Many gastronomes would argue that it is difficult to find either an excellent or authentic bouillabaisse. However, it is such a distinctive dish and so different to anything in British cuisine that even trying a passable version of the dish is an experience not to be missed when you are visiting the south of France.


The origin of the dish is the stuff of legends and the debate over what constitutes a real bouillabaisse grew so fierce that a group of local restaurateurs drew up the Marseille Bouillabaisse Charter in the 1980s, codifying the ingredients and preparation allowed.

It is widely accepted that bouillabaisse was originally a stew made by Marseille fishermen using the bony rockfish which they were unable to sell to restaurants or markets. Now it’s made from any type of fish that’s available. Therefore, at its heart it is a simple family dish that has been improved and modified over the years to the point that today some bouillabaisse include shellfish.


According to the Marseille Tourist Board it should be served in two different dishes, with the fish in one and the soup or broth in the other. The fish and the soup may be served together or separately, according to individual tastes. However, the fish must be prepared for eating when the guests are at table. The dish is accompanied by rouille (mayonnaise with chilli and red pepper) or aioli (garlic mayonnaise) as well as croutons rubbed with garlic.

The key to success

Freshness is the key and many restaurants will only accept orders a day or so in advance. Which gives you plenty of time to anticipate enjoying the dish.

If you want to try and make your own bouillabaisse either at home or in your holiday villa, here is just one recipe to have a look at. This is from the esteemed Mary Berry Bouillabaisse recipe .

If you’re thinking of travelling to Marseille or the South of France, here’s our latest Travel Guide to the region.

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