The great and the good flock to Marrakech for New Year…….Why not join them?257541.html
One of the first questions I am asked when guests arrive is ‘Where can one eat good, local Moroccan food?’ Of course my first answer is at ‘Les Trois Mages’ (good plug?) – very difficult to beat fresh, homecooked food, made to order by our very talented cook, Saida. But if you must venture out into the alleyways, here is a selection (amuse bouche perhaps?) of the culinary establishments in and around the medina and beyond….. The main choices you have are either opting for the more traditional, banquet-style dinners or eating a la carte – the choice is yours!
With the festive period nearly upon us, I’ve added in the menu options for Old Years Night/New Years Eve – Christmas isn’t really celebrated here, but they put on a good show to see in the New Year. You may want to check in advance as some restaurants ask for a deposit to secure your reservation – either contact them directly or ask Aidan, our manager to book them for you. Enjoy and Happy New Year!!
MEDINA – BANQUET STYLE
Literally a camels whisker from Les Trois Mages, Dar Yacout is probably one of the most famous and iconic restaurants in Marrakesh. Reportedly to be Omar Sharif’s favourite place to dine and regular visited by the glitterati of Marrakech highlife, Dar Yacout has become more of an instituition and is the ultimate in a certain kind of Marrakech dining experience. It’s dinner and show, and the show must go on and on….It was one of the first restaurants created over twenty years ago in the medina by Mohamed Zkhiri, who presides over the destiny of this sumptuous venue. The interior of Dar Yacout is out of this world – a camp orientalist phantasia created by American designer Bill Willis (Wiki-link?) – a stage for the brisk routines of costumed waiters who sweep in and out, whisking away lids and revealing one Moroccan course after another – all of it included in the single set menu (700dhs or approx.£52). Flowering columns, candy striping and fireplaces in the bathrooms topped off with a yellow crenellated terrace make it an unforgettable evening. For the New Year soiree it’s 2000dhs/£150 per head (credit card details needed to reserve) for the menu ‘speciale’ – oh la la!
Another popular place for our guests and a short walk away, is Dar Zellig. The beautifully white –robbed-Fez donning doorman can pick you up from the riad and escort you to the restaurant, located in our neighbouring district of Sidi Ben Slimane. Dating from the 17th Century and with a classic riad courtyard, the atmosphere is very tranquil – just the twinkling of a lute (or ‘ooud’ in Arabic) to accompany you through your meal. Abdellatif Aït Ben Abdallah, master of the house, is a fervent defender of Moroccan tradition and culture. He offers essentially 3 set menus which accommodate most appetites! Make the most of the comfort of the terrace for an aperitif beneath a Marrakesh star-lit sky. For New Year, they are offering a ‘soiree inoubliable’ with Gnaoua musicians for 1400dhs/£104 approx. per person.
Once a former residence of the Pacha of Marrakesh and later the famous French couturier Pierre Balmain, Dar Moha is a pleasant mix of traditional Moroccan cuisine with a modern twist. Moha (surname Fedal) set up his restaurant in this splendid turn-of-the-century riad, offering al fresco dining by the pool, or a more formal setting inside. One can marvel at the pool’s wonderful mosaic tiles in the garden, amongst the trees and flowers or alternatively dine indoors, the patio is surrounded by several small rooms. This is the place for Moroccan inventive cuisine! Light and subtle with remarkable creativity. It serves set meals, but with a choice of 3 items per setting. When making a reservation, we would suggest that you ask for a table next to the pool. To bring in the New Year, they are offering an aptly priced soiree with ‘animation’ for 2013dhs (around £150) per head.
