3 Le Malthazar
Slotted into a backstreet behind the old port, this bistro boasts oodles of French finesse. At its helm is Michel Portos, a Marseille native who had a long stint at the Michelin-starred Le Saint-james near Bordeaux before setting up his own eatery on home soil. Yet Le Malthazar has no trace of fine-dining formality; instead this neighbourhood gem offers heart-warming classics matched with fine wines at reasonable prices.
The decor features patterned tiled floors, a sweeping mahogany bar and sepia walls crammed with gilded mirrors and vintage posters. The atmosphere is relaxed and convivial, bolstered by chalkboards scrawled with specials, and genial waiters who gallop by carrying high-held plates on fingertips.
Seated on a crimson-red banquette, I order from the prix fixe menu (€32) and begin with a simple plate of parsleyflecked mushrooms and salty prosciutto topped with a slowly baked, soft-centred egg. Mains include both roasted sea bass and beef steak, but I prefer the suprême de volaille – a tender breast of crispyskinned chicken fanned over buttery vegetables drenched in wine-rich sauce. For dessert, the clementine cheesecake is tempting but I cannot resist the crème brûlée. Beneath a scorched crust, its smooth, creamy custard is a sweet finish to a delightful meal. Open all week noon-2pm, 8pm-10pm. Mains from €19. 19 Rue Fortia, 13001 Marseille Tel: (Fr) 4 91 33 42 46, malthazar.com