Tuesday, 24 August 2010

La Maison Arabe - Boo in Marrakesh

On our final night in Marrakesh we opted for something a bit fancier and tried out the legendary and long established Maison Arabe. This place was a real trailblazer in that they were the first hotel to open up to the general non staying public, serving tourists traditional Moroccan food with a modern twist, they also have a cookery school. The building is luxurious and the decor plush, fully air conditioned with a piano bar in which to enjoy a pre dinner drink and a terrace restaurant overlooking a beautiful and romantically lit outdoor pool.

Upon arrival I had a Prosecco whilst Thomas opted for a mojito and we nibbled on some complimentary almonds whilst listening to the piano player. He took requests! We did however feel slightly rushed, having arrived early and finding the restaurant far from full we were surprised to be hurried into looking at the menu and ordering whilst sitting in the bar. It felt like the waiters were watching us as we finished our drinks, waiting to pounce at the very moment our empty glasses hit the table. We had asked what would be the best time to book for dinner, 9:30 was suggested so we were a little taken aback by this.

As we sat down the starters and some bread arrived, we'd barely had time to unravel our napkins but I enjoyed the food. I had ordered the pastilla with chicken and almond and Thomas the pastilla aux de mer, on that day with monkfish but the fish varies by season. We soon realised that we preferred each others and swapped, the fish was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of citrus, the pastry was crisp yet holding it's shape and I enjoyed this take on the dish far more that the previous one I'd tried at the Djemaa el Fna.

There is a choice of menu here, you can opt for either the national cuisine or a choice of dishes from around the globe, no brainer really, for main course I had the beef tagine with oranges which was perhaps a tad too sweet for my tastes but the meat was succulent and flavoursome (served on the bone, I don't recall the cut) and there was some candied peel on top adding a bitter edge. Thomas had a chicken tagine and this time we skipped the cous cous side order, feeling that end of trip bloat. There was plenty of bread to mop up the tagine juices with.

Feeling full we requested a break before dessert and retired poolside to finish our wine (house white) and enjoy the music courtesy of Badaoui & Isbah Khalid (see some of their work here on YouTube), it was really quite mesmerising and created an amazing relaxed atmosphere, we took away with us one of their cds. By the end of the night it was just us and 1 other couple enjoying the music, it felt like a private intimate gig and made the night for us.

However, once again the mood was scuppered slightly by the hurried service and our desserts were served after around 5 minutes instead of the half an hour break we'd politely asked for. I really liked the passion fruit souffle but I just couldn't find room to finish and I rarely leave food. The music did make up for it though and I would recommend La Maison Arabe, it's a blissful haven of tranquility amidst the hectic alleys of Marrakesh. As a reflection of the superior food they serve, the prices here are a lot higher than we paid anywhere else in the city but it was well worth it for the entertainment in particular.

p.s this is not to be confused with Cafe Arabe, a place we frequented daily for the duration of our stay mostly because we loved the water spray system they have on the roof terrace. With temperatures soaring into the late 30s we sought refuge here to cool down and enjoy a drink. Again, it's a tad on the pricey side by Marrakesh standards but we would always make the most of the complimentary bowls of olives and bread sticks. They do a mean bloody mary too.

La Maison Arabe
1, Derb Assehbé
Bab Doukkala

Cafe Arabe
184, rue Mouassine

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