Five days of eating in Marrakech, Morocco

Just got back from a five day visit to the exciting and exotic Moroccan city of Marrakech.

For once, we had not planned that much in advance, leaving it to our at-the-time cravings what we were to eat.

We had a general idea about Moroccan food upon arrival, but in the end managed to eat both the obvious stuff such as tagines and cous cous; the ‘middle road’ such as the (in)famous bastilla pigeon pie, and more unique stuff such as old school berber food.

Read below about where and what we ate.

Riad Itrane (hotel)

Ultra-romantic setting by the pool.

The first night in Marrakech we had pre-booked a traditional Moroccan dinner in our hotel, or riad, which is a traditional style Moroccan hotel.

Moroccan salads started the feast. Carrots, beans, potato salad, aubergine, tomatoes and eggs. Also olives, harissa and fluffy Moroccan khubz bread. Delicious.

For main: the national dish of Morocco, tagine which is a stew that is slow-cooked in a clay pot named… tagine (or tajine), this one with chicken, confit lemon and green olives. Sooo good.

Nos nos (half half) with milk pudding, orange coulis, strawberries and mint. A little pannacotta-y.

Moroccan breakfast, also served at Riad Itrane. No buffet within sight, instead a lot of small dishes delivered to your table. Eggs with harissa and cumin, semolina pancakes, jams, dates, nuts, flatbreads and cakes. Each day the menu changed slightly which was nice.

Price: €25 per person for the dinner. Breakfast was included in our stay. Do note that the restaurant might or might not be available only to guests. Contact them in advance (they speak English and are friendly).

Website

Naranj Lebanese restaurant

Lebanese sandwiches, one taouk with chicken and one kefta with meatballs. Served with super-tasty potato chips and cabbage slaw. The (virgin) mojitos were nice too.

Meze platter. A bit small serving size on the dips, but good quality and very tasty.

The prettiest dessert in a while: Slillo cheesecake. Slilo or sellou is an unbaked Moroccan sweet usually served for ramadan. In this interpretation the slilo formed the bottom layer (ground anis, sesame, honey and almonds) and was then topped with a creamy, soft cheese layer and a final sprinkle of rose leaves. So, so good. And clever.

Price: About €45 for two with shared starter and dessert, two mains, two mojitos and a bottle of water.

Website: http://www.naranj.ma

Pepe Nero

Another super pretty location: Pepe Nero, one of Marrakech’s fanciest restaurants serving both Italian and Moroccan food. We tried the latter.

Extremely tender slow roasted shoulder of lamb.

Moroccan salads, including carrot salad, amazing texture (and flavour) baba ganoush, hummus, roasted peppers and potato salad. Enjoyed with local President rosé wine.

Pastilla: crispy Moroccan pigeon pie. Both sweet and savoury. Sounds weird, tastes delicious.

We finished the meal with a few Moroccan pastries and mint tea. The dessert was least exciting, but tasty enough.

The ambience is quite fancy and also quite touristy, at the same time service was so-so. Prices are high, but the food is tasty. And they have wine. So it wasn’t my favourite experience in Marrakech, but I don’t regret going either.

Price: About €95 for two starters, a shared main (serving for two) and a shared dessert with mint tea, as well as two half bottles of wine and water.

Website: http://www.pepenero-marrakech.com

Chez Brahim

We visited Chez Brahim since it was very close to our hotel and that it had good reviews on both Google and Tripadvisor.

While nothing spectacular, Chez Brahim offered relatively decent food for a decent price in the middle of the medina. The lamb meat was grilled and quite tasty, the fries weren’t that exciting and the rice thing was lukewarm at best.

What was quite delicious though was their khubz flatbreads with harissa and olives we got when we arrived.

Price: About €18 for two mains, soft drink and water.

La Vallé Atlas Ourika

The river along (or pretty much in) the restaurant is located.

Bonus mountain pictures.

While visiting beautiful Ourika Valley, situated in The Atlas Mountains we had lunch at La Vallée restaurant. Located on a sandbank in the river, location was stunning.

Food was quite nice with above cous cous served with seven kinds of roasted vegetables and chicken.

Berber chicken lemon tagine with a few fries. More of roasted chicken, less of stew than the other tagine we had.

Price: About €18 for two mains, soft drink and water.

