During the last decade or so, Marseille has emerged as one of the best food cities in France, which is a reflection of its booming tourist trade but also its appeal to the younger generation as a place to live. This has led to the rebirth of many of the ancient port’s most charming old neighbourhoods, notably the Noailles district – where British chef Harry Cummins and sommelier Laura Vidal recently opened La Mercerie, which takes its name from the fact that the space was formerly a notions shop.
With a décor that includes a very long chestnut wood bar, white-painted steel chairs and an open kitchen with celadon tile walls, this contemporary bistro with a produce-driven menu has quickly become one of the hippest and most popular addresses in town. The menu changes constantly, but runs to intriguingly inventive dishes like lamb with mushroom purée and bitter herbs, red mullet in bouillon with fennel and Swiss chard, and kiwi-miso sorbet with black sesame mousse and a dacquoise.
Laura Vidal has put together a terrific list of mostly organic and natural wines from smaller, lesser-known southern French producers, and this lively and convivial restaurant offers a perfect postcard of why Marseille has evolved into such a charming city.
9 Cours Saint-Louis, 13001, Marseille. Tel. +33 (0)4 91 06 18 44. Prix-fixe €23, €28 and €42. www.lamerceriemarseille.com
From France Today magazine