There's an old saying that the way to eat an elephant is one mouthful at a time. Sometimes when faced with enormous dishes in Marrakech you'll do well to remember that advice. Here are a few of the places we ate during a short break in the city.
by koshkha on April 10, 2011
There are some countries that fill me with a sense of culinary expectation so much that my mouth is almost watering before I get off the plane. Sadly Morocco is not one of those countries. I don't eat meat and haven't done so for over 20 years and the local approach to that is one of acceptance - "OK, she doesn't want meat, we won't force her" which is a step or two better than you'll find in China where it seems to be "The woman is crazy, let's sneak some dead animals into her food when she's looking the other way". Whilst nobody will treat you like you're crazy for choosing not to eat meat, they won't go out of their way to tempt or delight your taste buds. Instead they just give you exactly the same as everyone else but minus the meat. This mostly means that you'll get a lot of over-cooked potatoes and carrots and so much bland couscous that you'll never want to see the stuff again.I do eat fish and seafood – but unless you are out at the coast I'd suggest to exercise some caution especially when the weather is hot. Don't go crazy as a bit of canned tuna on your pizza or in your sandwich is unlikely to do you any harm but anything that's not frozen or tinned could give your guts a workout that they might not want. Meat eaters will most likely find that the Morrocan system of slow cooking in a clay tajine makes delicious and juicy meals out of what look to me like the cheap cuts. Certainly the rest of our party seemed more than happy with the available food. Lamb and chicken are the most typical meats and you'll never see pork and beef is rare.Every must-do list for Marrakech will tell you to eat kebabs in the Jemaa el Fna square after dark. Most likely they'll also tell you to keep a close hand on your wallet to avoid pickpockets and to steer clear of the snake charmers, monkey handlers and transvestite belly dancers unless you want to be asked rather aggressively for money. I've not eaten in the square since there's not a lot of choice that's not meat-based but mostly because I find the place too crowded and intimidating. I do however love to stop and buy fresh orange juice each time I pass through. The colourful juice sellers stalls are lined up around the edge of the square and 4 dirhams (about 30p) will buy you a glass of the juiciest, sweetest, most tangy 'straight from the orange' juice you'll find anywhere. The same juice in a sit down cafe in central Marrakech will cost around 15-25 dirhams but still be excellent. Bottled water is easily available and I've not heard of anyone getting fake or refilled water bottles. On the square the juice stalls sell a large bottle for 10 dirhams (about 80 pence) or two small bottles for a similar price. Small shops in the medina will be cheaper and a bottle of water will cost you 10 to 30 dirhams in a restaurant – with the higher prices in the swankier places. The square and the souks are also filled with stalls selling dried fruits and nuts at good prices. The stall holders will wave apricots or dates at you as you pass and there's no obligation to buy. Nut and sesame seed brittles are often available and are sold by weight and I had an outstanding mille feuille slice off a hand cart for just 2 dirhams which I only bought because I wanted to take a picture of the cakes.The souks and the central old town district have a lot of small restaurants of the wipe-down table and wipe-down menu type and these offer great value with couscous and tajines from around 30 Dirham (£2.50). You might want to take care to avoid salads or uncooked vegetables but tajines and couscous are generally well cooked. Meat on skewers is cheap and very widely available. If you're sick of the local food which is mostly very bland and tends to be the same whether you go to a cheap dive or a swanky restaurant, you'll also find in Marrakech plenty of pizza and pasta restaurants and in the new town there are lots of very classy European-style restaurants. If you are staying in a riad or hotel that's not so central you may have less choice open to you locally and in the area around our first riad we were unable to find any restaurants or snack bars at all. You may want to consider eating dinner early before you go back to your accommodation rather than hunting around the labyrinthine streets looking for food later in the evening.Most riads and all hotels will offer food but with the riads it's best to order earlier in the day if you want to eat that same evening. Many places only have a few rooms and won't have a lot of food in the kitchen if they're not expecting you to eat there. On our first evening we had a pleasant and well cooked meal at our riad but we'd ordered it before we left England.Breakfasts are large but rather basic. In the three places where we stayed we always received bread, juice and excellent coffee as well as jams and hunny, occasionally a fried egg and often the local thick pancakes or a strange fried pastry whose name I never learned. Cake was also often served for breakfast but don't expect a bit UK or US style hot breakfast. Many riads now offer cookery courses for their guests though it's beyond me why anyone would want to learn to cook such dull food.Vegetarians should take particular note of the delightful Earth Cafe to the south east of the Jemaa el Fna. It was the first vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the city and I've not heard of any others anywhere else. If you have various food allergies, I'd suggest to take care and consider getting translations done of what your needs are. We travelled around Libya last year with a lady who was a gluten-intollerant vegan and had a laminated card with translations of what she could and couldn't eat. Food is mostly inexpensive and filling although some of the restaurants in your guidebook may prove to be very expensive. Alcohol is almost always expensive and is not always easy to find. On a previous visit during the holy month of Ramadan, we just decided not to even bother trying to find alcohol although some of the people with us got very good at tracking down international hotel chains where they could buy at vastly inflated prices. If you like to drink spirits, I'd suggest to use your duty free allowance from your home country and fly in with a couple of half litre bottles of your favourite tipple.