Blackchich Café

At Blackchich café, we ate some of the most well-cooked food of the trip. The restaurant is Senegalese-Moroccan so they have both West African dishes such as Chicken Yassa or peanuty domoda stew as well as old school Moroccan berber dishes. They are located in the medina with three floors of seating, where the final one is an open roof top with very nice views of the city.

A minus for me though were that by some reason a pack of cats hung out there, standing by the table begging for food and actually trying to snatch some, so you had to watch your food which was annoying. That might have been a problem specific to just that day.

I had Rfissa, an old berber dish with slow cooked chicken and lentils in a rich butter sauce topped with quail eggs and served with steamed msemen crepes (latter being almost pasta-like since the msemen is cut into ribbons). Clever, tasty and very rich.

We also tried their meze platter with the usual suspects hummus, bana ganoush and Moroccan salads, which came with a fluffy flatbread.

Price: About €40 for a mint lemonade, coke, a shared starter and two mains.

Maison de la Photographie (House of Photography)

Another place with a nice rooftop is the Maison de la Photographie, a small photo museum in the medina. After admiring their old photos of Marrakech for a while you end up at their small café where you can buy both food and (non-alcoholic) drinks. Most people (and us) had a relaxing glass of mint tea before departing againfor the craziness of the medina.

Price: €2 for two mint teas.
Website: http://www.maisondelaphotographie.ma/

9 days of eating tropical fusion food in Mauritius

Just got back from a nine day visit to the beautiful Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius. Apart from lazying on the beach, admiring jungle falls, and drinking too many Phoenix beers (and trying to hunt for the Flying Dodo craftbeer – which is almost as hard to find as its extinct namesake), I have of course done a fair bit of eating.

Mauritius has some interesting history, being mentioned by Arab sailors in the 1400s; populated by the Portugese in the 1500s; then colonized by the Dutch in 1598; by France from 1715 until 1810, and then finally ruled by the British until indepedence in 1968.

The Mauritian people is a diverse mix of inhabitants with Indian-Mauritians making up the biggest part of the population (approximately 70%), and African, Chinese and French/European decendants standing for the remaining 30 percent.

This of course translates into the Mauritian cuisine, which like its population is an exciting mix of Indian, African, Chinese and European flavours, often with a tropical twist.

Where we stayed

For the biggest part of the trip, we stayed in the touristy beach town of Flic En Flac, therefore most of the places we visited were located there as you’ll notice. Many places have a similar kind of food, so most dishes you’ll be able to find all over the island even if you do not happen to visit Flic En Flac.

We did also take a sidetrip to Mahebourg and also spent our final two days in a resort close to Belle Mare where we had some of the best food of the trip. This is where we start:

Belle Mare

Tides Restaurant Long Beach

After staying in an apartment in Flic En Flac for a week, we splurged our final two nights with a stay at the luxurious Solana Beach Resort. On the same beach, a few hundred meters down, is the Long Beach Resort and its Tides restaurant. Intrigued by Instagram and Google pictures, we already knew what to order: grilled lobster and tuna tartare. Just to be safe we would be bloated, and to be extra decadent, we had some chips too. The price was steeeep compared to other meals, but it was really something to sit on the beach, feet in sand and eat their delicious grilled lobster, excellent tuna tartare and drink some cold beer.

Price

3000 MUR for the two of us with three half lobsters (it came like that), one tartare, one chips and two beers.

Website

Secrets Corner, Solana Beach Hotel

Next to the buffet restaurant in the Solana Beach Hotel, there is a small ‘secret corner’ that offered one of the best meals on Mauritius, but possibly the worst when it came to ambience.

We were the only guests, and were sat in the middle of a brightly lit room, with one server checking in on us every now and then. When I read about the Secrets Corner in the hotel information I thought it would be their luxury tasting menu restaurant, with prices to match. Instead it was not, the prices were quite decent, not much more than say an average place in Flic En Flac.

As the prices were good and the menu sounded great, we tried a little bit of everything. The palm heart salad with a grilled tandoori prawn was delicious. The Rodrigues style octopus salad with pickled lime was fantastic too. The crunchy river prawn samosas with green banana pickles were the best samosas I’ve had. We had a curry each (one lamb, one prawn & chicken) for main and although not as good as the starters, they were both really nice with rich deep flavours. The curries came with a small buffet of sides and condiments such as rice, pickles, chapati bread and dal lentil soup.

As you might be able to tell, we were stuffed after this, and despite having planned to try, had to skip dessert.

