Marseille

Le Bar de la Marine, Marseille Tel 04 91 54 95 42
Une Table au Sud, Marseille Tel 04 91 90 63 53

Whether you like it or not, everything in Marseille eventually ends up at the Vieux Port - the remains of the once-proud Canebière, the modern swish of the Corniche Kennedy, the pilgrims' steps tumbling downwards from Notre Dame de la Garde, and the higgledy-piggledy montées and ruelles of Le Panier.

The Vieux Port represents old Marseille, but it is also the new face of the Mediterranean centre of the future.

Out of the hundreds of restaurants surrounding the harbour I've chosen two very different places - one from each side.

The first is an old favourite, a small, characterful bar facing onto the Ferryboat, opposite the Hôtel de Ville - Le Bar de la Marine first came to fame through the films of Marcel Pagnol, and prints of 'Fanny', 'Marius' and that infamous game of cards add to its attractive 1930's décor. It's just that bit further up the Rive Neuve to be a haunt of locals more than tourists; its staff are friendly and as generous and robust as the cooking. Huge salads and brasserie-type food plus couple of mouthwatering dishes of the day are very reasonably priced, kept low by the the very basic wine list. Bustling, congenial, it is a bit squashed inside but in summer there's a decent-sized outside terrace by the port.

The short Ferry ride leads you to the very different chic domaine of Lionel Levy, Marseille's brightest young culinary star - in 2002 Gault Millau rated him as one of France's six 'chefs of tomorrow'. A pupil of Ducasse, he's serving fabulously imaginative dishes, blending eastern spices with Mediterranean flavours, drawing his inspiration from Marseille's history as the port of entry to Europe of the spice route. He is especially famous for his astonishingly daring desserts ... his signature is his tomato stuffed with aromatic fruits (pineapple, pear, caremellised orange, bitter citrus and cardamon.) The first-floor restaurant, which I confess I feel could look/feel less business-like, has one of the greatest views over the port and up to Notre Dame.

Meals are obviously more expensive here, but lunches are still just about affordable for the treat they offer, but it might be wise to visit here sooner than later, as prices are starting to go up in relation to Levy's reputation and caché.

Juliet Young


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