Looking for good eats in Marrakesh, Fes, and Essaouira.
I'm traveling to Morocco in the next few days and am looking for restaurant tips -- all of the guidebooks seem to have the same recommendations and would appreciate any insightful eating suggestions.
I will be spending my birthday in Marrakesh, so if anyone has any ideas for an awesome birthday dinner, would love your thoughts.
Hi there. The same names come up in all the guides because, although things are improving rapidly, there are still only a limited number of good restaurants in Marrakech. Unfortunately Casa Lalla, the riad-restaurant run by talented chef Richard Neat, is no more. Instead, for good Moroccan food and a lively atmosphere (hitting a crescendo on weekends) try Tanjia (www.le-tanjia.com). For quieter surrounds, Dar Moha (www.darmoha.ma), where I have had terrific meals on several occasions, although the quality isn't what it was. Similarly, quality is variable at Foundouk (www.foundouk.com) but the restaurant is super stylish and very beautiful.
I know it's a bit late for this to matter, but Le Sud is hands down the best Moroccan place in Marrakesh right now. It's too new to be in the guidebooks, but it's reasonably priced, has good service, a great atmosphere and to-die-for tajines and cous cous. I used to live in Marrakesh and I can tell you that most of the heavy hitters you'll find listed in the book aren't really that great-- they're overpriced and inauthentic. To get authentic food you usually have to seek out some dingy little hole in the wall in the medina or the back streets of Gueliz. Le Sud gives you the best of both worlds-- genuine Marrakeshi cuisine served in a posh yet very Moroccan ambiance.
Tell a taxi cab to take you to Cafe La Flamme at the end of Ave. Mohammed Cinq and turn left. It's one block down on the lefthand side-- there's usually a large man in traditional dress standing outside.
Other than that, Riad 42 is superlative as well. That's one of the few places that gets written up in the books that is actually ridiculously good. I'd be hard pressed to tell you how to find it since it's in a part of the Medina I never went to otherwise.
For a special occasion, I would absolutely recommend Ksar Char Bagh. It was voted one of the top 50 best restaunrants in the world by Conde Nast and it's one of my absolute favorite haute cuisine experiences of any kind. The setting is amazing and everything on offer is pitch perfect. It's located in the Palmerie and is thus a bit of a haul outside of town-- call them and they can arrange for their lavander colored London Black Cab to come and pick you up (for a fee-- which is TOTALLY worth it to watch the driver interact with passersby who are amused beyond belief to see such a thing wheeling around their city).
It is quite moderate. We'd often get out of there for 570DDH with an ap, two mains, a bottle of wine and dessert. Mains are between, say, 12 and 18 USD. They have a website here: http://www.lesud-marrakech.com/
If you click on Restaurant le Sud and then click on le carte, you can brose the menu. There's no English version, but a few of the staff speak some (but not much) English if you don't speak any French.
Just got back from a trip to Morocco. I'm sure this response is late, but thought I'd add to the thread since I had a really hard time finding recommendations before my trip. I must say that Le Sud was delicious. The couscous and tagine were both cooked to perfection. The atmosphere was great also. It had dim lighting, complimentary and a lovely outdoor seating area.
As for a "hole in the wall" place, we came upon Chez Rida. It's in a very local area, close to Place Mokef (just ask any cab driver to take you Place Mokef- they'll know what you're talking about and since Rida's place was so popular I'm sure you can find someone who can walk you there). He has just about a dozen seats total and a very limited menu of harira, roasted chicken, mixed salad, moroccan salad, and a roasted chicken sandwhich. Had it all. All were cooked and seasoned to perfection.
Don't forget to get msemen/malaoui from one of the ladies selling them in their small roadside stands. They are a cross between a crepe and phyllo, fried on a flat plan, and served rolled up in paper. If you're staying at a riad you'll probably have them for breakfast there also. You can get them all over Morocco.
In Fes, I had a three course tasting menu at Riad Fes. The desert was disappointing, but the salad course (it's actually 5 different 'salads' including a spiced eggplant dish with olive oil and bulger wheat wheat dish that were to die for) and the entrees were phenominal. I'm a dessert fiend and I think the savory courses more than made up for the gross desserts. Just note that they only offer some of the items on their menu online and if you want pigeon, you have to order it in advance.
Also in Fes, we ate at Thami's a million times. It's listed in Lonely Planet with good reason. Every single meal was finger lickin' good and the portions were enough for two people to share. Definitely go here!!
Both Riad Fes and Thami's are located close to Place Batha so should be easy enough to find from there. There's also a taxi stand in Batha making it really convenient to catch a cab home after dinner if you're not within walking distance.