Abaco (April 2010)

Video/Food Matching in Marseille

This months show is a tribute to my favourite neighbourhood restaurant in Marseille, Abaco. Abaco was recommended to me by the proprietor of the Hotel Richelieu, just around the corner, which has wonderful views of the Chateau d’If. It is in the area known as Catalans, the inlet where Catalans landed their goods in Marseille. What makes Abaco so distinctive is the combination of the friendly easy-going character of the place “le Patron trés professionnel offre un accueil charmant.”, and the fact that they play great music. I complimented them on it and promised I would do a mix. So lets kick off with that FIP-like opener from Le Fil by Camille, official video here but this is live. Ta Douleur;

Camille was part of the rotating vocalist roster in Nouvelle Vague, who have the single best name of any group ever, clearly the result of an all night drinking game of puns. Nouvelle Vague, French for New Wave, take English New Wave songs, like Love Will Tear Us Apart, and play them in a Bossa Nova style; Brasilian for New Wave. Une Nouvelle Vague ménage à trois; and it works. This even has a filmically Nouvelle Vague inspired video too (ménage à quatre?) Dance With Me

So some good chill-out music whilst we sip Pastis “l’aperitif traditionelle” at the patrons suggestion, but enough of recent French history this is Phoenix, and the best French Pop album from 2009 Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, with 1901, celebrating when France was the worlds most modern country and lead the world in Aviation thanks to the Aero Club, which begat the Paris Air Show. The Wright brothers had to go to Paris before the Aero-Club de France, and thus the rest of the world, recognised their achievements in 1908. Prove yourself in Paris, but enjoy yourself in Marseille. 1901;

But this is Marseille right? Home of the Marseillaise? Very different to Paris en effet. Actually the warmth of the locals is what differentiates this French cultural capital to the political one. So lets leave it to Serge Gainsbourg to render the National Anthem both contemporary and shocking thirty years ago whilst we read the menu. Serge is slightly over-rated by the French, but massively under-rated by the rest of us; it’s all in the lyric. Here is his dub-version of the Aux Armes Et Cetera using the full lyric of La Marseillaise. Banned at the time and loathed by M. le President, but Serge won the legal battles. Celebrating independence, Reggae Aux Armes Et Caetera;

So can we make Gainsbourg contemporary? What does the chef think? Oh Charlotte Gainsbourg, his daughter has just made an album with Beck. I love Beck, and who can resist an American in Marseille? Actually her collaboration with Air, 5.55 definitely comes over better in Abaco. So here is an interview with chef Fred Latour explaining why he would like you to come to Abaco as you are. Tel que tu es‘ 

It is a Tropical Truth that Gainsbourg is highly respected in Brasil, and my favourite Brasilian artist is Seu Jorge (also a fan of Brasilian Aviator Santos Dumont). The raw Cru features Chatterton but this is a terrific, and better, live version made with the “Brasilian Madonna” Ana Carolina. Du Pain enfin! Pas de couvert at Abaco but Ana and Jorge definitely use Serge’s moodiness to play with the audience on their cover of Chatterton;

The Camargue is just up the Road (the A7) from Marseille and is famous for many things, including its Salt (Fleur de Sel)  which is on the table. The Camargue is also the home to the Gypsy Kings who, despite their global leisure hit Bamoboleo, are a Roots band with an authentic local family (Reyes) tradition. They produced a classic album Roots which reflects Camargue traditions far more than their hits; they will serenade us whilst we place our order.  Here comes the waiter as we clap hands to Fandango;

Hmm time for our starters, only they are mostly cheese this month, Reblochon and Saint Marcellin, or truffle-drizzled Provencal mesclun salad; mostly seafood when I last visited. As we are in Catalans I will keep the Spanish musical thread going. Abaco is a Mediterranean restaurant taking inspiration from its various coastal regions, Latin, North African, Middle Eastern, as well as a strong focus on sourcing locally from Provence. So here with a whirlwind of emotions celebrating the Dover Sole we didn’t order are Ojos de Brujo with the flamenco hip-hop of Tiempo de Solea;

I am always happy to wait between courses once I know my order is in and I know the chef is aware of my very own, very select, choices! Time to sip some local wine between courses then, Bandol is the premium wine of choice down here, although all local Provencal wines are served with seriously cheerful pride, Rose more often than not, and most notably in the bottles based on the design of the Romans. Lets take that Hispanic vibe way down into chill mode between the courses with Bebe and Siempre me Quedara;

So from the Raw to the Cooked, time for a steak? If you know you want a steak before coming out then perhaps in Marseille the formula restaurant of the Entrecote de Port works best, but here it is a stonking Filet de Bœuf (sauce foie gras).  Of course if you really are serious about steak you cannot beat the Pampas Argentinas and luckily for us Gotan Project are a Franco-Argentinian collective (YA! BASTA!) who make delightful mood-music for steak lovers, take Notas;

Fortunately the wine regions nearby are not only strong on Terroir (check Mondovino) but also are the last great region growing the Mourvedre grape. The Tablas Creek Vineyard also specialises in Mourvedre but good Bandol reds really celebrate this earthy wine. Like Pinot Noir it flourishes in sea-breezes and fortunately Bandol really is a fishing village with, like you know, just a Cannes-sized marina nearby, nothing flash… And in keeping with the colour the wines are bloody pricey too. So in tribute to this bi-cultural grape lets play something from the multi-cultural Lhasa; from Montreal but she lived in Marseille looking for inspiration for her second album. Needless to say, she found it, but it’s not quite the same, Anywhere On This Road;

