marseille la ruche signMarseille is not renowned for its nightlife. But a handful of bars stay open into the wee small hours, such as La Ruche. Its name means the beehive, and it certainly hums with activity.

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Near one end of the rue Sainte, a long, narrow street set back a few blocks from the Old Port, La Ruche is in the buzzing district around Saint Victor Abbey, where trendy new bars and concept stores are springing up like mushrooms.

This one was launched in 2015 by three young Marseillais, the brothers Daniel and Serge Lecocq and their friend Romain Moraine.

Outside, a tiny sign describes La Ruche as a "repère populaire" ("popular landmark") and a handkerchief-sized open terrace is set back slightly from the street.

Inside, the bar is cavernous. Once a butcher's shop, La Ruche has a very high ceiling and something of the feel of a converted New York loft. It's decorated with an eclectic mix of vintage, recycled and industrial furniture - and the odd bicycle hanging on the wall.

The drinks counter is a classic French zinc - but six metres / 20 feet long. Behind it, the servers scurry to meet the demand, occasionally racing up a ladder to fetch a bottle from the top shelf of a high "bookcase" of whiskies, rums and other beverages from around the world.

marseille la ruche interiorThe drinks menu also features cocktails, draft beers and a decent wine list, including some organic wines.

La Ruche serves food too: in fact this is what allows it to stay open late, up to 2am. Pictured: the bar viewed from the mezzanine, late Thursday night in November.

It can get pretty busy in the evening after many other bars in Marseille have pulled down the shutters and gone home to bed. At La Ruche, you'll have to be approved by a bouncer on the door.

A short line-up of tapas is chalked up on the wall: it varies but is likely to include local specialities such as king prawns flambéed in pastis, petits farcis (a classic provençal dish of small vegetables stuffed with mincemeat, panisse (patties of fried, ground chickpeas), cheese plates and charcuterie.

Our tempura of vegetables came classily served with Camargue salt, rustic bread and finger wipes - the latter were just as well as the food was rather greasy.

Haute cuisine this is not, but it is tasty, reasonably priced and helps soak up the booze. Desserts are available too.

There's an open kitchen at the back and a mezzanine with tables if you want to survey all the action. For clients with restricted mobility, La Ruche earns extra brownie points for the ramps at the entrance and to the big, wheelchair-accessible toilet.

Visited October, November 2016

 

 

Where: 128 rue Sainte, 13007 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 21 62 03 Website for La Ruche

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