Hidden in the sunlit backstreets of Marseille in southern France, restaurant AM par Alexandre Mazzia has undoubtedly been a key player in the revival of the city’s culinary scene. Since opening in 2014, the restaurant has won many national accolades, but now, as this year’s winner of the American Express One To Watch Award, chef Alexandre Mazzia’s eponymous venue is propelling the metropolis onto the global stage.
Primarily a fish- and vegetable-led restaurant, AM’s dishes encapsulate global influences, including textures and flavours inspired by African cuisine. Having lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo until the age of 14, Mazzia’s offering is often mimetic of a childhood spent on the Côte Sauvage. The aromas of burnt woodsmoke, spices and shellfish permeate the kitchen where myriad masterpieces are plated, such as courgette flowers in a green satay and saffron beurre blanc with crystallised seaweed and bottarga.
Presiding over a dining room with only 22 seats, Mazzia is able to cast a watchful eye over every dish that leaves the pass – but it’s a pressure to which he is acclimatised, thanks to a youth spent playing national basketball. The menu continually changes according to the day’s catch from the local harbour and the farmers market’s delivery, so diners are always kept on their toes and even guests at the same table may enjoy different gastronomic experiences. The day’s selection is presented as a boarding pass, allowing guests to decide between a short, medium or long meal, but other than that, you’re in Mazzia’s capable hands.
Taking a holistic approach to restaurant dining, Mazzia sees his courses as ‘sequences’ – tastes that take you on an emotional journey. Within each sequence are a multitude of ‘frequencies’, or elements that incorporate the vision of the chef. Within no time at all, the table groans with a delicious array of small plates, which, if you’re lucky enough, might include the closest thing the restaurant has to a signature dish: a distinctive combination of smoked eel with chocolate.
The bar overlooking the open kitchen hints at AM’s other focus: the pairings. True to enigmatic form, Mazzia doesn’t offer the classic options that one might expect of a three-Michelin-starred venue. The beverages, which encompass everything from sake, champagne and a full-bodied list of French wine, are characterised as ‘bridges’ to the flavours on the plate.
AM par Alexandre Mazzia will officially become part of the 50 Best family in July as the chef will receive the American Express One To Watch accolade on behalf of the restaurant at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 awards ceremony in London.
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Discover more about the previous award winners