1 Chez Fonfon
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