Bouillabaisse in Marseille
Firstly, let me acknowledge that 95% of the bouillabaisse prepared in Marseille is consumed by tourists. Hard to imagine working folks spending 45 Euros or more for a bowl of bouillabaisse.
Secondly, the Vieux Port is lined with restaurants advertising that they offer "real" bouillabaisse.
One hundred per cent of the diners at these restaurants are tourists. Having arrived in Marseille on a day when Chez Fonfon was closed, we decided to brave the port and play tourists for one afternoon. We chose Restaurant L'Hippocampe, for no particular reason, at 14, Quai du Port.
They offer bouillabaisse for a minimum of two people for 45 Euros per person.
The wait staff was pleasant, friendly and helpful. The bouillabaisse arrived in two servings: part one was the rich, saffron infused broth, served with toasted baguette and rouille (mayonnaise with piment) or aioli (garlic mayonnaise) . While we were enjoying the soup, our waiter presented us with a view of the types of fish included in that day's bouillabaisse. He then returned with heaping platters of those fish cooked, which were fileted tableside and served.
Allow at least two hours to enjoy the immense amount of food presented. Enjoy a bottle of rose from the Cote d'Aix en Provence or Cassis. Sit back and be a tourist. Once, just once, savor the tradition in the city that originated the dish.
I stayed in Vieux Port back in '03 while touring the South of France. I ordered a glass of Tavel at a cafe when I first arrived. Afterwhich the waiter in broken English responded "Ah, the best!" I remember too meeting a pair of very attractive American women along the row of restaurants around the port. One kept repeating as she scanned the posted menus "Nothing but fish!" I eventually would have my bouillabaisse (alone). I recall the stark saffron and little crabs. I love France.