Restaurant Péron, 56 Corniche J-F Kennedy, Marseille 04 91 52 15 22

What a difference a road makes… On one side of the Corniche the genteel, decaying charm of the art deco Péron Hotel crumbles gently away. Opposite, perched over the rocks the newly designer-refurbished Péron Restaurant, Marseille’s current “in” place, gleams, sleekly chic, facing out to sea.

You are here for the food — yes it’s good. But you are also here for the spectacular views — the “Peronista vista”. Château d’If one side, the huge gulf of Marseille the other… Daytime it’s great, but if you go at night, as we did, and, through the panoramic open windows, watch the sun set gently over the twinkling lights of Marseille around the corner, it’s difficult to beat.

Its name, being so synonymous with Argentina, makes you feel it should link in with the food, somehow, and, when ordering their meals, singing customers should be echoing some of Evita’s biggest hits… “Another seabass in another sauce”, “Let’s hear it for the rainbow trout” and of course, I’ll have my fish poached, so… “Don’t fry for me, Argentina”…

But no, it’s more Japanese in style than Argentinian, in a cruise-boat-like setting, portholes and all. Especially striking is the outside deck with its deckchairs facing out to sea. Smart black tables, superb fish-styled cutlery (the knife is a shark, and the forks are kippers!) and, like the setting, all plates are cleanly square or rectangular.

The food, too, reflects this rather minimalist approach with a fairly simple menu — which changes every 6 weeks - of 5 starters, 7 main courses and 5 desserts. The price is slightly more maximalist at 49 euros for one of each. You can pay separately - €18 for entrée, €31 for plat (which, you’ll have noticed, magically comes to €49) and €11 for dessert.

But, having said that, we had some fantastic food here. Most memorable was a starter called ‘Oeuf mollet, ses mouillettes au foie gras, brochette de sot l’y laisse’ This was an amazing concoction consisting of a quail’s egg soft-boiled in a crisp coating, like a sort of soft-centred scotch egg (I’ve no idea how they achieved that), alongside some strips of toast and foie gras, plus a brilliant brochette of crunchy artichoke with two ‘oysters’ of chicken. I also had a fabulously light, frothy ravioli of langoustine, and the roasted lotte in thyme was really set off by a superb creamy mushroom risotto.

Desserts were slightly less imaginative, but good, nevertheless. The wine list of local wines is well-chosen — if you’re looking for a good white, choose the delicious seaside tangs of Porquerolle’s Domaine de l’Ile, to complete your oceanic experience. I’ve recently had feedback complaining about staff surliness, but the service was bright and breezy the evening we were there.

We’d just been to the art exhibition at the Vieille Charité, where we’d been admiring how Cézanne, Dufy, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh et al had captured the luminescence of Provence’s land and seascapes. With these memories lingering in our minds we couldn’t miss the slanting silver light shafting through the greyly gathering cloud over L’Estaque. As the sun went down, and Marseille started to glitter and the three towers of Château d’If were gently illuminated, I’m sure I heard some distant Peronist starting to sing “…On this night.. of a thousand stars…”

Juliet Young

Copyright © 2005 Anglo-American Group of Provence