Florence Bianchi of Le Glacier du RoiWith its aristocratic name and dramatic, low-slung chandelier made of Murano glass, this classy ice-cream parlour on the edge of the Old Town is one of the most popular in Marseille.

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In 1999 Florence Bianchi, an accountant and drama teacher, lost her job and moved from Paris to Marseille with her policeman husband. Bianchi, as her name suggests, is of Italian descent and decided to branch out in a new direction, learning ice-cream making in Milan.

Her Italian-style gelati are high in fruit content and low in cream. More than that, she has brought her double expertise of a flair for stylish spectacle and a very canny business sense to the new venture.

Situated at the bottom of the Panier (Old Town) and just behind the Old Port, her parlour's minuscule, bright white interior makes up for style for what it lacks in space.

There's room for just two tables from where you can watch the ices being created behind a plate glass partition. Most customers make for the terrace on the square looking across to a great view of Notre Dame de la Garde.

Glacier du Roi Marseille coat of armsIt goes without saying that the salon is family-friendly: small clients get their own special seat emblazoned "Le Roi, c'est moi"("I'm the King"). For grown-ups, it remains open until 1.00am in summer.

Period prints on the wall explain something of the history in French and Italian. They'll tell you that the Place de Lenche was an agora, or meeting place, in Greek times, and that in 1660 King Louis XIV stayed for five nights in a building on that site (since destroyed).

His fleeting visit was reason enough to give the place a regal imprimatur and inspire its coat of arms, featuring criss-crossed ice-cream cones, pictured.

But let's get to the real point. Happily the ice-creams royally deserve it. Freshly made each day, they come in 24 flavours, which vary according to the day and season.

They might include grapefruit, vanilla, hazelnut, tiramisù, melon, all sorts of wicked variations of chocolate and something called navetissimo, a concoction of biscuit crumbs and orange flower water inspired by the traditional navettes of Marseille.

And the ice-creams are only half the story. Le Glacier du Roi also produces exquisite frozen confections. The bouchées du roi are little taste bombs of ice-cream encased in chocolate. The dauphins du roi are half cake, half ice-cream (and a lot nicer than baked Alaska).

A buche de noel from Le Glacier du RoiThe verrines are daintily designed ice-cream desserts served in little glasses. Locals place their orders early for the stupendous range of ornamental Christmas logs (one of them is pictured): Le Glacier du Roi remains open all the year round.

Takeaways are available in insulated boxes and the prices won't break a pauper's budget.

Where: Le Glacier du Roi, 4 place de Lenche, 13002 Marseille.Tel: (+33) 4 91 91 01 16. Website for Le Glacier du Roi

News for La Glacier du Roi MarseilleIn summer 2016 Bianchi opened a second outlet, Le Glacier du Roi, Côté mer, on the Catalans beach. It too will remain open throughout the year. 39 rue Papety, 13007 Marseille.

 

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