Le Petit Nice, Marseille
Gérald Passédat called one of his cookery books Des abysses à la lumière (‘From the Abyss to the Light’), and savouring the three-Michelin-star cuisine at Le Petit Nice — seafood, sourced (and sauced) with care — is an illuminating experience. His Menu Bouille Abaisse rings the changes: expect tempuras; a carpaccio of shellfish; beignets; and stuffed and baked daurade (gilthead bream) in a saffron consommé with lobster tail. It costs €210 (£183) a head. Gérald also owns two bistros in the city, Le Mole and Albertine.
A founder member of the Charte de la Bouillabaisse, this classic seafood restaurant in the Vieux Port is steeped in tradition. It’s formal compared to many of the new-wave restaurants in town, but it doesn’t skimp on the local fish. Accompany with a bottle of Cassis from the eponymous wine-growing area that overlooks the calanques (rocky inlets) where the best seafood is caught. Bouillabaise, €69 (£60) a head.
Chez Fonfon, Marseille
Vallon des Auffes is a small fishing harbour in the 7th arrondissement, about 1.5 miles from Le Vieux Port. Chez Fonfon is a local institution, and its bouillabaisse (€53/£47 a head) and bourride (a fish stew enriched with aioli) have been served for over 60 years. The rockfish soup, with croutons, garlic cloves and rouille, costs €17 (£15) a head and is a must for anyone serious about Provençal cooking and who doesn’t worry too much about the smell of their breath.
For €15 (£13) a head, you can get a bouillabaisse starter at this modern bistro in the heart of the city. Don’t let the fact that it’s in burger form (John Dory, roasted tomato and rouille, served in a focaccia bun) and accompanied by soup in a shot glass (the whole thing served as a starter) put you off. This is tongue-in-cheek, post-modern cuisine that still tastes pretty darn good. Main courses from €21 (£18) a head.
Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack, London
In the heart of Soho, you’ll find an authentic taste of the British seaside at Bonnie Gull. Diners are assured that the sustainably caught produce has been out of the water for no longer than 24 hours, something that becomes evident with every bite. Menus will vary on seasonality and availability of the morning’s catch, but the brown crab rarebit is a must-try, if available. The signature bouillabaisse, found at both the Soho and Fitzrovia branch, is garnished with a rouille-drizzled crostini (£24 a head). A starter-size portion is offered at the Fitzrovia branch for £12 per head.
At Sardine (pictured above), restaurateur Stevie Parle serves his bouillabaisse in true Marseille fashion: soup first, with a punchy rouille, followed by a medley of seasonal fish, shellfish and saffron potatoes. It’s available, nominally, for a minimum of two diners, but is infinitely more fun when enjoyed by a much larger group. Bouillabaisse from £24 a head.
Porthminster Kitchen, St Ives
An offshoot of the much-lauded Porthminster Beach Cafe, this restaurant is located above the harbour. Its bouillabaisse of steamed plaice fillets and crab served with new potatoes, rouille and crouton (£18 a head) may lack a Provençal pedigree but stays true to the spirit of the place.
Harbour Inn, Lyme Regis
The Dorset town of Lyme Regis doesn’t have a fishing fleet, but a handful of day boats land anything from John Dory and sea bass to whiting and gurnard. At the Harbour Inn, close to the town’s stone pier, the Dorset-style bouillabaisse (fish in a tomato and basil soup), served with toasted focaccia, is a bargain at £16.80 a head.
Read more about bouillabaisse, the pride of Marseille.
Learn how to make Bruno Loubet’s classic bouillabaisse recipe.
Published in Issue 2 of National Geographic Traveller Food.