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
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 (chezsauveur.fr), 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, pizzerialabonnemere.fr
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 (empereur.fr), 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 (epicerielideal.com), 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.