When we first arrived in Marrakech my husband and I were staying for two nights in one riad whilst my sister, Aileen, and her girlfriend, Joyce, were staying at another nearby. On the night that we arrived we'd all chosen to eat at our riads but on the next day we wanted to eat together. We'd not seen any restaurants in the area where we were staying and the weather was a bit grey and drizzly so we didn't want to go all the way back into the town centre just to find food. My husband accompanied the others back to their riad so he'd know more or less where it was, and whilst there he found a pile of restaurant cards in the lobby of the riad. Dar Zellij caught his eye and when he asked the owner if it was nearby, he was told that it was so he called and booked a table for the four of us for 8 pm.At about quarter to eight we set off to find the restaurant. It's located in a 17th century riad in the Sidi Ben Slimane district of the old town. Luckily my husband has a phenomenal sense of direction and I had no idea how he knew where he was going. I think that one of the reasons the restaurant likes people to book in advance is that they can send out a search party if anyone goes missing – and believe me, it's easy to get lost.We stepped through a low wooden door into the entrance area and were then led through to the dining area. Perhaps we should have guessed almost immediately that we'd bitten off more than we could chew financially. All of the tables were covered in thick white table clothes which had been scattered with rose petals. All of the waiters were tall handsome chaps in snowy white djellabas with neat little bright red fez hats. Local musicians were torturing cats in the corner – or they may have been tuning up. We took our seats at a table laid for four people. I took a wander around with my camera, noting the beautiful painted wooden ceilings, the orange trees hung with fruit and the small rose petal filled pool in the centre of the courtyard. It was raining outside and we were glad that the courtyard was covered with a substantial waterproof sheet. Seeing all of this took some effort because the lighting was so low that we joked about getting out our head torches to read the menus when they eventually arrived.The waiter asked what we'd like to drink – wine, a cocktail, some champagne perhaps? Alarm bells rang and we timidly asked for four beers. Would we like to see the wine list he enquired – no, we'd stick with the beer thank you very much. The tension was palpable and when the menu arrived I thought Joyce was going to have a heart attack. There's no way to get round the fact that Dar Zellig is expensive. That I can accept. What I don't like is that it's expensive and the menu is very restricted. You have a choice – but only between different set meals. You can't just order a main course, or ask for two starters, or opt for a starter and pudding because the only option is how much your set menu costs and which of the limited options within it you will choose. The cheapest set menu is 350 dirhams (a little under £30) and for that you get choices which would set you back less than 100 in any standard mid-range local restaurant. The menus increase in price as the number of courses increase with some at over 600.We chose – not surprisingly – the least expensive menu but already felt uncomfortable that it wasn't offering us anything that we couldn't have got elsewhere for a much lower price. Joyce baulked at the amount of food and told the waiter that she "eats like a bird" and couldn't manage so much food. "Don't worry madame" he told her "this is a very small meal". OK, so now we knew it was not only expensive but we might need to find a snack on the way home. With a bit of eyelash batting she got the waiter to suggest that she and my sister 'share' a menu but we weren't too sure what that really meant. With regards to Joyce's birdlike tendencies, I can tell