Donald MacInnes: Of all the fake gin joints in all the world...

In The Red

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The Independent Online

Last week I led you by the fez tassel into the chaotically aromatic shadows of the old market in Casablanca, where I had bought my wife and I a new pair of quality sunglasses each for a strongly haggled tenner. Sadly, the enthusiastic back-and-forthing with the vendor left me feeling a little, well, cheap. And grubby. That's it: cheap and grubby.

Having said that, as we left the market (at a healthy clip), I consoled myself with the idea that, while Mr Sunglasses may not have made much of a mark-up, he probably didn't fare as badly as his betrayed countenance would suggest. Anyway, we had urgent dinner plans at Rick's Café and couldn't afford to worry too much about a stallholder who was probably still keening like a kabuki performer even as we were taking our seats in Casablanca's most revered and, frankly, made-up gin joint.

Rick's Café is clearly not the original venue for Bogie's white-dinner-jacketed stalking of Bergman's Swedish meatball. It is, like the sunglasses lined up on that market stall, a facsimile. However, it may be a bogus construct put there to vacuum up tourists' wedge, but they have done a fine job. It may not resemble the actual sound stage on the Warner Bros lot, but the real (fake) thing doesn't half make you feel as if you are dining right in the middle of the movie. I was even unable to control my top lip from tightening across my teeth like Bogart from time to time.

The biggest challenge was to resist the temptation to forget my 18 months of nicotine sobriety and back-slide like a newly slim Ricky Gervais in an all-you-can-eat pastry buffet. In Rick's, like the rest of Morocco, lighting up after (as well as before and, in many cases, actually during) dinner is positively encouraged. In fact, each course is delivered with a freshly lit Rothmans stuck in the top, like some twisted birthday candle.

The only way I could take my mind off the magnificent fug of smoke vortexing around the restaurant was to get royally wasted on Moroccan rosé wine and try to remember that, while a cigarette may look right, proper and beyond cool in the tight, menacing mouth of Humphrey Bogart, it just makes me smell. And, given that fags now cost about eight quid, who has that kind of money to throw away?

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