Restaurant Review: Brasserie du Vieux Port, Marseille

I had meant to have bouillabaisse – the poor man’s soup – and Marseille’s signature dish – a type of fish stew with vegetables. But somehow, I missed it on the menu at Brasserie du Vieux Port on Quai de Port so chose a salmon steak and salad with a small portion of chips to accompany it and forgot my mission to only eat what the inhabitants of the Southern French city consume. Linda however did stay on mission and chose the fish dish of the day – bream with salad and the ubiquitous French fries. Both meals were excellent – beautifully presented, promptly served by attentive staff and delicious.

Every morning fishing boats pull up at the quay where a plaque marking the original port of the Phoenicians is located to supply the daily Marché aux Poissons or fish market – echoing an activity that’s been going on for at least 2,600 years. The daily catch is the reason why so many of the restaurants, brasseries, cafes and hotels have seafood on their chalked-up menu boards. Mussels, tuna, sardines, octopus, sea bass, red mullet and sea urchins amongst many other species are on offer on market stalls set up each day – and frequented by mainly older residents in search of the fruits of the sea.

Despite my brain blockage over failing to order bouillabaisse I did remember the national drink of Marseille – pastis. Variously sold under the brands of Pastis 51, Pernod and Ricard  pastis is made from the anise plant found throughout the Mediterranean countries where the liquor has versions including sambuca, ouzo, arak, rakı, and mastika. The first few sips gave me in a slightly floaty feeling  and I must admit I rather took to it. Limoncello is my first love – a drink I discovered by accident in Naples when I ordered lemonade but pronounced it wrong – but the anise flavoured spirit with its ice cubes and cloudy yellowy colour was growing on me. So I ordered a second glass as the white house wine I had requested to go with my salmon was not up to standard – my standard being set as good as the cheapest Fair Trade wines in the Axbridge Cooperative store.

It was early evening on a very warm June day as we sat and watched the tourists, commuters, street traders, police officers and the workers cleaning the streets go by. With the dome of the Basilica of Notre-Dame of la Garde up on the hill and the floattila of pleasure boats stretching away in either direction in the harbour the Brasserie du Vieux Port was a chilled out spot for our last night in Marseille. I’ll have to return one day to try the bouillabaisse when the brain isn’t clouded by Pastis.

Harry Mottram

We paid 69 euros for two main courses, two glasses of pastis, one glass of wine, one glass of lemonade and two coffees.

Another Marseille restaurant review from the same five day trip is at