you she's more like a vulture than a sparrow.Morocco has some of the best bread in the world and I'd been in ecstasy with the warm crisp bread in our riad at dinner the night before and at breakfast earlier that day. So when the waiter appeared with small, rather hard and very thin little breads and served us one each, I was a bit miffed. The normal way is to stick a basket filled to bursting with slabs of bread and to keep filling it up – not to offer your guests a titchy little hard puck of bread. We received a few olives, some warm peanuts and some pickled odds and ends to nibble on but it did seem rather a mean offering.There was no choice of starter – you got, regardless of which menu you choose, a 'mosaic' of Moroccan salads. It also seems that whether there is one person or four people at your table, you get the same number of small dishes to try. Joyce was getting irritated that a single lady at the table next to us received just the same amount of food as we did. It was nice to have so many to try but each was little more than a small spoonful per person. I don't recall the details of every dish – and the light was so poor that I wasn't always sure what they were – but they included some lovely giant beans, a tomato salad, a gorgeous aubergine dip (always my favourite), and a couple that contained a lot of chopped mint.Beer in Dar Zellij will set you back 60 Dirham for a small bottle (that's about £5) and if you're a Brit then you'll want to prevent the waiter from pouring it unless you've developed strange foreign yearnings for a lot of froth.Main course choices were very limited – tajine with lamb, tajine with chicken or vegetable couscous. Somewhat annoyingly the vegetable couscous is included as an extra side-dish on the more expensive menus but was the only thing I could order. Disappointingly, I'd already had vegetable couscous for my lunch earlier in the day so I wasn't very excited by having it twice. The couscous came with an oily and barely spiced sauce which did nothing to lift it about the entirely ordinary. The dish of couscous was enormous and I barely scratched the surface of the amount offered whilst the others shared a dish of lamb tajine that was smaller than my mountain of couscous so I was able to persuade them to share. I'll have to take their word for it but they all claimed that the lamb was really good and that this was the best tajine of the holiday but sadly there was only very ordinary couscous for me.Dessert again was a choice of take it or leave it and was a pastilla of strawberry and custard. Pastilla is a dish with layers of crisp pastry which can be sweet or savoury. In this case it was pastry with a rather too sweet custard and sliced strawberry on top. The waiter bought just three and then when Joyce returned from the bathroom Aileen asked for an extra one. We didn't realise at this time that they were only serving us three people's worth of food and that was why she didn't have a dessert.Mint tea was served with a plate of local biscuits which we didn't finish. I find they're always a bit stale and often contain coconut which I've never really thought works in biscuits. Whilst we were sipping our teas, Tony crept off to pay the bill since he was feeling bad for bringing the girls somewhere so pricey. When I checked it later I was really impressed that they'd accepted Joyce's 'bird-like' please and only charged for three set meals plus an extra pudding but even so the bill came to 1620 dirhams which when a tip was added brought the bill to nearly £150.The setting was beautiful, the ambiance (screeching musicians excluded) was pleasant but the food just wasn't anything out of the ordinary. You can point out that £150 for four people isn't REALLY expensive but I'd have to disagree that for what we ate and the indifferent quality of the starters and my couscous in particular, I'd really have expected a lot better for a lot less.
