Villa Marie Jeanne | Restaurant | Bouillabaisse | Marseille | France | Natural wine Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Villa Marie Jeanne Heart
Restaurants and bars
Open: By reservation
Price: Moderate

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +33 4 91 85 51 31
Address: 4 rue Chicot
Marseille, 13012
Country: France

Villa Marie Jeanne is a secret place hidden in the suburbs of Marseille where we go for absolutely fresh Mediterranean fish, and, in particular for their rendition of the famous dish, bouillabaisse.
The first thing is to find the place. It is in the 12th arrondissement so it is not too far from the centre of the city, but the cab ride will take about half an hour as some of the streets can be quite congested. When you finally arrive, rue Chicot is quite narrow with little lighting - our taxi driver was somewhat concerned that we hadn't got the address right.
We found the number we were seeking and there was a tiny sign on the wall with the name Villa Marie Jeanne on it. We rang the very discreet bell and the door was soon opened by the charming host to reveal a serene and stunningly beautiful garden with our table set up under a massive floodlit tree!
We knew it was going to be a good night.
We had come here for two reasons. The first is that we have long been interested in the seafood soups of the Mediterranean. Many years ago we had a classic version of bouillabaisse at Restaurant de Bacon in Cap d'Antibes. Recently we had a deconstructed version of the same dish at the estimable Passedat restaurant at the Hotel Petit Nice which is also in Marseille. We have also tried versions of Bourride and of many Soup de Poisson from this area.
The version we were served at Villa Marie Jeanne was certainly worth the journey. The soup itself was light, almost fragile, but suffused with the lingering tastes of the fish. The five whole fish that were served as the accompaniment were the real deal including the obligatory Rascasse and some excellent conger eel. When the cooked whole fish were presented we were asked if they should take them away and just bring out the fillets.
We, of course, asked them to leave the whole fish and the owner seemed pleased with our decision because we all agreed that some of the best bits of the fish such as the cheek meat is lost in the filleting process.
The fish had been cooked gently and perfectly and we ate everything while moistening the flesh with extra soup that had been brought with the whole fish.
For dessert we had a simple dish made from a rare ingredient. It was a blood red sorbet made from Peche de la Vigne, an heirloom variety that is only available in late August and early September. It was absolutely stunning!
We accompanied our meal with some excellent wine from the cellar. The owner is fascinated by natural wines and we had two hard to find wines from the Ardeche which accompanied the fish very well.
We will certainly be happy to return to this peaceful haven when we next visit this exciting city.
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