Andi is keen to show the food of Marrakesh is of the highest quality. So they head to Al Fassia – a restaurant out of the city centre and run by two sisters.
“It’s just the most extraordinary place. The sisters that run it are the most beautiful women”. Andi has pre-ordered their food, including slow-roast lamb with almonds and caramelised onions. When eating it, she starts to cry because she loves it so much, and she explains this isn’t the only time she’s shed tears there. “I just found it all so incredibly moving. How they do what they do every day, in this beautiful, quiet, intimate way.”
The second eatery they visit is a former palace, which is now a high-end hotel: El Fenn. Andi has discovered that non-hotel guests can have breakfast on the roof terrace too.
Here we are introduced to Moroccan breads beyond the familiar French-influenced baguettes and flatbreads – batbout and harcha. They are thick, almost bun-like, and include semolina flour, which gives them a crumbly texture. You can see on-screen just how satisfying they are.
Andi and Fred spread a delicious almond butter on the bread – homemade on the premises using local ingredients. That’s just the start. Fred orders shakshuka, while Andi opts for a light and fluffy omelette which comes filled with dried lamb.
What really impresses the two is how important the local community is to the restaurant.“They’re very good at making sure the money coming in is spread throughout the community. The dairy comes from just outside, the lamb from a local farm, the bakery is right on the corner, the fabric for the cushions is woven just down the road”, explains Andi.
The secret of a great tagine
Next up is a service station. Yes, you read that right. Andi and Fred pull up to a roadside cafe. Fred looks confused, but Al Baraka really is a locals’ favourite – and for one main reason: its chicken tagines.
“The heat is distributed through the tagine pot in a particular way, so where you place the chicken, olives, garlic, the spices, how much water goes in, every tiny bit of nuance is really important because it changes the flavour and you have to do it right”, says Andi.
Andi and Fred don their chef’s whites and lend a hand, but it’s a nerve-wracking experience. “We were thinking ‘we have to get it right, we don’t want to mess up their recipe’”, she continues, laughing as she thinks back to being VERY closely monitored.
Arabic, African and French flavours in sweet treats
The final destination on the trip sees them visit a patisserie. Proving there are hidden gems even in the medina, they choose Corne de Gazelle, which serves up bite-sized sweet treats. “It’s a mix of the Arabic world, the African world and the French-European world, all within one tiny bite. And it is a case of, ‘Oh I’ve eaten so much I can’t eat any more, oh okay well maybe just one tiny little bite’.
“I mean, they are incredibly sweet and I don’t have a massively sweet tooth. But they’re perfect because it’s just one bite of complex sweetness. It’s nuts, dates and molasses and then you’re done”.
Here their trip ends, but having highlighted how rich and diverse Marrakesh cuisine is, there is only one negative. Fred finishes the trip by showing his dance moves, while Andi looks on horrified.
Why Andi keeps returning to Marrakesh (and its food)
“I went there when I was much younger. It was just one of those places me and my friends would visit”, Andi muses. “It’s a really fascinating place. It feels like all the world is in Marrakesh. If you stand there long enough, you’ll probably see and meet everyone you need to meet.”