Eating Abroad Morocco

Marrakech – A Food Tour

September 20, 2016

I looked up from the table and over at a certain someone. He had done the same thing as me: knife and fork down, paper napkin placed politely over his plate, hand reached out for another piece of bread. Even without words, I knew exactly what he was thinking as those same thoughts were bouncing around my head too. I’m not sure I can finish the rest of it, I still hate cumin, and whose bright idea was it to come to Morocco?

That was the first tagine we ate at the start of our visit to Morocco and it was such a disaster, it almost became our last. Where were the intense spices and aromas which were supposed to assault our senses? Not in the bowl in front of us, that we were certain. A friend with Moroccan heritage had warned me that the best food was probably served in people’s homes as the country doesn’t traditionally have a huge dining out culture, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised by our shaky start. 

Our first impressions of Moroccan cuisine weren’t great, but with nearly two more weeks of eating ahead, we were determined to work a little harder to find restaurants serving dishes which were more authentic than the tourist-focused slop in the main drags. We managed to unearth some gems in Fez, Rabat, and Essaouira and find dishes like harira and streetside grills, which made us rather happy and raised our opinion of Moroccan cuisine. By the time we arrived in Marrakech, our last stop, we were even ready to brave another tagine…


Al Fassia – Tagine Done Right

We almost didn’t make it to Al Fassia because I can’t be trusted with the map or directions, and it’s at the end of an arcade off a street which restaurants had no business being near. But in spite of the blistering afternoon heat, we persevered and were rewarded with entry into a calm, elegant dining room complete with cushy seats and crisp tablecloths. Al Fassia was recommended to us by our riad in Fez as they’re owned by the same people, but it’s extremely well-known for two things – its all female staff both in and out of the kitchen and the a la carte menu instead of the more common set menu.

The only downside I found with the menu is that it’s large; so many variations of tagine and couscous might be exciting for some, but it was daunting for me. We kept the ordering simple with the mixed kebab of chicken, lamb, and beef mince, and the beef tagine with caramelised onions and tomatoes. The tagine was a particular highlight as we finally enjoyed a richly spiced and well balanced between sweet and savoury rendition of the dish which was worth the detour for.


Cafe Clock – Casual in the Kasbah

There was only one reason we came to Cafe Clock: the camel burger. After facing several camel heads hanging out in the Medina souks, I couldn’t resist trying a bit of camel for myself and I thought in burger form would be the perfect entry-level introduction. While I can tick camel off my carnivore’s hit-list, I can’t say it was all that memorable as a meat – it was an all round good burger though! While we came for the food, this fun and casual cafe is about so much more than that. They regularly host musical performances, cultural exhibitions and workshops, as well as cooking classes!


Nomad – Modern Moroccan

We rarely visit the same place twice in one trip but made an exception for Nomad because we loved the food and atmosphere so much. Despite being in the heart of the Medina, it was an oasis amongst the madness and the higher you go, the better it gets. We whittled away one afternoon with a late lunch on the rooftop watching the world continue to hustle by down below and came back on our final night for drinks at sunset and dinner by candlelight.

Their modern take on traditional dishes really appealed to us – all the flavours were there with an added bonus of freshness and style. We tried a range of dishes over our two visits but the one we ordered both times was the Tunisian brik, an incredibly moreish filo-type pastry pie filled with lamb, turnip, harissa and an egg with a perfectly runny yolk. Even if you’re not in the mood for a meal, make sure you stop in for a drink and the view!


Grand Cafe de la Poste – Date Night Dinner

This swanky bistro in central Gueliz is all about stylish dining in a stylish setting. We came for dinner so the mood lighting and soft music was on, all evoking memories of a colonial era. The menu has distinctly French and Mediterranean influences which yielded no complaints from us. We started with a decadent beef carpaccio topped with shards of parmesan before enjoying duck on dauphinoise pototatoes, and delicate prawn stew. The service moves at its own pace so don’t expect to rush, just sit back and relax with a glass of Moroccan wine in hand!


La Mamounia – Cocktails in Style

As it was our first, and likely to be our only visit to Marrakech, we couldn’t resist a turn around the legendary La Mamounia hotel. Said to be the first hotel in Africa and frequented by many political figures and Hollywood stars back in the day, this 5-star hotel has been delivering luxury and opulence since the 1920s. Our pockets were not quite deep enough to justify a stay at the hotel but we could stretch to a couple of cocktails in their courtyard bar before a stroll through their gardens!


