“Keep going straight until you can’t take it anymore. You will reach a very small village; it is as if it were the last village before reaching the end of the world. The earth stops. And then it’s the sea,” says Pierre, the taxi driver who came to pick me up at Marseille station. As we speed along the steep coast south of France’s second largest city, he tells me a bit about Les Goudes, where I’m headed, which is a district of Marseille nestled in the Calanques National Park, a huge rocky expanse dotted with coves that stretches 200 square miles along the sea.
We stop in front of the village of Les Goudes in front of a small glass door with pastel pink lettering indicating that I have reached the Tuba Club, the restaurant with rooms that has become a must for affluent travelers since its opening in the summer of 2020. The small shingle building is capped with a corrugated roof like the icing on a cake. Inside, there’s a beach mural by Emmanuelle Luciani of Southway Studio, descending the stairs, where I come across Greg Gassa, the owner, and his team handing over the restaurant just before the lunchtime rush.
As I shake her hand, midday sunlight streams into the room, streaming through huge rectangular windows that span the length of the restaurant and overlook the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. The fishing boats go up and down on the water before returning to one of the small ports nestled in one of the coves of the creeks.
Sometimes they stop at the end of the rocky outcrop in front of the restaurant to sell their catch to the new resident chefs of the season, Sylvain Roucayrol, the chef of the Caché and Amagat restaurants in Paris, and Paul-Henri Bayart, who exchanged the stock buys an apron and a kitchen knife, trains as a chef and lands in Caché, where he meets Sylvain. Now the two are putting the Tuba Club on the culinary map thanks to their menu of well-sourced local fish and vegetables. “The type of cuisine we do is mainly focused on fresh fish, so when Greg offered us to come and do a season in Tuba, by the sea, with all the wonderful products around, it made perfect sense”, explains Sylvain in a subtle way. , sweet Perpignan accent, sipping sparkling water before settling in the kitchen.
Outside on the terrace overlooking the sea, the cheerful crew of staff in dazzling white Tuba-stamped t-shirts lay out the yellow cabana-striped mattresses on the rocks already warm from the midday sun and line tables along the way. along the water attached by smart cream fringed umbrellas.
This may be Tuba’s third summer, but it’s their first real season. “When we first opened, we had to close almost immediately due to Covid,” says Greg, shaking his head, leaning against a wall, staring out to sea through round black-rimmed glasses. “Then last summer we weren’t really able to operate the way we wanted due to the restrictions, so this season is technically our first real one, and we can’t wait!”
Greg rushes in and out of the restaurant, his long, flowing brown hair flying behind him, a tall, lanky figure dressed in denim, he’s instantly recognizable and knows how to put people at ease. “I’ve traveled all over and worked in the fashion industry,” he says. “But I wanted to come back to Marseille, where my parents are from and where I spent part of my childhood and create a place of friends by friends.”
A former diving school where divers hung up their fins for the night before heading out to sea in the morning, the building sat empty for years before Greg discovered it. With the help of Marseille-based designer Marion Mailaender, who is currently on the rise, he has transformed the building into five cabin-like rooms with quirky details inspired by the modernist beach huts of Eileen Gray and Le Corbusier in Roquebrune-Cap. -Martin, who strike somewhere between genius and brilliant. The result is a restaurant with rooms that feel like they’ve always been there, just the way they are.
“We actually came here for the first time to visit the condo above the dive club,” Greg says, pointing to the building with wires sticking out from the front as workers put the finishing touches on what will be Tuba’s Sunset Terrace and three huge suites with grand views of nothing but sea and sky, slated to open in the fall. “But it was too expensive. The owner of the condo who told us that the old diving club here was for sale. We bought it right away. And a year later he sold us his apartment. “
Outside on the rocks, resident and non-resident patrons settle on mattresses, ice cubes clink in chilled glasses of rosé, and aromas of grilled fish waft through the air tinged with the scent of sunscreen, m attracting me to sit at a table. at the water’s edge.
The chefs serve huge platters of raw vegetables picked from nearby gardens and prepare the fish in so many wonderful ways that I lose count. But the one that sticks out in my mind is the tender raw sea bass sashimi rolled in its skin like fish scales, which is also Sylvain’s signature at Caché at his Paris headquarters. Don’t forget to also order the grilled fish and Provençal calamari or just fried with smoked harissa, a nod to Marseille’s mixed heritage. Don’t miss the chefs’ churros with local cookies and light homemade ice cream like gelato with vanilla, lavender and lemon toppings, to finish.
Take a lunch nap lying on a yellow mattress by the water’s edge between dips in the brisk swirling waters you can jump into from the rocks or slide down from what has to be the most photogenic ladder to ever exist , clinging to the rocks, curves in the turquoise Mediterranean sea. Stay for aperitif hour and sit at a table on the rooftop terrace for cocktails and hearty local dishes focaccia bread with a trio of hot sauces and local olives in time for sunset.
After the sun goes down, you can have a drink and dine in the restaurant or in the village of Les Goudes, which has a handful of excellent options. As there is no music in Tuba, the place is calm, the chatter punctuated by the rise and fall of the waves below. At night, there’s a splash of stars overhead, gazing out through windows that overlook the rocks and sea from the comfort of the inflatable beds in one of Tuba’s five bedrooms.
The magic of designer Marion Mailaender works everywhere. Wood paneling is reminiscent of sea-worn boat hulls and cabins straight out of the 1988 film The big Blue. Vintage Goudes postcards, books on diving, seashells, and playful ceramic light fixtures found at flea markets bring warmth and character to spaces that feel personal but not cluttered. Old masks and snorkels hang from blue metal “Pipe” hooks by artist Elvire Bonduelle, and thick twisted boat ropes line the walls as baseboards. Choose bedroom three for space and a little corner of your own on the terrace or bedroom four for peace away from the hubbub of the restaurant.
The next day, I wake up to the sun pushing towards the horizon through a sky of faded electric pinks before it turns into its usual bright cobalt blue. Early morning or evening are the best times to explore the surroundings, which are usually scorching midday. I wanted to see the taxi driver Pierre talking about the “end of the world”, so I put on my shoelaces and went out. The road forks and a car zooms past with the girls’ hands through the rolled-down windows bellowing the lyrics to the Whitney Houston classic I want to dance with someone (who loves me).
In all its Polaroid filter-tinted color palette glory, there’s something about the simplicity of life and closeness to nature here at Les Goudes and Tuba Club that makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time, which is both comforting and refreshing. .
I follow the car to the village of Les Goudes, which skirts a small port before meandering around a huge mountain overlooking the sea, its rock face blackened and weathered by the wind giving it the impression of melting in the sun. Accessible only by boat on its own island, birds circle its rugged peaks before resting in the ruined church and cemetery built to one side. Pedestrian paths criss-cross the surrounding rocks, up to the summits from where you can admire the neighboring islands scattered in the sea.
I make my way along a narrow path carved into a rock that leads to Cap Croisette adjacent to a small sheltered bay with a restaurant called Baie des Singes, which comes alive in season and is known for hosting loud parties. at its peak . When I visit, the restaurant has yet to open for the season, and the small, irregular cluster of beach houses that surround it appear uninhabited except for a few earth-colored clothes drying on a clothesline, giving the area an alluring desert atmosphere. accentuated by gales and swirling gray clouds. A handful of locals walk their dogs or sit with a beer on the rocks while they wait for the sun to set. When I pass them, they greet me with a nod and a smile, the one that says they know they’re onto a good thing here in this quiet corner of Marseille.