The food in Marrakech is next on the blog post series about this Moroccan city. It tends to be rather traditional and most restaurants, at least in the medina, tend to serve more or less the same dishes. Here’s what we ate and where.
Traditional Moroccan dishes
The tajine gets its name from the earthenware pot in which it’s cooked: a round tray with a conical lid open at the top. Chicken, beef or lamb is cooked slowly with spices and fruits depending on the recipe. The result is a flavourful and tender meat. Tajine varieties include chicken with lemon or with olives, beef with prunes or with orange.
Pastilla is a sort of small pie made with phyllo pastry and a vegetable or sweet and savoury filling. Types of filling range from chicken with spices, almonds and a pinch of sugar, or veggies like leeks, sweet peppers, butternut squash, goat’s cheese, and orange sauce. It is generally eaten as a starter. It was one of my favourite dishes.
Coucous, probably the best-known Moroccan dish worldwide, is made with durum wheat semonlina. It’s cooked in the top section of a coucous pot with the steam from the stew cooking below. It was the softest, airiest couscous I’ve ever eaten, not a clump in sight. It’s served with the veggies and /or meats cooked in the same pot.
Briouates are triangles of phyllo pastry filled with ground lamb, chicken, vegiies, etc. They make for a delicious snack or starter.
Harira is a traditional soup made with lentils, tomatoes, chickpeas, lamb, and spices. Hearty and flavoursome, it is eaten after the sun goes down during Ramadan.
You can’t spend time in Morocco and not drink mint tea made with fresh leaves. It’s served in a gorgeous little pot and is rather sweet. It’s glorious with Moroccan pastries. Coffee, in my experience, is also very good.
The tanjia is another traditional dish. It consists of beef and spices cooked for hours in a sealed earthenware crock. This crock is placed in the ashes from a hammam oven in a centuries old tradition.
There are lots of pomegranate and orange juice vendors in the street. They press the fruit there and then.
In general, service at restaurants is mediocre. Servers take oodles of time before acknowledging you and they take ages to bring your food and drink. Sometimes, they bring your drink, appetizer, and main at the same time, or in a different order. We even had to request silverware in order to eat our food! Don’t expect Western standards and go with the flow.
They usually bring your bill to the table and you pay at the front desk, never your server.
I loved that everywhere we went, they brought bread and a little dish with olives as soon as we satdown.
Probably the best experience for me was to watch the sunset over Jemaa El’Fna square from a cafe terrace. It was magical. We patronised Acqua because we simply liked it, wasn’t too big like Cafe de France, and Driss, one of the waiters, had the best customer service we came across in the city.
Café des Epices is across the square in the spice zouk, hence its name. We sat in one of the sidewalk tables for coffee. The place was heaving with tourists. You can make dinner reservations if you prefer.
Nomad is probably one of the most famous restaurnats in Marrakech. It’s in the spice zouk neacr Cafe des Epices. It’s advisable to make a reservation because it’s very popular. We ate there twice. The first time, we made dinner reservations. Both food and service were very good. The second time, we went there for lunch without a rez. They could only accommodate us in the rooftop. It was a wet, windy day. They gave us a kind of fleece robe to protect us from the cold. The food was great but the robe wasn’t very clean, though. It seemed to me that hygiene wasn’t a top priority in Marrakech.
We wanted to try something different and ended up eating good Lebanese food at Naranj a couple of times.
Menara Mall offers lots of food options, from traditional Moroccan to Spanish tapas and French fare. The food court is utterly forgettable, go to the restaurants at street level.
There’s a strict no-alcohol policy inside the medina. I was told it was because no alcohol can be drunk within a certain distance of a mosque. There are so many mosques inside the medina that it’s just not possible unless the restaurant has a special license, but it’s very rare. The New City doesn’t have that restriction, but it is still forbidden to drink in public spaces. Even in your own balcony!
We don’t usually eat street food, we prefer the convenience of a restaurant. We read many conflicting reports on stret food in Marrakech, so we gave it a wide berth. We saw many pastry carts in the streets full of what I thought were flies, but turned out to be bees. It was a little offputting nonetheless. We also stayed clear of the kebab, bread, fruit and pancake sellers. If you’re interested in trying street food, I’d suggest you do a food tour with a reputable company.
Read this article on what to eat and what to avoid in Marrakech.