Marseille is one of Europe’s most underrated gastronomic capitals, often overlooked in favour of other French and Italian destinations such as Bologna, Rome, Lyon and Paris. In fact, the city has a rich culinary heritage that takes influence from across the Mediterranean, thanks in part to its coastal location. Fish plays a huge part in Marseilles’ cuisine, with renowned dishes including the humble fisherman’s soup bouillabaisse, chickpea panisse, various shellfish dishes and – perhaps a little surprisingly – pizza.
We kick-started Luxeat’s Culinary Journeys once more this August with an edible extravaganza in Marseille, discovering some of the city’s best dining destinations. The event was three glorious days of eating and drinking around the beautiful Mediterranean city. Paris’ most legendary seafood restaurant Le Duc was the fine dining star of the show, showcasing the dishes which brought fame to the restaurant over the past fifty years. We also delighted in an array of local specialities and regional dishes, from lunch at typical seafood restaurant Le Château in Sormiou to street food, pizza and an elevated interpretation of bouillabaisse.
Le Duc was created by Jean Minchelli and his brothers in the late 60s. The family were originally from Marsellle, and were in part responsible for revolutionising the way we cook and serve fish across Europe today. The restaurant is firmly dedicated to the sea, yet when it opened back in the sixties it quickly captured the attention of the fashionable sets in Paris.
This summer, Jean’s son and Le Duc’s current owner Dominique Minchelli returned to his roots for an exceptional dinner made from the best local seafood and ingredients. Like his father, Dominique’s style is daring in its simplicity, dramatically reducing the amount of sauces and cooking times associated with traditional French cuisine in order to gain flavor and lightness. Le Duc is part of the New Wave French Gastronomy, bringing the delights of traditional home cooking into the fine dining sphere.
The dinner was located in a glorious 19th century villa in Marseille, which has stayed in the same historic French family for five generations. The tasting menu was served on a selection of vintage crockery, some over a century old, that was generously loaned by the family themselves.
Le Duc’s Head Chef Pascal Helard showcased their iconic plates as well as brand new dishes, helped by Sous Chef Thibaut Redron. Throughout the menu, the team made use of the very best seafood and ingredients one can find in France. The dinner started with a raw fish trio: sea bream with citrus, olive oil marinated anchovies and red mullet with chilli and dried lemon. It continued with a wonderful salad from the tomatoes grown by Bruno Cayron, who sells exclusively to the best chefs in France.
This was followed by a new and fantastic dish – bone and citrus broth with yuzu kōsho and red mullet – then an outstanding red tuna tartare with Rossini caviar and Timut pepper, which again had a hint of citrus in the flavour. The feast moved on to very classic dishes, all of which have been on Le Duc’s menu for decades, but which nevertheless remain as modern and relevant as ever. Raw sea bream with garlic toast, sea bream with butter and vodka sauce (a variation on the John Dory usually served at Le Duc in Paris), and finally langouste à l’orange with fried onions, served with black rice and zucchini. It ended with Le Duc’s most classic dessert ever: baba au rhum with chantilly. The wine pairing was kindly created by Ludovic Namur, the head sommelier of 3* Michelin starred Flocons de Sel.
The three day foray into the food scene of Marseille was not all about fine dining, though. We also enjoyed a stunning bouillabaisse lunch with a sea view at one of Marseille’s true institutions, Le Ruhl. Traditionally a poor fisherman’s stew, this new incarnation of bouillabaisse was a two course feast for all senses – a delightful combination of ingredients enjoyed in the most stunning seaside location.
Last but not least, pizza. While it might not spring to mind as a staple from this region, Marseillais are obsessed with pizza, and you can smell it on every street corner. Chez Etienne is among the best in the city, and we welcomed over twenty guests with fantastic piping hot pizza and copious amounts of melting cheese, washed down with plenty of rosé.