A surprising find, and with some nicer ambience in the Secrets Corner restaurant this would be a 5/5 experience.

Price

We paid just under 3000 MUR for all the food mentioned, two beers and a glass of wine.

Website

Solana Beach Hotel’s Coco Bar

Before leaving for the airport, we had a last lunch. I was so much craving a burger that I could not resist to try Solana’s cheeseburger with fries. Despite asking for my preference of cooking grade, my asked-for medium turned into very well done. Fortunately, it was still a decently nice burger with good cheese, a fluffy bun and good fries.

Price

About 400 MUR

Flic En Flac

Ah Youn

Fish curry at Ah Youn.

About 30 000 of Mauritius’ population has Chinese descent, and from that stems a quite large number of Chinese-Mauritian restaurants. We went to Ah Youn where we both had a pile of delicious fried noodles, which did not last long enough for a picture, as well as above delicious ‘Red Mauritian style’ fish curry with rice. Prices were good and the place was packed with both locals and tourists.

Price

$$

Website

Le Bougainville

Prawns at Le Bougainville. A cozy, busy restaurant close to the beach. While the food was not spectacular – it lacked a bit of attention to the details during our two visits, the service is nice, the prices good and everything was still yummy, despite the odd overcooked tuna. We enjoyed both their giant prawns with garlic butter and the Mauritius favourite: Octopus curry.

Price

$$

Website

Mafiozo

Pizza at Mafiozo. Loud music all day long, and generally much more a drinking bar then a place you go to eat. The pizzas weren’t amazing in any way, but the place had a lively vibe, prices were decent, and in the end, even a basic pizza is still sort of good.

Price
$$ (About 400 MUR for a pizza).

Food trucks and stalls on Flic En Flac Beach

Gajak (snacks) at the beach in Flic En Flac from the various foodtrucks and stalls located there. First a roti bread filled with chicken curry, sauces and pickles from Vinoda aka Farata. Second is woked noodles from Chez Christelle. The roti was fantastic and we went there twice, the noodles were fine but the wait was long.

Chez Popo et Anais

Set in a tiny alley off one of the main streets in Flic En Flac, Chez Popo et Anais is a cozy little family restaurant where you sit outside on plastic chairs, eating tonight’s dish, cooked by a bunch of friendly ladies (you’ll meet them as you cross the kitchen using their restroom in the house where they live). It feels like being invited for dinner in a local’s home (which you basically are). There was one dish on the menu, a beef stew that was pretty good. What was really good was the complimentary side dish of dal lentil soup. We also received free fish beignets for starters, basically fish donuts made with locally caught dorado.

Price

$-$$

Sunset Garden

We did not visit during a normal night, but for New Years Eve where they offered a buffet. Firstly, the food we had was good, so I’d say that the kitchen definitely can cook and the food is probably nice during a normal night. But…

We arrived late around 9 pm (as we were told was perfectly fine when booking the night before) and some of the food was running out. Since we had paid roughly €50 or 2000 MUR a person for the buffet, we were a bit grumpy. For instance the main event, the giant garlic butter grilled prawns ran out entirely just after we got hold of one each from the last batch. The rest of the food was good, but mostly consisted of woks, rice dishes and so on. Not what you pay €50 a head for. To their defense they gave us a bit of a discount on the bill.

Chamarel

Prawn and chicken curry at a restaurant called something like Marmite de Chamarel. Expensive, but delicious. I guess a bit of a tourist trap, but food was surprisingly good. Located along the main road between the sights around Chamarel.

Le Morne

Embafilao

Giant prawns with chips and salad at Embafilao, a casual beach restaurant situated on Le Morne’s public beach. The above view is just a minutes walk from where you eat. Here you can also enjoy the hard-to-find local Flying Dodo craft beer, a tasty wheat beerish brew that worked very well with the above dish.

Mahebourg

Le Bazilic

Situated in the quaint little town of Mahebourg; we enjoyed an affordable and delicious Creole lunch on our way to Pointe D’Esny beach on the Eastern side of the island. Above is first grilled chicken with garlic sauce and potatoes, and secondly our shared starters of Creole potatoes with tandoori mayo, battered and fried prawns as well as delicious fried samosa pasties.

Website

What to do during seven days in The Gambia

During our eight days in “the smiling coast”, we actually managed to do quite a lot, despite spending a considerable amount of time on the beach, poolside and lazying around with a cool Julbrew in our hand.