by koshkha on April 9, 2011
Just around the corner from our Riad was a restaurant called Bougainvilliers which was note-worthy for two reasons; firstly it served good cheap food and secondly it was a landmark on our route because it was the place where we had to turn to head towards the Jemaa el Fna via the souks. We ate at Bougainvilliers twice – once for a late lunch and once for dinner. Obviously we liked it or we wouldn't have gone back a second time.Bougainvilliers is close to the Mouassine mosque in a district of old Marrakech which is to the north and slightly to the east of the Jemaa el Fna. It's just a few doors from a good foreign exchange office and there are plenty of small shops selling both food and souvenirs close by. Your first impressions are likely to be that the place is very pink. All of the chairs and sofas in the courtyard are upholsterd in bubble-gum pink mock ostrich leather. It sounds pretty extreme but in the bright light of a Marrakesh sunny day it's not as garish as you'd imagine because everything is so much brighter there. The large courtyard has a beautiful tiled fountain-wall overgrown with Bougainvillia and other climbing plants and large metal lamps are strung up above the courtyard though you'll only notice their dappled, filtered light when the sun goes down in the evening. There are also indoor eating areas that are not surprisingly also very pink and an upper roof terrace which nobody was using during either of our visits. Around the courtyard are several birdcages with canaries which chirped tunefully throughout the day and even though I loved the sound, I couldn't help but feel sad for them trapped in their cages.For lunch we grabbed a table with two pink sofas in a shady corner. The sofas were comfy if a bit sweaty in the mid day heat but the table was more like a coffee table so it meant you had to lean over to get to your food. The menu is small and simple with mostly salads, sandwiches, panninis, pizzas and the standard traditional dishes of couscous and tagine. We nibbled on the olives and bread basket whilst we decided what to have. Looking around we could see that the portions were going to be generous so we didn't mess around with starters and we probably shouldn't have eaten so much bread. To drink we ordered a couple of diet Cokes, a fat Coke and a cup of coffee.My sister ordered a Caprese salad (tomatoes and mozarella), her girlfriend asked for a cheese sandwich and hubby and I ordered panninis – his with goat cheese and vegetables and mine with prawns, cheese and roasted red peppers. Luckily we'd picked the only shaded table available so we weren't too frazzled by the time that the food arrived. Every dish was enormous and with the exception of the salad, came with a mound of chips. The cheese sandwich was made with three slices of toasted bread and had cheese on top as well as inside and each of the pannini dishes came with two round breads, about 10 cm in diameter. One would have been plenty and I did feel like a real pig for polishing off both. I blame a childhood of being told to eat up everything on my plate. Whilst the quality was good and the quantity enormous, I found it a bit bland because there was just too much melted cheese which rather swamped the taste of everything else. I find most Moroccan food rather dull so that was not big deal but a bit of chilli sauce or some herbs or even a dash of garlic could have lifted it out of the ordinary. Tony was more than happy with his goat cheese panninis (yes, I have a hubby who is addicted to stinky goat cheese) and by the time we'd finished there wasn't much left on any of the plates and nobody had space for pudding. Each of the main courses had been 50 Dirham and the drinks were 15 Dirhams on top – we each paid just over £5 for our lunches.On our second to last night we'd had a big blow out meal at another local restaurant so we were in the mood for a bargain on the last night and went back to Bougainvilliers for dinner. I'd asked earlier if they were open in the evening and been told "Yes madame, until about 8.30 or 9 o'clock". I have to admit that when we rolled up to an empty restaurant just after 8 the waitress didn't look entirely pleased to see us and we wondered if she'd been hoping for an early night. As the sun set and the lights came on the place took on a different atmosphere from the day time and within half an hour the courtyard was almost full again. Knowing that people are always wary to enter an empty restaurant, we did wonder whether they'd have had any clients that evening if we'd not gone in first.We'd learned our lessons about eating too much bread and so we avoided over stuffing ourselves when the waitress brought the bread basket. Tony and I ordered a trio of Moroccan salads to share as a starter and were surprised that there were four although admittedly one of them was so sweet and horrible (a type of sweet tomato 'jam') that we only ate three of them. One of the salads was aubergine dip, another was broad beans and the third was chunks of roasted courgette.For main courses three of us ordered pizzas (four cheeses, margherita and seafood) and the fourth had kebab skewers. The pizzas were large, very cheesy but a bit like the panninis a few days earlier they didn't taste of all that much. Herbs, garlic, or a bit of spice could easily have raised the bar from ordinary to very tasty and I was a bit disappointed. The amount of prawns, calamari and tuna was good but something was definitely missing. The bill for four of us came to 320 Dirhams (about £25) I didn't use the loos at the restaurant but everyone else did and proclaimed them to be very clean and Joyce reckoned they had the only toilet roll holder in Morocco (although it wasn't being used as such). I swear the three of them should have their own TV series as 'The Toilet Inspectors' as every place we go seems to get discussed and graded for its toilets and this one did well.~Recommendation~For hearty portions of good quality but slightly bland food, Bougainvilliers is hard to beat if you are staying in the Mouassine area. Keep in mind that almost ALL food in Morocco is pretty bland so an accusation of blandness is not particularly harsh. There's another restaurant just next door that looked to be about 4 times the price and the Cafe Arabe round the corner will set you back around £100 for dinner for four people so it's one of the best value options in the area. The setting is nice and the courtyard is a pleasant place to dine but it's worth bearing in mind that the restaurant doesn't serve alcohol.
