strained broth fol­lows, rus­set-hued and steeped in flavour. The fish is ex­hib­ited on a plat­ter; a mouth-wa­ter­ing as­sort­ment in­clud­ing scor­pion fish, tur­bot, con­ger eel and red gurnard, which are fil­leted at the ta­ble. Fi­nally, I im­merse fish, crou­tons and boiled pota­toes into the broth, which is re­filled re­peat­edly by the at­ten­tive wait­ress. It is a gar­gan­tuan spread, too de­li­cious to waste a morsel.

This fishy feast does not come cheap at €53 a por­tion, but for a spe­cial treat it is an unmissable ex­pe­ri­ence. Open daily noon-2pm and 7pm-10pm. Mains from €26. 140 Val­lon des Auffes, 13007 Mar­seille Tel: (Fr) 4 91 52 14 38 chez-fon­fon.com

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