Local guides

Where to eat in Marseillan: Harbourside shellfish and charcuterie in the home of Noilly Prat
Published 17 August 2022

Credit: Tarbouriech Le St Barth

The writer Debora Robertson moved to the French port of Marseillan in September 2021, having gone on holiday there for a decade. When a house she had long admired came up for sale, that was that, and Debora and her husband Séan moved to Marseillan permanently, leaving their frantic lives in London behind. Here, she picks out her favourite spots for shellfish, charcuterie and a glass or two of Noilly Prat.

Speak to the locals for long enough and someone will tell you, ‘Oh Marseillan, it’s like St. Tropez before Bardot’. This port village of 8,000 souls sits confidently on the Étang du Thau, a vast saltwater lagoon in the Hérault, where the Canal du Midi enters the Mediterranean. It is a place built on shellfish and wine, and the visitors who are drawn to them. Those who stay take on a certain douceur de vie, and there is a feeling of bustling prosperity.

Unsurprisingly, many of the restaurants focus on seafood: often their own oysters and mussels grown on ropes suspended from a grid of tables in the Grade A waters of the lagoon.

Credit: Tarbouriech Le St Barth

A ten-minute walk from the centre of Marseillan brings you to La Cabane, a small shack with tables on the edge of the water. Oysters, mussels - raw and cooked - and bread and butter is the extent of the menu, along with brasucade, the traditional Languedocien dish of mussels cooked over vine wood (though at La Cabane they use beech) with herbs, lemon and olive oil. Each restaurant has their own version, and this is one of the best.

Further along the Etang is Tarbouriech Le St Barth, a place that ticks every box on the understated-chic beach restaurant checklist (lampshades made from oyster boxes, oyster ropes adorning tables, driftwood everywhere). In summer, it’s filled with white-trousered and espadrilled Parisians, devouring mountainous platters of fruits de mer, followed by artisan ice creams out of paper tubs. On the road to Mèze, Dégus Thau is another place on the water, but this one has aspirations to do things a little differently: grilled mussels with chorizo, fennel and cream; fried oysters ('nuggets') with squid ink; and their own, award-winning Moana oysters with soy sauce and coriander.

Credit: Tarbouriech Le St Barth

Back in the village, Delicatessen, is a sort of South of France version of a Dalston hangout. Outside, 1950s tables sit in the shade of the church walls; the interior looks like an explosion in a brocante, with vintage posters all over the walls. There’s no wine list – you pick mostly local varieties from a shelf by the door, and the prices are scribbled on the labels. There’s every chance you might meet the wine maker at the bar, too. Expect burgers, salads, shellfish, steak tartare, daubes, local cheeses and charcuterie…you know the drill.

Marseillan is the home of Noilly Prat vermouth, so make time to do a tour of the chais and try a cocktail in their cool, elegant courtyard. On a hot day, the Long Dry (Noilly Prat Dry, Bombay gin, St Germain liqueur, lime, cucumber and raspberries) is highly recommended.

Credit: Noilly Prat

On Tuesdays, market day, the village congregates on the loud, friendly terrace of the Marine Bar. The bar doesn’t serve food, so the hungry buy platters of oysters from Jade Coquillages, plates of cheese from La Fromagerie Philippe in the halles, or charcuterie from Le Cochon Gourmand – all of these are steps away from the bar - to enjoy with their breakfast rosé or pression.

- Debora Robertson