So Make a Move…

While Moroccan food and I got off to a shaky start, the architecture and landscape I immediately liked – everywhere you look is a kaleidoscope of colours! We enjoyed our visit to the ornate Bahia Palace and the contrasting ruins of the El Badi Palace, as well as the more sedate Saadian Tombs. Less exciting was the Jardin Marjorelle; we found the much-lauded gardens of Yves St Laurent just a tad lacklustre and completed overpriced… We also weren’t overly fond of the snake charmers, chained monkeys, and henna painters in Jemaa el-Fnaa or the souks but both still deserve a visit for their manic atmosphere – just being in the midst of it all is an experience!

  • Al Fassia, 55 Boulevard Mohamed Zerktouni, Marrakech
  • Cafe Clock, Derb Chtouka, Marrakech
  • Nomad, 1 Derb Aarjan, Rahba  Lakdima, Marrakech
  • Grand Cafe de la Poste, Corner of Boulevard el-Mansour Eddahbi and Avenue Imam Malik, Marrakech
  • La Mamounia, Avenue Prince Moulay Rachid, Marrakech

Have you been to Marrakech? What did you think of Moroccan food?

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  • TravelWithNanoB

    Well, haven’t been , but your post definitely made me hungry for it! The food looks really delicious and it is good that you managed to find all those restaurants to make up for a disastrous first meal. Bookmarking this for my future travels 🙂 xoxo, nano | http://www.travelwithnanob.com

    • Thanks Nano – I think it’s definitely worth visiting, the culture and cuisine is wonderfully distinct, and as we found during our 2 week trip, it can be quite diverse across the country!

  • I LOVE Morrocan food! I need to go back one day and try your suggestions.

  • Manporium Blog

    Reading this really took me back Connie! We ate at Nomad, it took a little bit of finding but was well worth it. The weather was appalling, but the roof terrace was covered and heated. We sat drinking cocktails and the delicious food listening to the wind.

    Mamounia is absolutely amazing, and is a must visit for Marrakech. It’s iconic, and unfortunately we were too full to visit the Churchill bar after our meal!

    Nathan

    http://www.manporium.com

    • That’s so lovely to hear, thanks Nathan! It was a bit of a maze getting to Nomad lol we were lucky to have our riad nearby!

  • I think if you know where you to go then you can find some amazing food, especially in Marrakech. We didn’t eat in any of these places but we loved the food we had in Marrakech and there’s so much more to Moroccan food than tagines haha!

    • Agreed – I recall you guys eating really well on your trip! I think we just had to work a little harder as Moroccan food is not usually to our tastes anyway… but I did like how diverse it is, and when you find really good places, it’s delicious!

  • Melissa Beare

    Lovely pictures. We went last year and loved Morocco – it’s so colorful and unique. My favorite eats were at Dar Moha (upscale Moroccan) and Cafe Arabe (casual rooftop patio w/ some Moroccan and some Italian) in the medina. We also skipped the food stalls in Jemma al Fna – things just didn’t seem too clean. We also visited Essaouria and loved the fresh seafood at Tabla Madada, Taros Cafe and La Caravane. Living in Texas, I can’t imagine not liking cumin! http://www.luxybeartravels.com

    • Thanks Melissa – ooh those were on my Marrakech long list but we never made it there! I know what you mean about the stalls – I know plenty of people who have eaten there with no issues, but I thought it was just a tad too touristy. Oooh we loved the fresh seafood in Essaouira!

  • Food & Baker

    This is so convenient, as we’re heading to Marrekesh next week! It’s a shame about the food for you, we’re hoping we’ll have better luck! Thanks for sharing, we hope to visit La Mamounia too!

    Jessica & James
    Foodandbaker.co.uk

    • Hope you’re enjoying your trip – I’ve been reading your holiday updates! Marrakech can definitely feel really manic!

  • We went to Nomad and Grand Cafe!! We never made it to Al Fassia as we did walk the wrong way and then gave up! haha.

    • I must admit, it was your glowing recs of them that sealed the deal… I had both on my long list and they moved onto the short list when I read your post!

  • You ate camel?!!!

  • Charlie Elliott

    I’m baffled by someone who doesn’t like cumin – I eat SO much of it, I’m pretty sure it’s my favourite spice! Good to know that it can be a bit difficult hunting down the foodie gems, but I love a tagine so I’d really like to try one in Morocco at some point.
    Cx
    Charlie, Distracted

    • I know, I know – terrible food blogger admission, but cumin and I are just not friends. A tagine is definitely a must try when you’re anywhere in Morocco, as is the harira – we loved this soup!

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