Our guide to Eating Out in Marrakech is partly a reflection of our quest to identify a quintessential dish of Marrakech that I could learn to cook during our stay. We dined at plenty of restaurants, from palatial fine diners and atmospheric riads to rooftop cafes and Parisian-style brasseries. Here’s our pick of the best Marrakech restaurants.
Eating Out in Marrakech
When it comes to eating out in Marrakech, there are few experiences more quintessential than a night out at Dar Yacout. The restaurant impresses with its extravagance and is something every visitor heading to Marrakech should aim to experience. But onto the food… the salad starters here were impressive: a delicious eggplant, red pepper and zucchini salad, a scrumptious sweet tomato and rose confit, but the highlight was the hot briouts or turnovers that are filled with meats or cheeses. The chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons was one of the best we’ve tried. The chicken was super moist, the sauce lemony and zesty. Lamb with artichokes and peas followed and while the lamb was succulent, the artichokes and peas were a tad too mushy for our liking. With desserts, a massive keneffa was up first. Made up of layers of filo pastry, custard, cinnamon and almonds, it’s a special occasion treat. It has crunch, sweetness and those with a sweet tooth will be in heaven. Mint tea and more sweet things followed – the lovely Kab El Ghzal or gazelle’s horns, consisting of pastry in a half-moon shape filled with almonds and the lovely scent of orange blossom were the best we tried in eating out in Marrakech.
Like Dar Yacout, the arrival at Le Fondouk is dramatic – your taxi is met by a man in a jellabiya carrying a lantern, who leads you into the restaurant. Inside, the room is everything the dusty, ramshackle street outside is not. It’s very glam, gorgeously-lit, sophisticated, and of course exotic in the way only Marrakech restaurants can be. An eclectic soundtrack here is a reminder of the international crowd (we heard David Byrne and Radiohead amongst others) and while we were disappointed there weren’t as many locals as there were the last time we visited the food was still very good. We started with a mixed plate of delicious piping hot briouts, and assortment of tasty salads. A scrumptious rabbit pastilla – a first for us – was both very sweet and very salty, served with ‘dry grapes’ (raisins) and onions. The meat of the rabbit is much more suited to this dish than chicken, which is what many of the more timid visitors opt for. The lamb tajine with artichokes and peas was very good, the meat moist, and the artichokes and peas still packing plenty of flavour.
Elegant, bustling, and buzzy, Al Fassia initially stands out from the crowd with its women chefs and waitresses, but by the end of the meal you don’t care who is in the kitchen, it’s the food here that’s the centre of attention. We started with an assortment of a dozen teensy Moroccan salads – the usual ones – but these were delicious and we all fought over the last tastes. The harira soup was delicious – thick, hearty, with chunks of lamb we also fought over. The pigeon pastilla was the best we’ve ever sampled – and we’ve had a flock of them – tasty meat and crispy pastry, and the perfect balance of that wonderful combination of sweet and savoury that makes the dish unique. Lamb tajine with confit tomatoes followed – melt-in-your-mouth fall-apart lamb, and a sweet, rich sauce – the best we’ve had as well. The chicken tajine with olives and lemons had a sauce that was a lot darker and heavier than any we’ve tried before, less tangy and zesty, but a lot more complex. All in all an outstanding Moroccan feast.
We’re not sure whether this is so popular because it’s in the guidebooks or because you can get alcohol here – there is probably a connection there! Regardless, while the food wasn’t extraordinary, this is a great lunch choice if you like a glass of wine with your meal, as there are few places in the souqs where you can get a drink without having to eat a set-menu Dar Yactout-style feast. The place is gorgeous – there’s a restaurant on the ground floor that strikes a balance between being simultaneously casual and elegant, a groovy first floor Berber-inspired majlis-style bar, and a breezy rooftop bar. The menu is an odd combination of Moroccan and Italian and the best we can say is that we’re grateful they weren’t both on the same plate. Do pop in for a bite to eat and a drink though.
This rooftop terrace café is signposted as a ‘bar’ and while it looks like a fab lounge bar, no alcohol is served. Located smackbang in the souqs it’s good for a lunch stop if you haven’t finished shopping. The décor is very cool with banquette seating, Oriental tray tables and billowing curtains giving privacy to the individual seating areas, while there are fascinating views over the rooftops of the souq. The young waiting staff are all dressed in black trousers, t-shirts and aprons, and there’s a chilled soundtrack. This is the good bit. The food was average, a Mechwi du Chef was tasty but tougher than some of the leather in the souq below. The Tride au Pigeon also had a delicious flavour and the pastry/pasta was super tasty, but the pigeon itself was too scrawny and way too dry. Still, it’s a lovely spot for a quick lunch in between souqs.
Eating Out in Marrakech – Other Restaurants to Try…
The only restaurant on the main square that serves alcohol and must have one of the most atmospheric interiors of any restaurants in Marrakech. While the food isn’t as good as it once was, it’s worth a meal here for the atmosphere, the decent, but not exciting fare, the entertainment (bellydancers), and the medina location, especially if you are staying here and don’t want to venture to the new city. The staff really push through the patrons though and were quite rude to two tables next to us. Shame.
Located near the metal-workers souq, is set in another splendid building and while an inside table is the way to go for an evening meal (complete with live music), the rooftop, with views over the medina, is the best choice for lunch. The food is good if not great – the tajine kefta aux tomates et oeufs (meatballs with tomato and egg) was tasty and the lamb couscous with vegetables was good if unevenly cooked. Oddly, they had no red wine and only two bottles of beer left (really?) when we visited and the service was slow and uneven (despite there only being three tables occupied). “Service is not included, would you like me to put it on your credit card?”. Err, no thanks.
Le Grande Café de la Poste
This makes a welcoming change from Moroccan when you’ve had your fill of couscous and tajine (never, says Lara). Expect a combination of French and Mediterranean cuisine – fantastic oysters, decent pastas and steaks – in a glamorous setting that can only be described as Parisian brasserie with Moroccan-colonial accents, with banquettes, potted palms and ceiling fans. Even if you don’t want to go all Francophile, at least drop in for a drink.