The Cafe Arabe is the sort of place you will find in the guidebooks and so almost by definition it's not the sort of place to which we'd normally go. However it was so close to our riad that we couldn't help but be tempted. The fact that they had alcohol - and my sister and her girlfriend seemed to be at risk of withdrawal symptoms - was the deciding factor in them booking us a table on our second night in the Mouassine district of Marrakech. We knew it wasn't going to be cheap but the reviews we'd seen were very positive and a combination of booze and proximity sealed the deal.The restaurant is nominally Italian but not overtly so. The usual Italian restaurant cliches (I'm thinking waiters in over-tight trousers wielding over-sized pepper grinders) are absent - thankfully.The owners are Italian but the menu could fairly be described as international – you can eat Moroccan if you want to but quite honestly it would be a bit pointless when you can get those dishes everywhere in the city. There are plenty of pasta dishes to choose from as well as lots of hard to place on a map 'meat and veg' type dishes. We had checked the menu and knew it was not going to be cheap night out but the setting was so lovely that thought it was worth pushing the boat out. The days when Marrakech was a bargain break destination are fading fast and there are now increasing numbers of dining establishments to part the traveller from the cash they've saved by flying out on easyJet or Ryanair.The ground floor has a pretty terrace with tables set amongst the fruit-bearing orange trees. The next floor up has a swanky looking and dimly lit dining room with deep red lighting and a very cool vibe. However we were aiming for the top (aren't we always?) and had reserved a table on the roof terrace. I'd fallen down a hole in the ramparts at Essaouira the day before and had an ankle that looked like I'd borrowed it from an elephant but even so I sprung up the stairs to get to our allocated place.Arriving at 8 pm the sun was setting in the distance and we had a great view across the rooftops towards the Koutoubia mosque. My sister Aileen identified that it was an even better view once the sun had actually gone and all the scruffy rooftops and satellite dishes were hidden by the darkness whilst the minaret was attractively floodlit. We could look down on the ground floor orange trees and the diners below. Our table wasn't really a table – it was more a case of 'our sofas' and 'our round coffee table'. It did look like it would be more at home in a nightclub than a restaurant but it scored well on novelty value. At the table next two us an irritating older man shouted into his mobile phone whilst his cute younger male companion tapped away on his Blackberry – and they say that romance is dead! We were happy when the waiter had to move them on to make way for three young women amusingly dressed in ludicrous flowery maxi-dresses which might be the height of fashion but don't half look stupid.No formal dining can be possible when you've been seated at two big curved grey rattan sofas. You can't really lean back too far and eating off a table that's at the same height as the seating is a bit too much like having dinner on the sofa in front of the telly at home. But the lighting was atmospheric, the glass table was very funky with encased patterns trapped inside the glass which made someone comment that they expected to find a goldfish if they looked hard enough and the music was almost loud enough for us to ignore Mr Big and his mobile phone. I did giggle when they stopped the music for the call to prayer since I figured that Allah probably likes Coldplay as little as I do. The music was relaxed, multi-country and multi-era with plenty of old Bob Marley songs creeping in amongst the 80s and 90s classics. Any Italian that doesn't play 'Volare' at least once every hour can be defined as 'classy'.We ordered beers whilst we looked at the menus and the waiter brought over olives, bread-sticks and a bowl of warm nuts. I fear my exclamation of "Ooh, nice