Le Tobsil (meaning plate in Arabic) is rated as one of the best traditional restaurants in Marrakesh. Owner, Christine Rio has turned this old medina house, located in the upmarket area of Bab Laksouw2r, into a warm and comfortable restaurant that is ideal for romantic dining. A different set-menu is offered every day, prepared by head chef Fatima Mountassamim from fresh market produce for one’s enjoyment either on the patio or in one of the alcoves. Reservations are required, as it only has around 12 tables and they are more than happy to cater for guests with special dietary requirements. The restaurant is situated within walking distance from the riad or a short cab ride away – but a walk afterwards might be essential!! It is a bit tricky to find but if you are near the arch of Bab Laksour then there should be a gentleman in traditional costume with a ‘Le Tobsil’ badge nearby to escort you down the winding alleyways (don’t miss Vanessa Branson’s Riad El Fenn on the right) en route to the restaurant. Old Years night is a 3 course menu, glass of bubbly and a midnight surprise! (wine not included) – all for 1500dhs/£110.
Situated next to the Glaoui Palace, in Dar El Bacha, and a short walk from Les Trois Mages, Dar Donab is part of the hotel Palais Donab, a beautifully refurbished establishment in Arabo-Moslem style architecture, where the three essential components: zellige (hand –cut mosaic tiles), carved plaster and cedar wood are clearly on display. It has a feeling of Arabian Nights about it and is a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy the varied flavours of classic Moroccan cuisine. The New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner starts at 7pm until dawn (wow), with live music, dancers, DJ and a raffle! Price is €120/£98 per person – sounds a good night out!
MEDINA – A LA CARTE
Situated in one of the most popular quarters of the Marrakesh medina – Mouassine, this attractive, spacious and colourful riad is where locals and travellers alike come for a refreshment or to dine. It’s very popular with our guests – as it’s a halfway stopping off point from the riad en route to the square and offers an excellent selection of Moroccan and Italian cuisine with attentive service and good value. You can opt for lunch, dinner or tea and also the lounge-bar-restaurant on the terrace is a winner for you romantic folk! The ‘Menu Reveillon’ (for New Years eve) is 850dh/£75 approx. per person with 5 courses, a midnight glass of champagne (other drinks not included) and entertainment of course!
Situated near the Moukef square and right by the Maison de Photography (link to website?) this is one of Marrakesh’s most stylish restaurants. Centered around a courtyard with a roof terrace, it offers a variety of classic French food like foie gras, beef with béarnaise sauce, and even a Thai chicken dish plus some very good local dishes. It can seem magical, from the dark interior, lit only by lanterns and candelabra, to the doorman, dressed all in black, who leads patrons out of the medina by candlelight to a waiting taxi. This gastro-riad was not so long ago the residence of one of the Pasha financiers and has been completely re-designed and transformed by co-owners Frédéric and Thierry. The chef has combined his international and Moroccan cuisine to offer the best of the local and provencal cultures. Stretching over two floors, the dining-rooms and alcoves are very popular with guests and the elegant ground floor bar is a lovely place to start or end an evening. The terrace offers a magnificent view and there is continuous service from midday to midnight. I always advise to go there during the day to find it as at night it’s impossible – or just take a taxi, and ask for “Place Mokef”. Service can be somewhat aloof – but you can’t have everything? For New Year – there is aninteresting choice of an International or Moroccan menus with some animated Folklore for 1300dhs or £96 a head – non-refundable deposits of 500dhs are required to book your seat.
The USP (unique selling point) of this establishment is the location – can’t beat it. Right on the NE corner of the main square, Djemma El Fna opposite the infamous Cafe de France and the vista of the Koutoubia in the distance – very romantic… The other bonus is it’s licenced and a la carte – don’t be in a rush as the service can be a little ‘a la Marocain’ (i.e. slow) but hey – you’re in Morocco? They have a nice standard Moroccan fayre, and do a good local dish called ‘La Tangia’ – slow cooked lamb or beef with preserved lemon and garlic, jolly good but make sure you order side dishes of vegetables. Prices are reasonable and a belly dancer does a tour of the tables mid-way through (careful you don’t book a too prominent spot or you might get asked to join in, then the misses will get knarked!! (you can leave that bit out if you like). The view is knock out from the 2nd floor but book ahead as it’s popular at night – also open for lunch. For New Year they have a ‘Menu Reveillon’ for 1100dhs/€100/£82 but you need a 200dhs deposit to secure the booking.
