Whether you are a frequent or first time visitor, Marrakech will blow you away. There are so many elements to this thriving city that will have you coming back again and again. Whether it is the welcoming locals, the winding markets, the beautiful homes tucked away behind tiny doors, or the exquisite food in Marrakech. It is a sensory overload that will leave an everlasting impression.
Arriving at our Riad, we were greeted by the lovely French owners. After a quick bise, he showed us to our room and asked quickly asked, do you enjoy food? We enthusiastically nodded, he smiled and nodded back. “You will enjoy it here”, he announced, as he scribbled down a small map and sent us on our way to find the best food in Marrakech. Having a map in this city makes no difference. Around every corner there is something new to see, taste or touch. We endeavoured to follow the map, however, inevitable we managed to get lost and discover some gems of our own in this beautiful and bustling city.
Mechoui Alley or Lamb Alley
Hidden in the backstreet of the Medina, we managed to locate Mechoui Alley. Here you will find a handful of small restaurants serving deliciously tender, slow-cooked lamb. Inside the mechoui restaurants, there is a round hatch in the middle of the floor. Open the hatch and you’ll discover a dozen or more whole lamb slow roasting in underground pit ovens.
The lamb is sold by weight, so you just speak to the gentleman working at one of the shops. The lamb is sold by a kilo or half a kilo. For a kilo, it is roughly £12. From here you are ushered into the restaurant. There are five levels of seating, this shows how popular these shops really are. Head to the top level where you get a beautiful view over the medina as well as the snow-capped Atlas Mountains.
The tender and melting meat were served with a pile of bread and a side of salt and cumin. The two seasonings are all you need, sprinkle them on and you won’t be able to stop.
Right next to Mechoui Alley, you will discover the olive souk. This is an olive connoisseur’s dream. You will see olives piled high in a rainbow of colours and flavours. You will be wooed to try them. From the traditional cured salty black ones to the creamy greens. There were red and green olives marinated in local olive oil with the likes of coriander, parsley, garlic and red pepper flakes. There were even bright purple ones. The vendors will allow you to try what you like, however, make sure you grab a bag. We got a few varieties to enjoy with a bottle wine on the rooftop of our Riad.
Heading out of the winding streets of souks, there is a lot more to discover in Marrakech. Less than a 10-minute walk you will come across street after street, filled with fruit and vegetable markets. Here the locals are doing their shopping both for themselves, their restaurants or Riads. Groups of small children will be playing games, chasing carts of fruit and causing a ruckus.
Blindly wandering the streets, you will come across some wonderful smells. What looked just like another stone doorway to a home, was an incredible bakery. Following our noses, we poked our heads inside. Rows and rows of the traditional round bread, were cooling the dark stone room. The four young men eagerly welcomed us inside. We were shown the wood-fired oven, which was built into the ground and was told it was over hundreds of years old. The men insisted we try the bread. It was still warm and absolutely delightful. Even though the men did not want it, we managed to exchange some money for a few more.
Only just around the corner from the olive souk, discover the oasis that is Cafe Guerrab. The rooftop terrace was lined with lounge style seating and the light breeze helps cool you from the busy streets below. Here they have the most incredible tajines we tasted in Marrakech. Both opting for the poulet and vegetables, as soon as the lid is lifted and the exotic spices waft into the air you know you will be in for a wonderful meal. You will already be planning a return visit. That we did, when we needed a break from hectic street we made our way up for a relaxing mint tea and bowl of olives – definitely some of the best food in Marrakech!
Hidden around another dark corner was a light and airy cafe. The owners of this coffee shop are so friendly they will wave you up to the rooftop terrace like old friends. It was located next to a wonderful patisserie, so the owner has a plethora of goodies to accompany your coffee. Make sure you try a cornes de gazelle, which is soft pastry, stuffed with almonds and cinnamon. Also try an almond briouats, this is a small, triangular, deep-fried pastry, sweetened with honey and filled almonds. So, sink into the padding seating and take in the coloured rooftop, the lovely sun and marvel at the mountains surrounding this desert.
The unexplored streets will evoke a desire to return. The hidden gems will provoke us to act. Hopefully, it won’t be long before we will we be soaking up the Moroccan sunshine once more and have more of the exquisite food in Marrakech.