Beaches

Maybe not a proper activity per se – or actually, I guess it can be counted. The Gambia is one of the sunniest destinations around, and you should visit a beach while there. If not for tanning to just check out a West African Atlantic Ocean beach. There is, except for beautiful surroundings, almost always something going on. Fruit ladies, juice men, the odd ‘bumster’ and perhaps an occassional bull kicking a nosey dog (yes, that happened).

Senegambia Beach Hotel (Kololi Beach)

During our visit we stayed at the Senegambia Beach Hotel (which I will review further in an upcoming post). Due to sea errosion, the “beach front” of this hotel is now situated above the actual beach, and you reach the water by stairs. If you go down the stairs and walk along the beach (later in the day when water’s lower) to the right, you’ll reach more flat-surfaced beach in about a few hundred meters.

Poco Loco Beachbar Gambia

As mentioned above, if you walk to the right along the beach from The Senegambia Beach Hotel, The Kairaba or Holiday Beach Club you’ll eventually reach the Poco Loco Beach Club next to the Djembe Hotel. This beach is really nice and at the beach club they have loungers, semi-cabanas and regular seating. It seemed like you could use their facilities if you bought a drink or had a meal (which supposedly from what we heard was good). A Julbrew was 65 Dalasi (~€1).

Sanyang (Paradise Beach)

About 30 minutes drive (the last part is quite bumby) from the Senegambia Strip is Sanyang Beach, also known as Paradise Beach, and called one of Gambia’s best/prettiest. The beach is wiiide and indeed pretty. There’s also a restaurant and bar (Rainbow) with decent food and drinks, a couple of sellers and, for reasons unknown, some livestock (a quite massive bull roaming around freely) when we visited.

Tours (where to visit)

Banjul

We took three different tours during our visit. The first one to Gambia’s tiny capital city Banjul. All our tours was booked through our Swedish tour company Ving, but all but the Banjul tour was with English guides and buses from Gambia Tours which seemed to be a quite large local operator. Anyway, the Banjul visit was quite interesting and we got to visit the small national museum, the Arch 22 monument/building which featured some nice views (and photo ops!) from the top floors. Although be aware that you’ll need to walk up as the elevator was pretty much missing. We also visited the Albert Market which was a quite cool experience. Bargain hard. Finally we had a nice buffet lunch at the Nefertiti Beach restaurant.

Fathala wildlife reserve (in Senegal)

Our second tour was a trip to neighbouring country Senegal and the Fathala Wildlife Reserve. The reserve is sort of a semi-real experience. The giraffes for instance are imported from South Africa to try to restore the former abundant wildlife back to the region. The animals roam freely, and according to our guides there’s no guarantee of seeing any or all animals during a visit. Nevertheless we found all of them within our first hour. It is a cool experience, but it did feel a little bit like a large zoo. Worth a visit though, especially for me that has never (yet) been on a safari.

Apart from animals however, the trip to Fathala is quite long and definitely an experience in itself. It involves using the Banjul to Barra ferry, which was a breeze during our morning crossing, and somewhat claustrophobic (crowds), hot and painful (think diesel fumes and 35 degrees) on our afternoon return. It also involves a border crossing into Senegal (and same procedure on the return to Gambia) where you’ll need to exit your vehicle, leave your fingerprints, get a passport stamp and deal with loads of vendors, children asking for money and pens, beggars and general hustle and bustle. I honestly thought it would be worse and quite liked the experience, but come prepared I guess.

For me it was definitely worth it as it was an experience I’ve never had before and that I’d also got to visit Senegal. Bear in mind though that it’s basically 9 hours in total for a 2 hour game drive and at best a 1 hour lunch. That is, 3 hours one way trip from your hotel to Fathala.

Bush and beach tour

This was another one of the highlights during our visit to the Gambia. A day of visiting the Gambian countryside – or bush. An African experience like I’ve never had before. The tour started with us boarding an old rebuilt military truck (I think). We started our day with a relatively short drive to Sukuta community, south of Banjul and the beaches. In Sukuta we made a brief stop to a fish, fruit and vegetable market and got a feeling for sort of Gambian small town life. Next stop was a rural community school where we visited the classrooms, listened to the founder and met some local children. Usually the school is business as usual during the tour visit, but it was a public holiday the day we visited so it was closed. After this we drove through small villages and bushland, with children running along the trucks waving and screaming ‘hello’. This trip is undertaken on really basic roads though, so don’t go if you have any back or hip problems (they will warn you). Bumpy so say the least. After this, which was my favourite part of the trip we entered a paved road again and visited a Gambian heritage museum. From there we went to Sanyang Beach (read about it above under beaches) and finally to Tanji a fishing town south of Banjul where they smoke fish which is then exported all over West Africa. We both got to visit the beach where all the fishermen conducted their business as well as the adjacent smokery. Very cool, quite smelly.

