The Grain de Sable is located on the Rue de Baignoir, which runs under the Sky Bridge of the Alcazar Public Library of Marseille, near the Vieux Port. The clients at this great brunch spot are as local as they are, and they mainly come from the library itself, particularly the 400-employee media center. Clients who come to Grain de Sable from far away hear about de bouche à oreille (by word of mouth) and find a way to commute across town from work to enjoy an organic midday meal. For visitors, this restaurant offers a simple, healthy and innovative meal as a welcome take out from the rich food served in many of Marseille’s restaurants. And the
We passed the quaint line of tables outside the Grain de Sable, and took one inside for the best of both worlds, with views of the guests, the street scene, and the interior of this quaint little restaurant. Brilliantly decorated in watermelon blue and yellow, with a metallic pink staircase and mezzanine, the interior is both tidy and comfortable, with hardwood floors, small lights, white trunk seats and cushions in the back, classic wooden bistro tables and chairs and warm lamps.
At a table beside us, lit by the yellow light of a floor lamp, a nice-looking man and woman sat quietly talking. He wore a dress shirt and trousers, knee-high sneakers, bordeaux knit socks, and matching loafers. With him the older woman wore a silver dress, a beautiful dress, pantyhose, and taupe suede loafers. They didn’t look like they were working in the library, but just got out of the storybook. The chefs later noticed that from their downtown location, they welcome all kinds of people.
Owners Hana and Benjamin acquired Grain de Sable three years ago (the restaurant was first established in 2000), and has maintained its name and reputation for serving simple creations using fresh, organic produce, with vegan and gluten-free options. We saw, through the widows’ back wall, Benjamin preparing orders in the kitchen. The two cook together starting at 7 a.m. each morning, and Hana also serves and manages the side table, where she prepares drinks and freshly squeezed panachéssmoothies. Since they have many regulars, they change the menu weekly, choosing dessert more often. The menu includes four medium-sized dishes, a poke bowl (with the option to add chicken or salmon), a choice of desserts, and a gourmand café (espresso with mini pastries). Depending on the number of dishes one orders, the cost of a meal varies from 10 to 21.50 euros; Formula Grande, 3 course plus desert, priced at €20.
We each order three dishes, a dessert and a wine that covers most of the menu. This delicious “green” soup contains beans, squash, peas, and parsley cooked to smooth perfection. It reminded me of the monochrome salads I used to make with my son occasionally, which if green, could include kiwi, zucchini, arugula, and mint, with green peppers in the sauce. In fact, the Grain de Sable, with its fun menu and flavors with excitement, is very kid-friendly, and fit for a nice culinary adventure. The restaurant even has colored pencils and small soft toys.
However, Mellow may not be the best word to describe the experience of each dish at Grain de Sable. We all ordered the satisfying cannelloni stuffed with grilled eggplant, gorgonzola, and tomato sauce simmered in lemon thyme. We also tried dahl (an Indian lentil-based dish), which was cooked with fennel, coconut milk and fried onions, and served over basmati rice scented with fresh coriander and roasted caramelized almonds. It was spicy hot, a delicious spin on the classic, and a pleasant surprise in France, where most of the world’s spicy cuisines tend to lower the temperature of their offerings.
Both Hannah and Benjamin led their careers as chefs across France before they met in Bandol, moved to Marseille, and took over the management of the Grain de Sable. Hannah points out that their mobile experiences have an advantage over classic careers, or culinary school followed by traditional French kitchens: they have gained in various culinary, management, and life experiences. Both had formal training, and Benjamin also traveled the world in private. He cooked in Thailand, Guadeloupe, Switzerland, Belgium and Australia, before deciding to return from Australia and live in the south of France forever, now with his partner Hana.
They buy vegetables and fruits from PPL and Plateforme Paysanne Locale (the local farmers’ platform), Asian ingredients from Tam-Ky at Noaille Market, and Mediterranean ingredients from Anahit, a nearby Armenian grocery. When Benjamin was asked about their audacity to handle spices in certain dishes, he joked that he didn’t care about it, and cooked what he was confident would be delicious, high-quality food. fair enough. But then again, Marseille is a Mediterranean, African and Moorish city, with recent waves of young people from all over France and Europe, so the numbers of those who might appreciate some spicy food are likely to increase. The tide has turned in Marseille, and the Epicurean sprawl of France’s second city varies every month.
Posted on October 28, 2022
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