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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
  • Get to the point
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

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before