marseille lacailleSince opening in late 2015, this little restaurant tucked down a scruffy side-street in the hip Cours Julien district has become known as one of the best places to eat in the area, perhaps even in Marseille.

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The secret: relaxed and friendly service, a short, constantly changing menu based on seasonal ingredients, a clear price structure, an affordable bill – and, naturally, excellent food.

Red leather banquettes, bentwood chairs and simple wooden tables are lined out along a long, narrow, cosy dining room. Hidden at the back, a small open-air patio squeezes in a few more covers when the weather is fine.

Before the meal, a free little snack arrived, a simple but tasty dip of fromage blanc with chives. By contrast, many dishes on the main menu offer odd-sounding but - when you taste them - wholly convincing combinations, often mixing meat and fish.

We sampled a fresh veal tartare spiked with capers and sardine crème, and a fillet of sea bream garnished with slivers of foie gras and tart slices of orange to cut the richness.

marseille lacaille interiorBaked egg with mushroom crème and coffee oil followed by red-rare beef steak with blackberry were just as satisfying.

The line-up does include (slightly) more conventional options and there is usually at least one vegetarian dish. The wine list, also short and select, comes courtesy of a local vintner, Plus Belle la Vigne.

The excellent craft beers of the nearby Bière de la Plaine brewery are there too for those who prefer them. They might even feature in a sorbet or one of the other desserts.

On a cold and rainy midweek evening in October a stream of would-be diners was turned away, so do book ahead.

By the way the young couple behind the restaurant, Antonia and Alexis Kloniecki, have named it after an 18th century astronomer-priest, Nicolas Louis de Lacaille. We haven't yet managed to find out why, but so far Lacaille itself has been stellar.

Visited: October 2016

Where: Lacaille, 42 rue des Trois Mages, 13006 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 9 86 33 20 33.

Photo credits (from top): ©  Lacaille, SJ for Marvellous Provence

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