Marseille Baie des Singes aerial viewIt's in Marseille, but only just. To find the legendary Baie des Singes fish restaurant, drive half an hour along the coast to Les Goudes, a ramshackle village seemingly at the end of the world.

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The path to La Baie des Singes restaurant in Les Goudes MarseilleThen follow road signs on to Cap Croisette, a peninsula at the edge of the calanques.

Here, by a (free) car parking area, in a spectacular, arid, almost lunar landscape, a defiantly scruffy hand-painted placard announces La Baie des Singes. But you're still not there yet.

You now need to walk about 250 metres / 270 yards along a rough, hilly, stony single track: At the far end of the spur down some steps sits La Baie des Singes (the name means Monkey Bay).

Don't wear your stilettos , don't leave any valuables in the car, bring a torch if you're dining in the evening - and go easy on the wine as you'll have to make the return trip at the end of your meal.

La Baie des Singes overlooks the mighty Île de Maïre and a little inlet: if you're feeling flush, you could charter a boat to get there, and there are several moorings for such clients.

Is it worth the trip? Definitely. Marseille abounds in restaurants on the sea with stunning views, but there's nothing quite like this one.

It seats up to 160 covers and was already busy, almost entirely with locals, when we went there for lunch on a cool and overcast Sunday in late May. In high summer and fine weather you would need to reserve ahead.

This restaurant is not for you if you like white linen tablecloths. The decor: bright orange plastic garden furniture outside, blue plastic garden furniture inside.

Marseille Baie des Singes waiterThere's only one WC, set into the rock and amusingly monkey-themed, so anticipate queues if you need to use it.

The menu is short and almost entirely fish- and shellfish-based. Some are cooked in sauces (tuna with capers and gherkins, for example, or monkfish medallions in saffron).

But La Baie des Singes is renowned above all for its sensationally fresh grilled fish. They do bouillabaisse too, which, as usual in Marseille, has to be ordered a day ahead.

Waiters bring round baskets of the glistening catch of the day, which is likely to include sea bream, sea bass and mullet. The crustaceans (lobster, crayfish) come all the way from Brittany but are alive and frisky as they await their fate.

You pick your victim (it's possible for diners to share a larger fish) and some time later it arrives grilled on an enormous platter.

Then it disappears again to be filleted and finally served up with simple but well prepared accompaniments. There's more than a touch of theatricality to the whole experience.

Don't even think about coming here if you're in a rush. This is a place to relax and while away a lazy sunny afternoon.

Rows of orange sunbeds are lined up on a tiny private beach, pictured below, for those who want to sleep off their meal. Or you could bring your swimming costume and take a dip.

Our enormous sea bass, pictured above, came with ratatouille, provençal tomatoes and saffron potatoes, plus home-made tartare sauce and some very fine olive oil infused with fennel. Succulent and delicately flavoured, it satisfied three hungry diners.

There were only two steak options. One - fillet - was off the menu but the sirloin was good too. Its garnish was a green salad, a provençal tomato and some rather ordinary French fries.

Among the starters you might find a tartare of tuna with mango and avocado, grilled and marinated red peppers or tiny squid in a provençal sauce. A handful of classic desserts and home-made ices cater to the gluttonous.

Marseille Baie des Singes sunbedsThe snag about this idyllic spot: despite its back-to-basics trappings, La Baie des Singes isn't cheap. In fact some will find it exorbitant.

The wine list has some decent budget bottles, mainly from Southern Provence, and the cooked dishes are par for the course for a sea-view restaurant.

But it's more difficult to keep track of what you'll be paying for the grilled fish and seafood, which are charged by their weight and can end up expensive. It's a good idea to check first the price of your chosen fish to avoid unexpected surprises when the bill arrives.

You're paying here for high quality ingredients, generous servings and the running costs of a seasonal restaurant in this extraordinarily inaccessible location. It seemed to us like reasonable value.

The other thing that makes La Baie des Singes special is the atmosphere. The serving staff were friendly (some even speak English, a bit of a rarity in Marseille) and at the end of the meal the ladies were presented with a long-stemmed rose.

And there was a sort of festive complicity among the diners, as though we'd all been through some kind of joint adventure to get to this faraway, secret destination.

Visited May 2014

Where: La Baie des Singes, Cap Croisette, Les Goudes, 13008 Marseille.

Website for La Baie des Singes

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