The Hedonist: A little Marseille magic

What to see and where to be seen

If Paris is the golden child of France, Marseille is its wild little brother. But the gritty reputation intrigues rather than repels us, so we throw caution to the wind and head into the sprawling streets of Marseille in attempt to find Au Vieux Panier (13 rue du Panier; 00 33 4 91 91 23 72; auvieuxpanier.com), an old grocer's shop that has been converted into an art installation/B&B.

We are let through the crumbling shopfront into a light, airy space with an open-plan breakfast room and lounge area, strewn with the latest art magazines. This house-cum-hotel-cum-art-installation has five rooms redesigned each year by different artists. Our room, aptly named the Panic Room, has been created to mess with the senses – half of it pristine white, the other half a graffiti-fetishist's dream.

We make for Chez Etienne (43 rue de Lorette) to try our luck at getting a seat for dinner – it's worth noting there's no phone, no reservations, no credit cards. Also don't be fooled by the sign outside – it says "pizza" but they serve a lot more, including gorgeous crispy squid.

From here, we jump in a taxi and five minutes later find ourselves at the newly opened Mama Shelter (00 33 4 84 35 20 00; mamashelter.com) at 64 rue de la Loubière to knock back a few white pepper and basil caipirinhas. We ogle the pretty boys and watch stylish girls flirt over table football before following the indecently attractive crowd down the road to see out the night at La Dame Noir (30 place Notre Dame du Mont; ladamenoir.fr), a dark and dirty disco.

The next morning we wake up, startled by the room once again, then drag ourselves down to stumble across shop after shop of Marseille soap (does anyone use soap any more?) and then perch ourselves on the tatty seafront for a pastis.

A 10-minute stroll around the curve of the port finds us tucked away up a side street at La Sardine à Paillettes (9 rue de la Tour; 00 33 6 18 31 46 04; lasardineapaillettes.com), where we buy presents for the family, before stumbling into Sessùn (10 boulevard du Collet; 00 33 4 91 72 60 60; sessun.com), where we can't resist buying up half the collection of French dresses.

Then, instead of spending €45 on bouillabaisse in one of the tourist traps on the port, we catch a cab to Restaurant Peron (56 promenade de la Corniche John Kennedy; 00 33 4 91 52 15 22; restaurant-peron.com), perched over the rocks. The accomplished set menu at €64 a head gets you a mise en bouche, starter, main course and dessert, with dishes such as red tuna sashimi with blackened garlic and lemon caviar, and scorpion fish with vegetable tagine and coriander.

Then, tempted by cocktails, we walk back to the port to check out the kitsch L'Unic (11 cours Jean Ballard; 00 33 4 91 33 45 84) for one last drink. It's the place to be, with a mixture of dressed-up girls and scruffy boys in bands partying away. A guy in a bowler hat tells us that he loves a British accent, so maybe we'll just stay for one more…

A Hedonist's Guide to ... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
News
news
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week