Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Le Petit Nice Passedat

France

The best hotel and restaurant in Marseille

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Le Petit Nice Passedat
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Le Petit Nice Passedat

Location

Overlooking the sea near Pointe Cadiére and Marseille's Vieux Port in the Pharo district

Travel Information

A 30-minute taxi ride from Aéroport de Marseille Provence. Parking is available but entry is via a very narrow street off the main road.

Top Tips

Stay more than one night and try two tasting menus. Explore the cathedral of Notre Dame and the pretty Port du Vallon des Auffes, lunching on traditional bouillabaisse at Chez FonFon.

5-Star X-Factors

So easy to get to. Proximity to the sea. Lovely sea-facing suites. Amazing food for fish lovers.

Le Petit Nice Passedat

Time stands still at Le Petit Nice, at least it seems to. This is not only Marseille's sole 3 Michelin-starred restaurant and the city's best 5-star hotel, it is an outstanding family institution that for 3 generations has perfected the art of maximising enjoyment for every moment you spend here...

It starts with the warmest of welcomes as you hand your car keys to the smiling valet, followed by a glass of carefully selected house rosé on the beautiful palm-fringed terrace with views out to the azure Mediterranean. Then the surprise of your spacious suite with its own tropical garden terrace and even more stunning views, and then the prospect of a gastronomic dinner cooked by Gérald Passedat, the master of Mediterranean cuisine, which heightens expectations further. Gérald's father, Jean-Paul, still welcomes guests with a sparkle in his eye, no doubt proud that his son, who inherited two stars and added a third of his own in 2008, continues the family tradition. The dynasty was first established here when Gérald's grandfather acquired 'Villa Corinthe' back in 1917, an inspired decision that I doubt was never regretted. Léonce, Jean-Paul's elderly French bulldog, still sits patiently in the lobby, a further reminder of the patient Passedat presence.

We stayed two nights, but it felt much longer. The Traquandi Junior Suite is generously proportioned in contemporary style, with a vast cosseting bed and integral bathroom, combining a luxuriant tub and a large shower, plus space to lounge; but its pièce de résistance is a private terrace with tropical garden offering outstanding sea views. The bed is positioned to maximise the exquisite vista that transports you, instantly, into a Mediterranean mood. You can linger here, mesmerised, for hours; morning, noon and night. There are 15 other rooms and suites, several with balconies or terraces.

On the sun-soaked main terrace there is a small but beautiful pool with space to lounge under palm trees. The 1917 bar is tucked away to the side and is where you are served an incredible 3-star breakfast, if you choose not to have it brought to your room.

Poisson perfection

The restaurant with glazed doors that open to the sea breeze is stunning, laid out so, once again, the seascape surrounds you, whatever the weather. In summer the beautiful shaded terrace offers a similar effect, with the sea enveloping all your senses as the proximity to the water combines the sound of waves crashing on the rocks below, the smell of the salt-sea air and the taste of some of the most exceptional seafood you fill find anwhere in the world.

The first night we chose the 'Menu Bouille Abaisse', a five course play on the traditional dish of the South of France. The restaurant service was friendly and informed and the waiters guided us through this most metaphorical of menus, featuring deconstructed bouillabaisse. We started with an amuse-bouche of intensely blue lobster bisque, that simply took our breath away with its visual and taste-bud impact. We continued with raw shellfish and rainbow wrasse fritters from shallow waters, followed by a mixture of deep water fish with a saffron broth and small crabs. An extra course of dreamy, creamy sea urchin was a gift from the chef and then a mousse au chocolat took us into dithyrambic praise of his culinary art. We polished off our evening with glasses of Château Pibarnon's silky smooth eau de vie 1994.

The second night we tried the seven-course 'Menu Evolution', but there are nine and twelve course options too, plus a special 'Menu Initiation' for under-35s to encourage gourmet appreciation priced at €150, somewhat cheaper than the other menus. The food is uniformally stunning with a focus, again, on the freshest local seafood that local fishermen bring to the slipway below the restaurant each morning for Gérald to inspect and select. Unsurprisingly, he gets to pick the finest of Marseille's catch. We repeated the lobster bisque to start, with 'Les poissons du sud en caravane' to follow, with other courses featuring local fish laced with the flavours of Provence, including wild fennel jus, sea anenome and then 'My sea garden' an exquisitely poetic concoction of every Mediterranean flavour you could image, on a plate that is as pretty as a picture. Pre-dessert and dessert followed with further delicacies taken to our room. Gourmet heaven! If I were a fish, I'd dream of being cooked by Gérald Passedat.

The wine list is a true 'wine bible' with an unbelievable selection of wines, and while some of the local wines from Provence are excellent, such as the delicious white Bellet recommended by the sommelier on our first night, Vino di Gio Clos Saint-Vincent 2016, many are exotically priced. On the second night I picked a 2013 Etienne Sauzet Puligny Montrachet, which I think was actaully cheaper than the Bellet!

Out and about in Marseille

We enjoyed being at Le Petit Nice so much we only ventured out once, even though we had set our sights on wandering up to Marseilles' own hilltop cathederal, Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. Instead we managed to stroll along the attractive Corniche, with its old villas and swaying palms, in the Pharo district, venturing as far as the pretty Port des Valon des Auffes where we stopped for lunch at the charming Chez FonFon overlooking the tiny port with its little fishing boats bobbing in the water. Here we tried their traditional bouillabaisse pécheur served in homely, conventionally constructed, style. This was filling, with more and more 'bouilla' being added to our 'baisse' along with a never ending supply of croutons and aïoli.  A bottle of chilled Château Simone 2015 was a lovely pairing. We were conscious that our Menu Evolution was waiting for us back at base, but we just couldn't help ourselves...

Le Petit Nice is an outstanding family-run institution that should be a pilgrimage for every fish-loving foodie. Of course the food is priced according to its 3-star credentials (and is worth every cent), but the accommodation is reasonable and the service exemplary. It's also so easy to organise for a weekend break flying into Marseille, or as a book-end to a longer tour of Provence.

By the way, if you are just visiting here for the weekend, forget hiring a car at the airport because you won't need it, just jump in a taxi and you'll be in seafront serenity at Le Petit Nice Passedat in less than 30 minutes.

Bravo famille Passedat!

 
Peter Matthews
Peter Matthews


Luxury Explorer