Le Petit Nice | Gérald Passédat | Bouillabaisse | Marseille | France | Natural wine

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Review
 
Le Petit Nice HeartHeartHeart
Restaurants and bars
Marseille
Open: Lunch and dinner Tue - Sat
Price: Expensive
Score (/20): 17.5

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +33 4 91 59 25 92
Address: Corniche J. F. Kennedy
Marseille, Provence, 13007
Country: France

Le Petit Nice is the venue where Gérald Passédat provides a retreat for the world-weary in stunning surroundings and matches it with equally stunning and remarkable food that makes even the most blasé foodies sit up and take notice.
Marseille is a gritty city. There is something appealing about its grit and grime. It is a great place to lose yourself in back streets enjoying the ethnic diversity, the culture and above all the devotion to food found everywhere here.
And, of course, the dish that most people think about when Marseille is mentioned is the local seafood dish of bouillabaisse. One needs to be careful here because there are many restaurants providing pale imitations of this dish to unknowing tourists.
We had long held mixed feelings about going to Le Petit Nice because we thought that the food might be too refined - that it might be too far removed from the true flavours of the dish that we enjoy so much. However the opportunity arose and we headed south in our tiny car that was about to spend three hours in the best car park it will ever visit - it was parked on the very edge of the Mediterranean looking out over the stark hills that envelop this coastal city.
We have been to many three star restaurants. Some of the experiences have been memorable (such as our recent meal at Michel Bras, yet others have been dismal failures such as one on the Amalfi Coast). This meal was uniformly perfect from the amuse bouche through to the mignardise - there was not one morsel we were served that wasn't executed perfectly and that wasn't 'right' for the place and the time.
We were ushered to our table after relaxing for a few moments on the open terrace with sweeping views of the sea and the entrance to the harbour.
We asked for a glass of the crisp, aperitif-style Clos d'Albizzi white from nearby Cassis. We just love these Cassis wines. We have enjoyed them on all our visits to the area. The vneyards are literally overlooking the sea. Some sweep down to where the coast meets the water such as the Clos St Magdelaine which is in the suburbs of Cassis. The wines here taste of the sea. They have salt in the aftertaste but their mix of our favoured grape Clairette along with Ugni Blanc and Marsanne is perfect for the food served at Le Petit Nice.
We had the bouillabaisse degustation (Menu Bouille Abaisse) where many seafood elements were presented around the anchor of the rich fish soup with two perfectly cooked filets of local fish swimming in the dark broth. The flavour was as perfect as it can get.
 
     
 

The meal started with a visually appealing amuse bouche served in a nine-segment white tray that included tiny fish that had been snap fried and some tiny cubes of calamari with a wonderful lemony dressing. There were also three small slices of a dark red fish which the waiter called palamide and which resembled bonito or tuna and which was topped with a dense green sauce. To the side we were served two very good, crusty bread rolls.

Amuse Bouche at Passadet's Le Petit Nice

Next came two separate bowls with oysters. The first was a single Belon oyster set in the most beautiful clear salty jelly and lemon foam.

 

Belon oyster at Passadet's Le Petit Nice

The second was a long, oval plate with three stunning vegetable purees (purple carrot, zucchini and celery) and two small oysters from the mouth of the Charente River near the Isle of Oleron. We have had oysters from the Bay of Biscay before and these certainly didn't disappoint. We were also amazed at the intensity of the vegetable purees.

Two plump oysters at Passadet's Le Petit Nice

The next dish had three components. The first was a small bowl of intensely-flavoured, deep-green veloute that was made from artichoke and ciboulette (chives). This had both an intense flavour and an appealing mouth-feel. The second component was one of the best dishes of the day. It was described as a tartare of shellfish with clams and mussels and tiny pieces of artichoke lying flat on a white plate where they had marinated in a mild vinaigrette and were topped with an ethereal white foam.

Carpaccio of shellfish at Passadet's Le Petit Nice

The third component was a dish of tiny beignets of white fish that were served between crisp, white sheets of paper joined with a tiny peg. The white sheets reveal nothing.

Beignet at Passadet's Le Petit Nice

However, nestled between these pure white sheets were some crisp beignets!

Beignet at Passadet's Le Petit Nice

We then moved on to a dish of lobster and white fish in a lobster broth studded with artichoke and girolles and flecked with saffron. This was a beautiful, rich dish and although there seemed to be a lot of saffron, it did not dominate, rather it supported the other flavours and it was very fresh.

Lobster and fish in broth at Passadet's Le Petit Nice

And finally the bouillabaisse arrived. A tower of circular bowls stacked like Chinese steamers was placed on the table. When the top cover was lifted two pieces of fish, one bass and the other we think was called Gallinet (but we can't find any references to it. Can anyone help??) were swimming in a brown rich fish broth in the tradition of classic bouillabaisse. On the side was grated parmesan and garlicky rouille and a jug of extra broth. This dish was certainly worth the journey.

Bouillabaisse at Passadet's Le Petit Nice

A side dish of potatoes with a fennel, tomato and herb broth was also served on the side. We accompanied the main dish with a half bottle of Chateau Simone blanc from the tiny Palette appellation. The 2006 vintage is particularly good. This wine is made from a blend of Clairette, Grenache blanc and Ugni Blanc with tiny amounts of Bourboulenc and Muscats Blanc picked from very old vines.

Potatoes in saffron broth at Passadet's Le Petit Nice

Desserts were based on an apple theme with tiny cylinders of dried apple sitting on meringue-based confections along a rectangular plate and an apple sorbet served in a silver spoon on the side. This was accompanied by the most extraordinary apple 'wafers' - long, incredibly thin stands of intense dried apple puree that snapped as soon as you touched them.

Apple dessert at Passadet's Le Petit Nice

And finally to the mignardise. These often disappoint as they seem like an afterthought. Here they were just as complex and interesting as every other dish. Gems such as an intense mango and mint mousse sat alongside a tiny lemon 'tart' which vied for attention with a kiwi fruit, basil and almond cream among others.

Perfect mignardise at Passadet's Le Petit Nice

This was a great end to an almost perfect meal.

 
     


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