PLACES: AL-CASBAH

"I wanted to create something different, something daring. When you walk through my doors, you experience another culture," says Farid, 35, proud owner of Al-Casbah. Filled with Moorish treasures, it's the perfect Aladdin's cave. Terracotta jugs and tambourines lace the tables, while lanterns hang from the ceiling and richly coloured rugs spill out onto the pavement. A spiral stairwell leads downward to a cavernous retreat, perfect for lazy afternoons. But upstairs the place is buzzing. Those who dream of Arabian nights could do worse than spend an evening here, feasting on authentic North African cuisine while belly dancers move to the sounds of live Moroccan music. Who could resist sweet chicken in almond and orange sauce or vegetable couscous, followed by a hot mocha coffee and a blast on a water pipe? "It's a crazy place, I love it. Crazy things happen here," giggles Farid. And I believe him.

Al-Casbah, 42 Hampstead High Street, London NW3, 0171 435 7632.

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