Hidden in the heart of the medina since the Saadian period and a stone’s throw from the main square, lies one of the oldest riads in the medina. Dating from the 15th century, Dar Cherifa is a very ‘pure’ version of a riad, an exceptional house, restored with passion has become the first literary café of the medina – a place entirely dedicated to promote Moroccan culture and heritage. After the hustle and bustle of the souks, it offers visitors a moment to relax in a beautiful and serene environment where you can just sit and stay for as long as you like just drinking fruit juices or mint tea accompanied by some Moroccan pastries. For those with more of an appetite, they offer a light and simple traditional lunch menu. They offer every Friday lunch their house couscous – they say it’s the best couscous in the medina! For the ‘Soiree du Reveillon 2013’ they are offering a ‘fairytale soiree’ for 1100dhs/€100/£82 per person.
Located in a lovely square called ‘Qzadria’, in the old Jewish District of Marrakesh (called the Mellah), Kosybar is a nice, chilled out spot, overlooked by the neighbouring storks quietly perched atop the old Badiaa Palace and definitely a place to be at sunset – with the Koutoubia glowing in the distance. Open from 11am to 1am, the Japanese chef, Nao Tamaki offers light lunch and a more elaborate dinner menu for those in need of a rest from traditional Moroccan fayre. ‘The Menu St Sylvestre’ is an interesting Franco-Japanese affair for 1200dhs/£88 approx.
GUELIZ & HIVENAGE
Situated in the heart of Guéliz in Marrakesh, Al Fassia has been a bastion of Moroccan traditional cuisine for more than 20 years. They offer a wide and tasty selection of dishes prepared and served exclusively by women. All the ingredients of sophistication are here in the hushed atmosphere of these subtly furnished rooms. Open everyday for lunch and dinner. Except on Tuesdays. They are offering a modestly priced soiree for NY eve, 900dhs/£67 approx per person.
GRAND CAFE DE LA POSTE
Ideally located in the heart of Gueliz, right on the main Boulevard Mohamed Fifth, this elegant restaurant/bistro is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. The decor is in complete harmony with the Moroccan culture: a mixture of Moorish and old-colonial. Open all day, from 8 a.m. to 1 in the morning, the Grand Cafe de la Poste offers a French cuisine with Mediterranean accents – and the antipasti is knock out. Free early evening buffet/nibbles also for those on a budget. To bring in 2013, they are offering their menu a la carte with some international music. Bookings need to be made in advance via the riad.
Opened in 1999, Le Comptoir Darna was one of the first lounge-restaurants in Marrakesh, based on the popular Buddha Bar in Paris. It’s a fun and trendy place offering a menu featuring both European and Moroccan dishes – the Mechoui lamb – comes well recommended. It’s has a good atmosphere with belly dancers at 10pm every night, so a good spot for a late cocktail, opens until 2am. To see in the New Year they are offering a French style soiree with fois gras and seafood, plus a DJ and dancers. Price: 2200dhs/€200 per person, 50% deposit to be paid by 24/12/12. Further details at www.comptoirmarrakech.com
Just round the corner from Le Comptoir is the impressive looking Jad Mahal. It’s a restaurant-come-live music venue serving Moroccan and Thai cuisine with a nice lounge bar. The belly dancers do a turn around 10pm and had a nice vibe, if a little pricey. If you want to carry on into the night there is the rather metallic nightclub downstairs called Silver if you need to get on down! Their menu for 31 December looks suitably exotic with dancers and a DJ all for 2500dhs per person (approx. £185) – 50% deposit needed to secure the booking. Further details at www.jad-mahal.com