If you’re an out and out foodie, your life won’t be complete without a trip to Marrakech. Exotic spices and tantalising aromas fill every corner of this wonderful city. You’ll find everything from exclusive restaurants requiring advanced booking to low-key cafés frequented by locals, and food stalls in the souks and squares dishing up Moroccan food to all nationalities under the sun. Here’s what you need to know!
Marrakech itself is a wonderful place to visit, but it can come as a bit of a culture shock. You’ll be approached as you pass every café and food stall. The waiters are persistent and the only way to fend them off is to say you have just eaten!
As a first-time visitor, finding a place to eat can feel overwhelming. There are so many places to choose from, and deciphering the good from the not-so-good can often come down to pot-luck. Get it wrong and you’ll be going home with a mediocre view of Moroccan food, when you should be blown away.
Here’s a first-timer’s guide for foodies in Marrakech to help you navigate, find the hidden gems and hit the jackpot in your culinary tour.
Marrakech food rules:
Ask any seasoned traveller in Marrakech about the do’s and don’ts of eating here and they’ll tell you there are just some things you simply need to avoid.
The last thing you want to encounter is a dose of the dreaded traveller’s trots. It will ruin your stay. Follow these simple rules and you’ll be fine:
- Drink bottled water. Use it to clean your teeth, and say no to ice cubes in drinks.
- Avoid anything that is likely to have been washed in water, such as salads or raw vegetables.
- Use antibacterial hand gel if you are eating out and have been handling things in the souks or touching money.
- Don’t use straws (they may have been used before).
- Be discerning about food stalls – there are only a few things you’ll see the locals eating. Look for stalls where Moroccan families are eating. If all you see is tourists, take a wide berth.
- Avoid buying cookies from carts – they may look good, but they aren’t a patch on those from the patisseries.
- Don’t think a fancy restaurant is a precursor to good hygiene. While most upmarket restaurants will turn out to be fine, there isn’t a guarantee.
- Before buying fried food from street stalls, take a peek at the oil they are frying the food in – if it’s dark, it’s probably been in use for a while and is best avoided.
- Beware of street vendors selling fried fish – Marrakech is land locked so it takes some effort to get seafood here. If you can’t see the freshness of it before it is fried, don’t buy it.
- If buying from food stalls, it’s best to stick with foods that are grilled. Stock pots and tagines may be topped up daily, rather than started from scratch. The dishes you must try
Don’t let the food rules fill you with paranoia and put you off. There are plenty of wonderful (safe) places to eat in Marrakesh and the local cuisine is delicious.
Dishes you simply must try:
- B’ssara – a simple broad bean soup, traditionally served for breakfast.
- Tagine – a traditional clay pot used to cook a myriad of dishes. Used everywhere from top notch restaurants to roadside cafés.
- Chermoula – a combination of herbs and spices used to marinade fish before grilling. Also used as a dipping sauce.
- Harira – a lamb, tomato and lentil soup served after sunset during the holy month of Ramadan.
- Couscous – a fine-wheat semolina, served along the lines of rice, with a stew of meat and vegetables. It is often garnished with a sweet raisin preserve or with a bowl of buttermilk.
- Zaalouk – a smoked aubergine dip. Often served with other vegetables and breads as a starter.
- B’stilla – a pie made from thin layers of pastry, pigeon meat, almonds and eggs, and spiced with saffron.
Restaurants in Marrakech
Don’t miss these high-end restaurants (there are so many, it was difficult to choose!)
Dar Moha – one of the best restaurants in Marrakech offering traditional Moroccan dishes with a nouvelle cuisine slant. Don’t let the nouvelle-cuisine slant bit put you off – portion sizes are good and you’ll have to be careful not to over order. The restaurant offers set meals, live music and a pool (poolside tables are best). You’ll need to book in advance.
Al Fassia – there are two Al Fassias, choose the one in Guillez, which has mid-range prices. Expect good traditional Moroccan food à la carte, cooked and served up by an all-woman team. The Maitre D here is one of the best in Marrakech!
Le Fondouk – wonderful setting in the heart of the souks with tables inside and on the roof top terrace offering fabulous views of the Medina. This is a really good restaurant offering à la carte food.
Pepe Nero – up there with the best. This restaurant is located in beautiful surroundings and offers both Moroccan and European cuisines. Expect top end prices and an exceptionally good wine list.
Tobsil – small and intimate restaurant, often picked out as one of the best for dining out in Marrakech. It’s perfect for a romantic meal.
Top pick for lunch
Nomad – perfectly situated amongst the souks on the edge of Spice Square in a former carpet store. Modern Moroccan cuisine in the mid-price range is served at tables set over 4 floors, with the option of intimate dining. They don’t serve alcohol, but who needs anything but food and soft drinks at lunchtime anyway.
There’s so much more Marrakech has to offer, so don’t be limited by the choices presented here. Do your research, eat at your Riad (this should be first on your list), and follow your heart.