Plate With A View: Le Marrakchi Marrakesh, Morocco
Saturday 24 September 2005
On your first night in Marrakesh, it's essential to eat overlooking Jemaa El Fna, the busiest, noisiest square in North Africa. And Le Marrakchi is the place to go. On two floors in the north-east corner of the square, Le Marrakchi is dominated by traditional Moroccan mosaics on the first floor and panoramic windows on the second.
Discreetly lit and furnished with low, comfortable chairs, wooden shutters and lots of candles, the restaurant offers two set menus: the Marrakchi (Dh250/£15) and the Medina (Dh350/£21) and some fine local wines.
Both menus feature pastilla (meat wrapped in filo pastry sprinkled with cinnamon), clay-baked lamb tagine and the ubiquitous couscous. A nine-course Moroccan salad is a healthy starter and the Guerrouane rosé (Dh120) is an excellent accompaniment.
The music is techno-Berber and the staff dress all in black like stagehands - which is apt, given the street theatre going on below.
Jemaa El Fna is an apocalyptic vision: white smoke from scores of fast-food stalls drifting across the square as snake charmers, drummers and vendors rend the air with their cries. Among the mêlée, storytellers and henna artists accost the crowds, while above it all rise stately mosques whose towers obey the Almobad proportions, standing five times as high as they are wide. In the distance you will see the 16th-century ramparts of Marrakesh, which run 12 miles around the city, and the roof of the La Mamounia, one of the best Art Deco hotels in the world, which in its time has hosted Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon and Orson Welles.
Prices are average for a tourist restaurant in Marrakesh. A two-course set meal of Dh250 for two people, plus wine, water and tip, should come to Dh700 (£43).
Open every day from midday to 1am. Dinner from 7.30pm. Book ahead at weekends.
Le Marrakchi, 52 Rue des banques, Marrakesh (00 212 44 44 33 777, www.lemarrakchi.com).
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