nuts" and my sister's giggle attack and the waiter's embarrassed confusion will be going into family folk lore and be brought out on many occasions.Knowing that the prices are steep, we decided to share starters. Aileen and Joyce ordered bruschetta and Tony and I ordered mixed Moroccan salads. Each was around the £7-8 mark. For main courses Aileen and I ordered pasta dishes (Penne Arabbiata and Fusilli with tuna, capers and olives) whilst Joyce ordered lamb with creamed potatoes and Tony had chicken scallopine with chips even though he wasn't entirely sure what scallopine meant. Tony and I stuck to beer and Joyce and Aileen ordered a bottle of Moroccan Syrah.The starters were generous and we'd been wise to share. The bruschetta came with three slices of bread but Aileen was a bit disappointed that it was mostly cubed tomato and what she described as 'cheap Danish mozzarella'. I'm not too sure what cheese is doing on a bruschetta to start with, no matter what its national origins, but it did seem weird that the cheapie restaurant round the corner could run to real mozzarella for it's Caprese salad but not the allegedly authentically posh Italian place.Our salads were fabulous with a large square plate piled high with a mix of different delights including sliced beef tomatoes, minced black olives, marinated broad beans, aubergine dip, cubed beetroot that looked a bit like school dinner beetroot, and roasted red peppers. Out of keeping with the rest of the restaurants we visited in Morocco, the bread provided was French-style baguette rather than soft puffy flat bread.All of the main courses were served a bit on the cold side. I had a forkful of Joyce's creamed potato and would probably have sent it back if I'd been her. Tony said his chicken wasn't overly warm either and suggested that it had probably been brought all the way up from the ground floor kitchen and cooled on the way. I can't help but think that restaurants solved problems like this many years ago (heat the plates – easy peasy) and they should have known better. My penne Arabiatta was nowhere close to spicy enough to be worthy of the name and the large quantity didn't really make up for the lack of oomph in the sauce. Half way through the dish I'd really had enough and only greed (and the price) got me through the dish. Joyce's lamb portion was enormous. I can't say too much since I don't eat meat and don't understand the cuts but there looked to be about 3 little chops as well as a big chunk of meat. Tony's chicken by contrast was a bit on the mean side although they compensated with a pile of chips of Atlas mountain-like proportions.The Casablanca beers were served good and cold and fortunately we were left to pour them ourselves. Most Moroccan waiting staff seem to have learned their beer pouring skills at the Amsterdam school of 'big heads' and it's frustrating to have to wait 10 minutes for the froth to settle before you can drink. The Syrah was apparently pretty good and rather smooth but I'm not a red wine drinker. We'd considered getting a bottle of white but been scared off by the really poor white we'd had at our first riad earlier in the week.The bill for the four of us for two starters, four main courses, six beers and a bottle of red came to 1060 Dirhams which we rounded up to 1200 with tip after checking that none had been added. 1250 Dirhams is approximately £100 so it was a tad under that. I wouldn't consider that overly expensive in the UK but for Morocco I thought it was very expensive and since the quality of the food wasn't great the cost could only be justified by the atmosphere, the view and the very pleasant service. It was certainly a couple of notches better than the average plastic laminated menus and plastic garden furniture establishments we'd eaten in elsewhere. If you want a classy modern restaurant that feels rather special and doesn't play up the whole Moroccan tradition, Cafe Arabe is pretty good but if you're choosing it out of desperation for booze, be warned that the alcohol adds a lot to the bill.
