After arriving at Marseille airport during the events of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963), James Bond takes a taxi into the city. He strikes up a conversation with his driver, Marius, and the two get on well. Approaching the Vieux Port (Old Port), Bond asks whether the bouillabaisse chez Guido is always as good. Marius replies that it is passable, though laments that true bouillabaisse, which must include scorpion fish, rather than cod, is no more.
The passage tells us that Bond is familiar with Marseille and its restaurants – or at least one – and is partial to the city’s signature dish, bouillabaisse or fish stew.
Guido itself was a real restaurant and was situated in the Vieux Port on the Quai de Rive Neuve. The Michelin Guide (I happen to be looking at the 1958 edition) described Guido as a ‘restaurant élégant’ , whose speciality was ‘bouillabaisse des pécheurs à la rouille’. The restaurant was also known for its crayfish and beef, and among its wines were Cassis and Château-Minuty.
Ian Fleming may well have frequented the restaurant himself. We know that he visited Marseille in 1953 to report on Jacques Cousteau’s underwater excavation of two superimposed ancient wrecks, and indeed in one of his subsequent articles for the Sunday Times, Fleming writes of the harbour restaurants in the Vieux Port. His experiences may not have been entirely positive, though: he describes the harbour restaurants as being ‘miserable in quality’.
By the time Fleming came to write On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, his opinion had evidently changed, but only just!
For a recipe to make a bouillabaisse fit for James Bond, try my recipe in Licence to Cook.