Yes, there are the historical sites, but let’s face it, there are few things as enjoyable as dining—and ahem, wining—when you are on vacation in Marrakesh. Not only Moroccan cuisine is on offer in Marrakesh, too; given the country’s proximity to Europe and its French heritage, many restaurants have a distinctive continental flair. And even though Marrakesh is landlocked, Morocco is famous for its oysters and has the best crabs I’ve ever tasted—so enormous that just one makes a whole meal. Morocco also produces some wonderful wines and is, in fact, the largest wine producer in the Muslim world. The bottom line is that you won’t go hungry or thirsty—far from it—and the whole experience will be wrapped up in the moody atmospherics that Morocco is so famous for. And even better, you don’t need to spend an exorbitant amount to enjoy these feasts. Here is a small selection of some of my very favorite—and affordable—restaurants in Marrakesh:
Restaurant at La Maison Arabe
Home to the city’s oldest Moroccan cooking school, Maison Arabe is, no surprise, famous for its food. In its early days, it entertained diners like Winston Churchill and Jackie Kennedy; more recently, this is where Martha Stewart had a private catered lunch. The tagine with sesame-dipped, baby eggplants and whole caramelized clementines is divine.
It’s all high drama at this restaurant with its lounge-style lighting, golden-tiled columns and oversized capiz chandeliers. But the food is nothing to sneeze about. Try the calamari starter (tender and fresh) followed by the tournedos beef (an excellent cut, perfectly prepared). The house red wine, meanwhile, is one of Morocco’s best.
This is where I go when I want a really good steak. But there’s plenty more on the menu, from foie gras to lobster pasta. Le Studio is always mobbed by the French expat crowd, so don’t be surprised to find smokers on your left and your right.
Run by a French couple, this is the very best place to have fish and seafood in Marrakesh. Start with delicious Moroccan oysters, then move on to the lobster, or the catch of the day. For dessert, the crème caramel is big enough for two—and excellent. There’s a very nice wine list as well.
To reach this fabulous Italian restaurant, located at the Four Seasons Hotel, you’ll get to stroll through the hotel’s beautiful grounds, replete with fountains. Just be sure to reserve in advance, because it’s almost always booked. Be patient—service is not speedy—but this is a lovely place to linger.