Thursday, 12 June 2008


Last week S and I escaped a grey and wet London for a warm and sunny Marrakech. We stayed in a delightful little riyad inside the old medina, right at the edge of all the souks and about five minutes walk from the central square, Jemmàa el Fna, or ‘la place’. I had read mixed reviews about Dar Mouassine, but it suited us just fine. If you like your every whim to be tended to then it’s not the place for you, but, if like us, you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere and do your own thing, I can highly recommend it.

our riyad, Dar Mouassine

I had heard about two restaurants, Le Tobsil and Dar Moha. Dar Moha used to be owned by Pierre Balmain and is now owned by a European-trained Moroccan chef who serves ‘Moroccan nouvelle cuisine’. At Le Tobsil, there is no menu, you just eat whatever is prepared that day and you pay a fixed price, which includes drinks.

the lively Jemmàa el Fna with orange juice,
spices & dried fruits, and barbeque stalls

We dined at Le Tobsil, but although we liked the live musicians and the food was absolutely delicious, we wouldn’t really recommend it. It is quite expensive (plus the bill cheekily mentions that service is not included), tailored exclusively for tourists and we both found it rather poncy. There wasn’t anything wrong with the restaurant at all, it’s just that tables strewn with rose petals, waiters decked out in a European’s interpretation of traditional Moroccan dress, and being brought the bill in a wooden box, which contained a little book with ‘the best restaurants in Morocco, isn’t really our thing.

After that, we decided to give Dar Moha a miss and just try some barbeque stalls and restaurants at ‘la place’. I wasn’t brave enough to try the out of the way hole in the wall places, but the places where we did eat had a mix of tourists and locals, so I figured we couldn’t go wrong. We tried various tagine and couscous dishes, barbequed meat and vegetables and of course some sweets. We also had an amazing lemon and olive chicken tagine, cooked by our riyad’s own cook Latifah. There seems to be a propensity for thoroughly boiled mushy vegetables, and the sweets were VERY sweet, but other than that we thoroughly enjoyed all the food we sampled.

rooftop view over Marrakech and the Koutoubia mosque (right)

Apart from sampling Moroccan cuisine and doing a bit of shopping (babouches, a leather pouffe, some bowls and spices), our big plan was to do nothing at all, and do it very slowly. Of course there are plenty of things to see if you want: a museum, palaces, tombs and gardens, but for us this holiday was all about relaxing. We did bring back the sun with us, but of course that didn’t last and now London is grey and wet again. Time to start planning our next holiday…