Luxurious Le Petit Nice Celebrates a Century of Gastronomy in Marseille
Distracted by Marseille’s traffic, we almost missed the sign indicating a sharp right turn towards Le Petit Nice. Once you make that turn, you are committed. Of course, you WANT to be at this 16-room boutique hotel and eat at the Michelin three-star restaurant, but the narrow entryway is not designed for first-time drivers.
Perhaps that is part of the grand plan, a commitment to relaxation. The enormous metal gate slides open, and the Mediterranean stretches to infinity. Even the carpark has a sublime view at Le Petit Nice.
“Le Petit Nice is 5 minutes from the city centre and 100 km from the noise.” Germain Passédat.
It’s not far from the truth. Corniche du Président-John-Fitzgerald-Kennedy and its snarled traffic only a few hundred metres away, but barely audible over the sound of the sea.
The suite’s balcony gave the impression that you could dive straight into the azure Mediterranean. In reality, the waves break on a rocky public beach and not at the hotel’s foundations. This “plage” is a place where local Marseillais come to sunbathe and swim after work or school. Perhaps that is in part inspiration for Gérald Passédat’s Michelin three-star cuisine. His culinary creations are anchored in the traditions of Provencal recipes and local ingredients, food that those beachgoers might make for their dinner. His artistry in the kitchen takes those grandmothers’ recipes to another stratosphere.
“My cuisine is like plunging into the Mediterranean.”
Maître de Maison – Gérald Passédat
The story of Le Petit Nice dates back one hundred years to 1917. Germain Passédat (Gérald Passédat’s grandfather) was in the right place (working at his nearby bar) at the right time. The story goes that he overheard a conversation that the owner of the Villa Corinthe had via the bar’s telephone. Her discussion with her notaire related to the sale of the majestic property. Germain seized the opportunity and raised funds needed for the real estate transaction. He renamed the villa “Le Petit Nice” as the littoral reminded Germain of the Côte d’Azur.
The transition to Germain’s son began in 1954 when Jean-Paul took over the operations of the hotel and restaurant. During the 1960s Le Petit Nice transformed into a luxury boutique hotel and upscale dining room. Jean-Paul’s kitchen was awarded its first Michelin star in 1977 with the second following close behind in 1981.
Meanwhile, Gérald Passédat having determined that gastronomy was his career path as well, toiled in some of France’s famous kitchens. His training at gourmet establishments included Le Coq Hardi in Bougival, Le Bristol and Le Crillon in Paris, and Troisgros in Roanne. Gérald worked alongside his father in the kitchen at Le Petit Nice 1984-2000. In 2008, Michelin awarded the restaurant its third star.
By 2015, the nine guest rooms in the original part of the hotel needed remodelling. Walls were removed creating volume and comfortable king-sized beds arranged to take advance of seaside vistas. The result is a contemporary feel with modern fixtures and finishes. Read the full story on the updates here.
À travers l’hôtel comme mes assiettes, se transmet l’émotion avec simplicité et subtilité; pas de superflue mais plutôt confort et générosité. Les chambres sont ouvertes sur la lumière et la mer et c’est ce que recherchent les Hôtes quand ils choisissent Le Petit Nice. Je décrit son hôtel comme une auberge marine.
The chef’s goal is to transmit comfort, generosity and simplicity through the menu and the light-filled accommodation. He describes Le Petit Nice as a marine inn.
As the sun sets behind les Îles du Frioul, we head down for an aperitif and dinner. The last time we ate in this dining room was in 2011. It was a memorable experience. Would the centennial year be different?
One hundred years and three generations is an accomplishment for any business. However, in a commercial kitchen where the Michelin Guide reputation hangs in the air, this is a remarkable achievement. On any given night when the 45-person dining room is full, that translates into roughly some 500 plates, not to mention cutlery and glasses.
The pleasant weather allowed for aperitif service on the terrace in the dying summer light. A glass of dry pink champagne (Passédat labelled) accompanied a selection of “chips” made with fish skin and a tuna sampler. By this time, the local fishermen had staked out their spots on the rocky shoreline. Dodging sharp rocks and the odd breaking wave they fished with headlamps to attract the fish. We watched the light show as we ate (and sipped) our way through the nine-course “Menu Passédat.” Each course expertly paired with wines from France chosen by the sommelier.
From start to finish the meal was an expression of the chef’s creative talent and respect for fresh, local ingredients. Our top picks included the chef’s signature Loup de Palangre Lucie Passédat (named after his grandmother) and the Daurade in Wild Fennel Sauce. The cheese tray is a “tour de France.” Dessert fan or not the delectable combination of sweet fig and tart lemon in a jelly roll shape will convert even the most reluctant sweet tooth. The tray of tiny “mignardises” sweets signalled the end of our four-hour dinner. It was a culinary time-lapse.
Breakfast is served either in your room or a generous buffet in the 1917 bar. We enjoyed our coffee overlooking the sea and spent our last few minutes at Le Petit Nice in the company of the hotel’s adorable dog Léonce.
Le but? Un hôtel et une cuisine 100 % Méditerranée
A hotel and its cuisine 100% Mediterranean.
A visit to Le Petit Nice is a celebration. Perhaps it is for a special occasion (birthday, anniversary). Or, just because you need an azure point of view. In just three-hours from Paris, on the TGV, this is the perfect escape for a short seaside break any time of year.
Le Petit Nice
Anse de Maldormé
Corniche J.F. Kennedy
13007 – Marseille
Tel. : +33 (0) 4 91 592 592
Image credits: photos provided by and published with the permission of le Petit Nice
*We were guests of le Petit Nice the opinions are our own.