Trans­formed but not gen­tri­fied since its year as Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture in 2013, France’s sec­ond city re­mains a vi­brant cul­tural, eth­nic and gas­tro­nomic melt­ing pot

The Guardian - Travel - - Travel - By Gérald Passe­dat, chef at Mar­seille’s Au Pe­tit Nice

Alexan­dre is a mod­ernist chef who I ad­mire a lot, and his restau­rant is worth a gourmet splash out, es­pe­cially at lunchtime (mid­day tast­ing menus from €39-92). He opened AM four years ago and was awarded a Miche­lin star in 2016. A meal here is very much a sur­prise: no writ­ten menu, just tast­ing se­lec­tions that can run to 10 serv­ings, but ac­tu­ally in­clude 20-30 tiny dishes. Alexan­dre was born in the Congo, and in­cor­po­rates sur­pris­ing global in­gre­di­ents in his cui­sine – tapi­oca from Africa, kum­bawa fruits, sa­tay and sake from Asia – but also the won­der­ful fish and seafood we have in the Mediter­ranean.

2 Pizza at La Bonne Mère

We’ve been pas­sion­ate about pizza here ever since the 1950s, when the town hall au­tho­rised pizza trucks with wood-fired ovens – early street food. There’s a pizze­ria on ev­ery street cor­ner, in­clud­ing leg­endary ad­dresses such as Chez Eti­enne (on Face­book) and Chez Sau­veur (, known for the clas­sic thin, crispy to­mate, an­chois, olive. But I have re­cently dis­cov­ered La Bonne Mère, a tiny place be­hind Notre-Dame de la Char­ité. Young own­ers Jeremy and Mahéva are purists, serv­ing a small but tasty se­lec­tion (from €12). Piz­zas made with or­ganic flour and juicy buf­falo moz­zarella are cooked in a wood-fired oven. I like their spe­cial­ity Bonne Mère with ex­tra an­chovies. Book­ing es­sen­tial.

• 16 Rue Fort du Sanc­tu­aire, pizze­ri­al­abon­

Le Marché des Ca­pucins, in a maze of nar­row streets, is the foodie heart of Mar­seille. Tourists will find fresh, cheap fruit, veg­eta­bles and pic­nic sup­plies.

I have al­ways found in­spi­ra­tion from its ex­otic food stores, such as Sal­adin, whose spice em­po­rium is as well-stocked as Mar­rakech’s souk. Up the street, check out Mai­son Em­pereur (em­, a labyrinth dat­ing from 1827, with ev­ery kitchen gadget un­der the sun. For lunch, try a €6 plate of grilled sar­dines, Al­ge­rian sal­ads and chorba soup at the street­corner Comp­toir des Beaux Arts, or join a more chic crowd at L’Epicerie l’Ideal (, a new cafe-deli re­cently opened by Ju­lia Sam­mut, from France’s in­flu­en­tial Le Food­ing guide.

4 Swim in a calanque

It doesn’t take long to get out of our city to the calan­ques, wild, gorge-like creeks along the coast as far as Cas­sis. The near­est calan­ques, Sormiou and Cal­le­longue, are half an hour away, with quiet beaches and na­ture trails. But I would rec­om­mend the less ac­ces­si­ble but spec­tac­u­lar Calanque de Sugi­ton.

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