Perestrello Geller reviews the Mange Tout restaurant in the Calanque de Mejean
Living in the south of France can breed complacency. Pretty village squares that draw gasps of joyous admiration from tourists can become every day. Beauty is everywhere so it begins to go unnoticed. Then, once in a while, I discover a place that reminds me how fortunate I am.
The Mange Tout restaurant is located in the Calanque de Mejean. Mejean, together with Anthenors and Figuieres, form a collection of relatively unknown Calanques. They are reachable by road (just) and squeezed in between Carry Le Rouet and the L’Estaque quarter of Marseille.
The restaurant sits perhaps 10 metres from the water’s edge. Boats float at anchor, fishermen mend their nets, scuba lovers prepare for their next dive. High overhead the blue sky is visible through the arches of the railway viaduct that straddles the cliffs. All around the restaurant village houses huddle against the rocks. Their facades and fences are weather worn. Doors are left open. The light is clear, the air is warm and scented with pine and salt. The overwhelming sensation is one of retreat and release. It’s a feeling I associate with small Mediterranean islands. The modern world might as well not exist.
Some misguided souls on Trip Advisor have whinged about the lack of choice on the Mange Tout menu without realising that this lack of choice is the heart of the restaurant. The Mange Tout serves fish, battered and fried in hot oil as a starter and grilled fresh from the sea as a main course. For those averse to seafood, but still keen to sample the unique ambiance there are a couple of salads to choose from. The décor is one level above beach shack. Old plastic tables and chairs and an inside outside terrace open on all sides to the elements. Most diners sit side by side looking out to sea.
I ate deep fried squid. The batter was light and crunchy, the squid deliciously fresh. The starter was served with a garlic and parsley dip and plenty of lemon. I drank wine by the glass, and looked out to sea, thanking my good fortune with every mouthful. The main course was griddled seabass, served with rice and fried peppers. Admittedly so much of taste is about the surroundings, but I cannot remember having eaten a nicer piece of fish.
And the great thing is the Mange Tout remains a relatively unknown place. It was the beginning of June when I had my lunch. I parked my car 50 metres from the restaurant, ate in the company of perhaps ten or so other people, who sat at tables well away from my own. Experiences like this on the crowded Mediterranean coast are not supposed to exist anymore. What’s more the Mange Tout is only 25 minutes from Marseille airport. What better way to start or end a holiday than lunch in such a place.