Two of Marrakech’s best restaurants are in hotels we recommend: La Grande Table Marocaine in the Royal Mansour and Le Restaurant at La Maison Arabe. But the city has no shortage of other excellent options in a range of neighborhoods. In most Moroccan restaurants, the food is casually presented but rich in flavor.
You’re likely to encounter variations of pastilla, a large phyllo packet traditionally stuffed with ground pigeon and topped with powdered sugar. Personally, I don’t care for this version and opt for pastillas that are wholly sweet or savory. You can’t help but encounter tagine, a slow-cooked stew or casserole. Common versions include chicken with preserved lemon and olives, and beef or lamb with dates and/or apricots. Couscous is also never far away.
Argan oil, a wonderfully rich and nutty finishing oil produced only in Morocco, appears less frequently on menus than it used to, alas, perhaps because the oil’s newfound international popularity has pushed up prices.
I’d heard conflicting opinions about which branch of this restaurant was best, but I could find little to fault at the original Guéliz location. Owned and run by women, Al Fassia makes some of Marrakech’s top traditional food. I relished my savory saffron-spiked pastilla filled with scallops, shrimp and sea bass, as well as my simple but delicious tagine of beef and marrow bone with preserved lemon.
Some darkly rich Terres Rouges from Morocco’s Côtes de Rommani AOC made for a memorable wine pairing. Our server was charming and quick to laugh, as well as efficient. This restaurant is justly popular, making advance reservations necessary.
55 Boulevard Zerktouni. Tel. (212) 524-434-060
Also in Guéliz, a French-built neighborhood adjacent to the medina, Le Grand Café de la Poste has a romantic colonial atmosphere and a menu with both French and Moroccan dishes. Smoking is permitted inside — many Marrakech restaurants still allow it — but it wasn’t smoky. After a slice of a flawless baguette, I tucked into some delectable John Dory topped with garlic-parsley butter, accompanied by a rich and slightly spicy ratatouille. A glass of zesty Domaine de Sahari Vin Gris was a fine accompaniment.
Le Grand Café de la Poste
Boulevard El Mansour Eddahbi and Avenue Imam Malik Guéliz. Tel. (212) 524-433-038
Located near the Place des Épices spa in the heart of the souks, this restaurant appears on almost everyone’s list of recommended Marrakech restaurants. I concede that this time the crowd is onto something. The delightful multilevel roof terrace has black-and-white chevron-tiled tables with views of the spice-filled square nearby and cubist rooftops backdropped by the High Atlas Mountains. My salad of shaved cauliflower and fennel with roasted almonds was crunchy and refreshing, and a chicken-leg tagine with apricots, dates, lemon, ginger, saffron and green beans was succulent and deeply flavored. Although Nomad doesn’t serve alcohol, it’s always busy, so make advance reservations.
1 Derb Aarjane. Tel. (212) 524-381-609
This hotel has a stylish, masculine décor; a location convenient to the Djemaa el-Fna; and an invitingly large pool. But I hesitate to recommend it, as it stands on a particularly unromantic street, and its staff, while competent, can be rather standoffish. However, I do very much like the hotel’s quiet and refined restaurant. Start with an aperitif in one of the chic lounges, and then turn your attention to a menu featuring Moroccan and French options. I kept to the Moroccan dishes, starting with a pretty salad of sweet wild pink shrimp with disks of roasted bell peppers and fluffy preserved-lemon espuma. Tender lamb shoulder with orange zest, carrots and seffa (vermicelli) followed, after which I succumbed to a decadent dessert of crunchy nougatine petals with a cream of dates and cinnamon.
La Villa des Orangers
6 Rue Sidi Mimoun. Tel. (212) 524-384-638