La Virgule is one of the best restaurants along the northern edge of the Old Port, with an outdoor terrace offering lovely views of the port itself and Notre Dame de la Garde.
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We're sorry to report that this restaurant, one of our favourites on the Old Port, was sold in July 2015.
La Virgule was founded in 2006 by Lionel Lévy, the Michelin-starred chef in the forefront of Marseille’s gastronomic revolution. Then head chef at the nearby Une Table, au Sud, he set up La Virgule as a new outpost of his empire.
According to the legend, Lévy was fed-up with the media omitting the comma when mentioning Une Table, au Sud. So he named La Virgule (The Comma) as a permanent reminder of the crucial punctuation mark.
Lévy invested in the venture but was not directly involved in running it and pulled out altogether in early 2010, handing over the reins to his protégé, the very talented young chef Christopher Pereda, then in his early twenties.
Pereda had studied molecular cooking under Thierry Marx at the Michelin two-starred Château Cordeillan-Bages in Pauillac, Haut Médoc and quickly made La Virgule one of the best spots to eat on the over commercialised Old Port.
His cuisine at La Virgule drew heavily on local ingredients, mainly - though not exclusively - fish: regulars on the menu were a beautifully executed pan-fried foie gras accompanied by peaches poached in port, and a light, fluffy version of the classic provençal dish brandade (fish, olive oil and mashed potato) made with mullet instead of cod and rolled in fine slivers of courgette.
Since then, things have changed again. Christopher Pereda has left La Virgule but the restaurant remains in the family and his father now heads up the kitchen.
The food remains of a high quality, though perhaps without its previous truly inspirational touch: the signature foie gras remains on the menu, for example, but minus the golden, salty crust which previously made it so exceptional.
The overall atmosphere is a good deal less formal than at Une Table, au Sud, with more the flavour of a brasserie than a sedate upscale restaurant. The prices are correspondingly reasonable and the prix fixe set menu on weekday lunchtimes is still excellent value.
Inside the little cafeteria-style dining room, the decor has a retro 1970s feel, with an orange colour scheme and mirrored bar and wall, but the best place to eat, weather permitting, is on the small outdoor terrace, pictured.
This is set not on the Old Port itself but on a short pedestrian street at right angles to the quai du Port, thus affording terrific views of the harbour and Notre Dame de la Garde while not being exposed to traffic noise and annoying souvenir sellers.
Advance booking is strongly advised for one of these dozen or so tables on a sunny day.
Service is laid back and generally helpful. The short wine list includes wine by the carafe and some good budget local options, and there are some nice touches such as the offer of a bag for you to take away your unfinished bottle , in the unlikely event that you don't drink all of it.
Visited August 2010 and February 2014