On our last day in Marrakech we consulted the guidebooks for something new to do. My husband and I have been twice before and had already worked our way through most of the more obvious tourist attractions but we'd never been to the Bahia Palace in the south of the city. With guidebook in hand I managed to get us and my sister Aileen and her girlfriend Joyce there without getting lost and along the route I spotted signs for a vegetarian and vegan cafe called Earth Cafe. As a fishitarian I'd been getting pretty bored with the food on offer for non-meat eaters which leans very heavily on carrots and potatoes and gets dull very quickly so I was keen to try it on the way back. With the palace suitably visited and all the other attractions in the area closed for lunch we decided to go and see if we could find the cafe. It was even listed in our guidebook – probably because it's the first and only veggie/vegan restaurant in Marrakech. The cafe is located on a side alley off the Rue Riad Zitoun Kdim which runs south easterly from the south eastern corner of Jemaa el Fna square. Look out for the signs and when you finally see a big arrow suspended above the street, you're in the right place. Head down the alley and there it is.I was immediately transported back to my sister's student days of hanging out at the Reading Wimmin's centre – this place is just so '1980s wholesome'. If it were not for the total absence of raffia mats and macramé wall hangings it would have been like stepping into a time warp. I think the retro look was probably entirely unintentional but it made me smile none the less.The ground floor has a tiny courtyard stuffed with scruffy looking chairs and tables with a couple of low ceilinged rooms off the courtyard. Up the stairs everything is painted in bright garish colours with deep orange walls contrasting pleasantly with deep blue doorways and not so pleasantly with a deep purple door to the toilet. The roof is covered with thick clear plastic to protect diners from the elements but I'd hope that can be retracted in the summer as it was already pretty warm in early April.The menu is available in English and French and is not easy to read since it's written on mirrors on the wall. They keep it pretty simple with four or 5 vegetarian dishes and a similar number of vegan options. I'm sure though that if you wanted the vegetarian dishes 'veganised' they'd be happy to take out the cheese and eggs where appropriate because everything is cooked fresh from scratch. They also make fresh juices but if carrot and beetroot aren't your thing, they aren't so obsessive as to deny you a Coke or Diet Coke if that's what you fancy.We ordered thee glasses of 'carrot, ginger and orange' juice and my brave sister went for the 'beetroot and something or other' juice. The colours were stunning with the 'carrot plus' coming out a deep mango orange in colour and the beetroot juice looking exactly as you'd imagine it would. Sadly it tastes exactly the way you expect too. I forgot to check up with her later but I was predicting serious pink wee problems after at glass of that. Nothing that looks and tastes like beetroot juice could possibly fail to do you good. Next time you're contemplating over-priced funky juices in a Wagamama, keep in mind you can get a great big glass of lurid orange or purple juice in Marrakech for just 20 Dirhams (about £1.60).Between us we all managed to choose something different for our meals which is good for review-writing research but not much fun for the kitchen. My husband was trying to be good by ordering a warm salad of seasonal veg with goat cheese which came with a balsamic and olive oil dressing. I ordered a filo parcel stuffed with pumpkin, spinach, poached apple confit and goat cheese. Aileen went for the vegan veggie burger and Joyce ordered spring rolls with blue cheese. We sipped our lurid drinks and checked out the goods in the cafe's little shop – lots of home pressed oils, odd crafty things and bits and bobs. The waitress brought us some wholemeal bread with oil to dip it in which I guessed was probably argan oil rather than olive oil since Morocco doesn't half bang on about argan oil. For those unfamiliar with argan, it's the uniquely Moroccan tree that goats love to climb because they are addicted to the fruit. If you've ever seen crazy photos of goats up trees, you can bet your money that's an argan tree. The cafe offers cookery classes most days for 200 Dirhams per person which includes lunch and a bottle of oil. That really is more of a mission to spread the word of vegetarianism than a financially viable option since lunch can well cost you half that amount.Service isn't fast because everything is cooked from scratch in a tiny kitchen. We weren't in a hurry even though it was nearly 3pm by the time we'd ordered. When the food arrived we were all shocked about the size of the portions. My husband's salad was not exceptionally massive but he didn't need to worry because none of the rest of us could get through our enormous dishes so he got everyone's left overs. My filo parcel was about 2 inches thick and 4 or 5 inches square and was sitting on top of a bed of pumpkin and carrots. Joyce's spring rolls were about 6 inches long and a couple of inches thick – not at all what she'd expected. The veggie burger was about the size of a babies head and we all had to help out to get it finished.My parcel was really just a bit too big to manage and I'd probably have loved it twice as much if it had been half the size. The goat cheese was not terribly 'goaty' but the blend of spices was refreshing after several days of extremely bland Moroccan food. The blue cheese in Joyce's spring roll was less intense than I'd have really wanted but Aileen's veggie burger had lots of ginger in it which gave it a great bite.Puddings were absolutely impossible to squeeze in after quite so much food. Despite us all claiming our dishes were enormous, somehow we got to the end of the meal with very little in the way of leftovers. It had been a long time since we'd finished our juices so we ordered a couple of diet cokes and Aileen ordered a pot of 'yogi tea' just to find out what it was. It turned out to be a large pot of grass and leaves in a hot water that didn't taste of much but was undoubtedly very good for you.Our meals came to under 400 Dirhams (approx £32) for the four of us which was excellent value – to be honest we weren't really hungry again for a very long time.
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