A decade ago, restaurants in Marrakech served up perfumed fruit bowls, dry tanginess and soupy couscous amid manic drummers and jiggly belly dancers; the dancers were much better than the food ever was. Dining for tourists was confined to public places and expatriate restaurants. If you really wanted an authentic Moroccan meal, the best chefs were the “dada’s” female home cooks who stayed behind the closed doors of their kitchens. Today’s Morocco has seen these doors open and a number of restaurants and hotels are featuring food cooked by dada’s on their menus. The result is great dining options of soulful Moroccan cuisine for locals and tourists looking for a great break to Marrakech.
Lunch Al Fresco
A day in Marrakech is usually spent prowling the souk, until hunger pangs or sun stroke dictate that you stop. Kamal Laftimi opened Café des Epices right in the middle of the souk. The café’s Diners are usually insiders who know their way through the maze that is the medina. The roof top café has big round wicker chandeliers and banquettes placed below ceiling vents to provide relief from the heat outside. The staff carries chalkboards with the day’s menu written on it. From couscous to crème brulee, there is an eclectic mix of food on offer. A few twists and turns away from café de Epices is Le Jardin. This is a performance space and café where you can watch movies at night projected on the walls. Try the chicken club sandwich for lunch
The couscous at Riad Ana Yela is a revelation. It is very difficult to find if you aren’t a local, so you will have to call ahead and reserve a table, and a guide to walk you to the entrance. Eat at the rooftop, or at “the flying carpet”; a pavilion that overlooks the Medina. Ana yela’s dada is called Khadija and dinner is whatever she buys that day at the market.
Moroccan Street Food
Djema el Fna the central square of the medina transforms every evening into a street food buffet. Numbered cooking stations and tables are set up as vendors light their grills to cook up a storm. For a truly enjoyable experience, follow one basic rule, avoid the stalls crowded with tourists. Instead, head to the stalls that attract locals and make one or two dishes. One through six concentrates on bowls of fresh snails in a thyme broth that is to die for. Stall number 94, and the one facing him serves a great egg sandwich on fresh baked bread. A glass of orange juice here will also be the sweetest, pulpiest you’ve ever tasted. If you aren’t interested in authentic Moroccan cuisine, luxury resorts around Marrakech will offer you a wide array of continental fare. 10 minutes from Medina is La Mamouina a classic restaurant where Moroccan craftsmanship meets Parisian chic. The menu is heavily infused with European tastes. French chef Charles Bertrand’s Bistronomic lunch menu is worth the trip and their shepherd’s pie made with beef tail is the establishments’ strongest brassiere dish.