Phoenician Marseille of course is famously multi-cultural and has been for 2,600 years, even before Zoroaster and Confucius issued their grand pensees. Abaco serves a “Sole entière au four à l’encre” (Solea Solea) not unlike the whole fish fisherman would have cooked here throughout history. And having identified an ancient Mediterranean and multi-cultural dish, baked fish, lets play something Rai, something French, something multicultural, something massive and one of my favourite songs in French, Aicha, Cheb Khaled’s loving paean to his growing daughter rendered live with Faudel, Taha and, to spine-tingling effect on the chorus, a cast of thousands. Aicha;

Fish in Marseille usually comes from the Fish Market in Quai de Port but there are also many inlets, such as Malmousque, along the Corniche, home to the words longest bench, where various fisherman land their catch. Here is Delphines tour of the Corniche and Malmousque, ending back on the Vieux Port. Notice how she recommends Chez Fonfon in Vallons Des Auffes, Keith Floyds favourite fish restaurant in Marseille! Le Cheek!! Still we don’t have to choose fish in Bouillabaisse City. Choose life and go for the fusion dish. One of the main course options, which I have ordered, is porc in a sweet and sour sauce, with Soba noodles and chopsticks. Rachid Taha has made a career based on fusion and here is his post 9/11 re-appropriation of The Clash served up as his own Algerian Arabic fusion dish of Rock The Casbah

As is often the case in Marseille risotto is offered as a main course, “Risotto aux champignons et parmesan” this time. Being close to Italy it is always based on Arborio rice, or exceptionally Carnolli. Abaco always serve it up appropriately moist and flavoursomely topped with Parmigiano, another very Latinate slant on the regional cuisine. Whilst lip-lickingly tasty this is light and fresh as a main course so we should serve it up with Youssor N’Dour’s breezy and optimistic La Femme est l’avenir;

Let’s take a break between courses, and the chance to get you up to speed on Marseille. Good article on the Marseille music scene, which I know little about, with key five tracks embedded in this New York Times article. One of the tracks is Bouga with Belsunce Breakdown, Belsunce is a part of Marseille and the song is a tribute to their quartier, situated behind the Bourse, north of La Canebiere. The video is kind of a day in the life in Marseille and I recognise most of the places, Nouailles, Le Panier, La Canebiere, La Bourse, Le Vieux Port, Notre Dame de la Garde, so it is a pretty good intro to the heart of the city around the harbour. Malheuresement pas d’Abaco, mais je connais la Place de lenche où Bouga mange son repas. Belsunce Breakdown;

And so, Inch’allah, to dessert. I usually quit after two courses and politely accept the dessert menu; Always fatal! The desserts have real character at Abaco, layered and sharp and sweet. Bill Buford in Fat Man In A White Hat, quite brilliant on BBC4, nails the contribution of France to cuisine as lying in the ability to work sugar endlessly into previously unknown pleasures. It’s not the rich sauces of l’Escoffier (as sauces are really designed to hide bad produce). So leaving the table at a French Restaurant before dessert kind of misses the point, if good for your weight. Let’s hope that MC Solaar adds to your enjoyment of spun sugar, Inch’allah 


You know Abaco are serious about dessert as they serve the cheeses as starters! Well you can’t fail with Chocolat Fondant, but add in black pepper and green teas into the mix and you get a mashup of a dessert; sweet, sharp and cloying yet refreshing. The wonderful Tunng provide a delicious mashup of Taraf de Haidouks with an equally welcoming aural mix of folktronica and Balkan Beats, Homecoming;

Their “Gratin aux agrumes et dragées” really spins out this sugared tradition and is truly a sweet thing of sharpness and grace, so here is JJ Cale to serenade you through its raptures, as the delectation of “the best I ever had” drives you mad. Magnolia;

Eh bien, un cafe, un digestif, du chocolat et l’addition; as we ease back at the end of the meal. Absolute stillness can set in whilst you await le cafe et les petit fours, and JJ Cale is so horizontal it seems impossible to lay back any more. But in the meantime you can read le livre d’or of customer testimonials and think of nothing more than your replete satisfaction. Then lazily consider Madelaine Peyroux’s advice to slide through life on charm Between The Bars

Et le fin, payer et departer vers sa chambre. JJ Cale is one laid back hombre but Brasil as a nation, with the possible exception of world mega-city Sao Paulo, is even more laid back than he. So here, still keeping it mellow, is CeU with Lenda, with just enough of a beat behind the smiles and seductions to get us out the door, onto the Corniche and back home to listen to Radio Grenouille888, or this playlist on YouTube. Meanwhile slouching towards Malmousque with Lenda

These videos are available as a non-stop playlist on YouTube


7 Responses to “Abaco (April 2010)”

  1. Wow, April is great – Gotan Project is my favourite.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by 85086. 85086 said: Abaco (April 2010) Abaco (April 2010) http://bit.ly/byfwva via /85086.html […]

  3. This blog post – in fact this whole blog – makes me very, very happy.. thankyou Fred 🙂

  4. Thanks Helen, glad you like the whole blog and not just the French Post! People should check out your Blip TV channel;

  5. […] If you liked this post you might like the most popular post Abaco; food and video tasting in Marseille […]

  6. […] Abaco (April 2010) April 2010 5 comments 3 […]

  7. […] especially on the songs from The Living Road album like Anywhere on This Road, partly inspired by Marseille. Like many female artists however she is poorly served by the videos on YouTube, but this is both a […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: