Taste of Marrakech
Delegates attending the 24th ESCRS Winter Meeting in Marrakech can look forward to some marvellous meals
Mezze salads at Le Trou Au Mur restaurant, Marrakech. Image courtesy of Courtesy of www.secondhalftravels.com
Getting ready for Marrakech? In addition to experiencing a range of exotic sights and sounds, you can anticipate some memorable tastes as well. Start with breakfast. Of course, you could choose to have a continental breakfast of croissant, juice and coffee. But at least once, experience a classic Moroccan breakfast based on bread – several kinds of bread – served with honey, fruit, goat cheese and sometimes a runny egg and olives. Add a semolina pancake, enjoy an orange juice and mint tea. You won’t have to eat again until dinner.
If you should want lunch, however, visit the Amal Center, a non-profit association that offers paid internships, literacy programmes and culinary training to disadvantaged women. The restaurant is one of the main fundraising initiatives of this worthy foundation. The menu features less common Moroccan dishes such as fish balls, Moroccan tortilla and calamari salad. Payment is by cash only. Details and booking at amalnonprofit.org Open daily 12pm-4pm.
Dinner time is where the Moroccan table really shines. Candles on the table and stars in the sky add the glitter; the Moroccan cuisine does the rest. If you’re ready for a top-of-the-line experience at top-of-the-line prices, you are ready for the famous Le Jardin at the Royal Mansour. Chef Yannick Alléno, who has two three-starred Michelin restaurants to his name, offers sharing plates that include fish and slow-roasted meats along with ‘fire-cooked’ plates such as fried eggplant with orange-blossom honey and picanha beef. royalmansour.com Open daily, reservations essential.
For an excellent meal on a more casual level, one of the best addresses in Marrakech is a restaurant called Le Trou Au Mur; this particular ‘hole in the wall’ is attractively decorated with local crafts and modern furniture and is located in a small riad in the medina. Choose a table in the air-conditioned restaurant or on the rooftop terrace. Specialities include mechouai – slow-roasted leg of lamb prepared in their clay oven – and ‘family recipes’ as well as the usual tagines and couscous. Closed Tuesday. The website is letrouaumur.com
For a meal that skilfully combines the tastes of East and West, book a table at La Palette Restaurant. In this attractive contemporary setting, a very accomplished young chef pulls out all the stops to ensure you have a meal to remember, whether you crave a simple steak or a Moroccan speciality. There’s a good wine cellar with a range of red and white Moroccan wines along with imported bottles. La Palette is located in the Gueliz area, not far from the huge shopping centre Carre Eden. The restaurant is closed Sunday. https://www.lapalette-restaurant.com/
3 To Note
Salads on hand for vegetarians, though watch out for stocky tagine
Although Moroccans in general may not understand vegetarianism, vegetarians won’t go hungry in Marrakech, especially if they like salads. Classic offerings include ’zaalouk’, made of eggplant, tomato and garlic, and Tk’touka: bell peppers, tomatoes and spices. Chopped cucumbers and tomatoes with a vinaigrette dressing will probably be available, too, along with lentils and white kidney beans in a tomato sauce. Hot main meals may include vegetarian tagine: potatoes, carrots, chickpeas, and onions or other vegetables in season and vegetarian couscous, made by steaming semolina above vegetables. However, know that both couscous and tagines are often cooked with meat stock and may simply have had the meat taken out to fill the ‘vegetarian’ order. Oil used in fried foods may have been used to cook meat.
Restricted but not prohibited
The licence to sell alcohol in Marrakech is prohibitively expensive; most smaller restaurants can’t afford it. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t serve it – a quiet request to the waiter, if you’re dining out of sight of passers-by, may result in the discreet appearance of wine or beer. While Muslims do not drink alcohol, allowance is made for the tastes of foreigners. Restaurants catering to tourists will usually serve both imported and locally produced wines. There’s a more restricted range of beers, but cocktails and ‘mixology’ flourish. There are a couple of cocktail bars in Marrakech, the first and most famous being Le Baromètre in Gueliz. Dinner (and tapas) served every evening except Sunday, reservations advised at +212 5243-79012. No website.
Bring a taste of Morocco home to your friends and family
Proof that visitors to Marrakech find the tastes and smells of local food irresistible can be found in the number of cooking schools that flourish in the city. Invest a couple of hours learning to recreate something you’ve enjoyed and you have a souvenir that will give pleasure to yourself and those at your kitchen table. The Viator listing of cooking courses offers a remarkable 62 choices; some include shopping for the ingredients, others entail a day out of the city. Any of one of them provides a great introduction to the spices and skills intrinsic to Moroccan cuisine. Browse the list https://www.viator.com/Marrakech-tours/Cooking-Classes/d5408-g6-c19