Restaurants In Marrakech
Grand Café de la Poste
Local people tend to eat Moroccan food at home and look for something more exotic when they go out. But they make an exception for Al Fassia. One reason might be that it is one of the few Moroccan restaurants in town that doesn't tie you to a waist-expanding set menu. You can, if you wish, just have a selection of salads or a main course. Another reason locals come is that Al Fassia is run exclusively by women and, as even the former head chef of La Mamounia's Moroccan restaurant admitted, women tend to cook better than men (he was referring to his wife). The dining room is elegantly done up in rich tones, set off by crisp white cloths.
Book one of the tables with a cushion-strewn banquette for a more relaxed meal. As for the food: the pigeon bstilla is about as good as it can be, the pastry light, the meat moist, while mechoui, the roast leg of lamb, is a speciality that locals order in advance. And if you have space, try the unique, almond-flavoured bstilla of milk.
Grand Café de la Poste: Corner of Boulevard el-Mansour Eddahbi and Avenue Imam Malik, Marrakech (00 212 2443 3038). Open daily 8am-midnight. Dinner for two about £60 without wine.
Le Comptoir is a legend in Marrakech, but not necessarily for the food. The Franco-Moroccan dishes are served with some panache and rarely fail, but the atmosphere and the spectacle are much more memorable. It's a mix of restaurant, lounge and boutique, in a large Art Deco villa. Head straight to the upstairs bar for a pre-dinner drink and you'll understand what the fuss is about and why this place has a reputation. Le Comptoir attracts some of the city's most beautiful young people and many marriages flounder here. Downstairs, the large, plush-red dining room is more stageset than restaurant.
The menu is a mix of French, Moroccan and Asian influences, so there is a couscous and a magret de canard but also beef with ginger, soya and sesame. Minds tend to wander from the food to the floor around 9.30pm, when lithe belly dancers descend the big staircase to cavort around - and, if you are lucky, on - the tables. The place carries on buzzing, upstairs and down, till late in the night, at which point the live band at nearby Palais Jad Mahal will be vying for your attention.
Le Comptoir: Avenue Echouhada, Hivernage, Marrakech (00 212 2443 7702; www.comptoirdarna.com). Dinner daily. Dinner for two about £50 without wine.
Travellers to Marrakech in the age before mass tourism, or at least those lucky enough to have an invitation to the pasha's palace, always spoke in hushed tones about the sumptuous banquets. The pasha has gone, but the banquets remain, now served in 'palace restaurants', of which there are several, among them Stylia, Dar Marjana and Yacout. The most reliable and one of the most spectacular is Le Tobsil, an old palace in the medina whose rooms and tables - white cloths, rose petals, big brass candelabra - couldn't be more romantic. As for the food, chef Fatima Mountassamim cooks likes an angel, so it's best to come prepared for indulgence.
The set menu comprises a tableful of salads, replaced by another of pastries (bstilla here comes as pigeon, fish or vegetable) another of tagines of golden roast lamb, and another of fruit and pastries. It is, of course, more than anyone could or should eat, but that's the point. You come to Le Tobsil to be spoiled.
Le Tobsil: 22 Derb Abdellah ben Hessaien, Bab Ksour, Marrakech (00 212 2444 4052). Dinner daily except Tuesday. Set menu for two: £86 with wine.
Terrace des Epices
Kamal Laftimi is a smart young Moroccan who started out with a small riad, Tlaata wa Sitteen. His Café des Epices in the heart of the souks is now an obligatory stop for anyone in need of a light lunch (and Wi-Fi) while out shopping, and his latest venture, the Terrace des Epices, is proving just as popular. Covering a large rooftop a few minutes' walk from the Café, the Terrace repeats the formula with laidback seating in open-sided booths, cool music and big views. This time he has added a good all-day Franco-Moroccan dining menu.
Specialties include salads and grilled meat and fish, and there is always a range of fresh juices - orange, of course, all year round, and whatever else is in season. Young expats not normally seen on this side of town can be found lounging on the banquettes, while an increasing number of foreigners in search of a quiet moment in the souk are making their way up the stairs to this rooftop hideaway.
Terrace des Epices: 15 Souk Cherifia, Sidi Abdelaziz, Medina, Marrakech (00 212 2437 5904; www.cafedesepices.net). Lunch and dinner daily. Dinner for two about £35 without wine.
Marrakech does fashion-dining very well, perhaps nowhere better, just now, than at Villa Rosa. The villa has been done up fin-de-siècle boudoir-style: gilt mirrors, dark walls, button-back chairs in red or black velvet. It is the sort of place you want to see at night (the reason, perhaps, why it doesn't open during the day), sitting in the shadows in the courtyard, or under the candles in the library and bar or, best of all, at one of the tables overlooking the courtyard.
Ambience is provided by a house DJ and the attentive staff. The food, as everyone except the waiters will tell you, is a copy of the menu at Café Costes in Paris, which means it is fusion - North Africa mixed with France and the Far East. The surprise is that the food is very good: beautifully prepared and well presented. Good enough, one hopes, for the place to survive when the fickle fashion pack moves on to graze somewhere even newer.
Villa Rosa: 64 Avenue Hassan II, Gueliz, Marrakech (00 212 24 4496 3564; www.villa-rosa.blogspot.com). Dinner daily. Dinner for two about £57 without wine.