Shopping, dining and drinking

On the Senegambia Strip, which starts at the crossing with Bertil Harding Highway (a Swede credited with launching tourism in the area in the 1960s) and finishes at the Senegambia and Kairaba hotels roundabout there are several bars, shops, money changers and of course restaurants. We visited two restaurants on the strip, Paradiso which you can read about here, and also at the Spanish restaurant The Winery.

The Winery was a pleasant surprise, and given the authenticity quite worthwile when it comes to price. We had hand-carved as-good-as-in-Spain pata negra ham, manchego cheese, crispy yet soft croquettas, two kinds of patatas bravas, huevos rellenos (Spanished devilled eggs with tuna) and gambas ajillo (prawns in garlic oil). Everything was soo good. We washed it down with a bottle of red wine. Service was a little uninspired at first, but the staff cheered up as the evening progressed, or did I just get more positive after downing a half bottle of red? 😅 Anyway, muy recommended if you want to take a break from the (delicious) Gambian food.

The Winery’s website (Facebook)

What to eat and must try food in The Gambia

Just got back to minus 10 degress Celsius after a week in the tiny but amazingly nice West African nation of The Gambia.

The first time I tried to visit Gambia was last year, but due to the then long-time ruler’s refusal to step down after losing the elections and the neighbouring countries threath to invade – we did not go. Last autumn we had booked another trip, but that time we couldn’t go either. But hey, three times a charm! This time we managed to make it, and what a trip we’ve had. So without further ado, here are my Gambia what to and drink eat during a week in “the smiling coast”.

What to eat in the Gambia

Situated in Western Africa, landlocked by the larger nation of Senegal The Gambia obviously is influenced by the surrounding region. Dishes like yassa, benachin and domoda are all available over the entire region in various shapes and names. Before leaving, I had read that Gambia’s somewhat famous for its food, but the sources I found were slightly biased, so I took that with a grain of salt. But I shouldn’t have, they were right – Gambian food is great. Below is what I tried, although I was not even close to try everything I wanted during my limited time in the country.

Domoda

A peanuty groundnut stew usually served with your choice of protein. I tried it with beef and chicken. Both were great and you can also have it with fish and prawn, for instance. The flavour is a little bit like Thai peanut sauce – satay, but it’s saucier and richer/meatier in flavour. This was my favourite of the different stews and sauces I tried during my visit. In addition to groundnuts (peanuts) there is also tomatoes, onion and usually from what I understood also lemon or lime. The meat is slow-cooked in the sauce and both chicken and beef versions were “falling off the bond tender”. Served with rice and veggies.

I tried domoda at:

Paradiso on the Senegambia Strip (my fav).

Senegambia Beach Hotel (on their buffet).

Yassa

Originally a Senegalese dish called yassa au poulet but now popular all over West Africa. Yassa is an onion and lemon sauce or stew that is cooked together, like the domoda above, with chicken, beef, prawns or fish. We had versions that were a little bit spicy and also ones with a hint of ginger, making the yassa taste borderline Asian wok. No matter the different flavouring delicious. Fresh, rustic and yummy. Served on rice.

Where I tried yassa:

My favourite: at Senegambia Beach Hotel’s beach restaurant (a la carte). They also have a really nice yassa wrap on their menu. Only open for lunch though.

Nefertiti beach restaurant in Banjul (buffet).

Rainbow restaurant Paradise Beach (Sanyang).

Benachin (aka Jollof Rice)

Benachin is a rice dish and it names means literally one-pot. Famous all-over West Africa under the name Jollof Rice this is a hugelt popular dish with tomatoes, onions, rice and oil that are cooked together, once again usually combined with your protein of choice. A really delicious, slightly oily rice dish which I had both with and without meat. My favourite version was with slow-cooked tender chunks of beef incorporated though.

Where I had Benachin rice

My favourite: Senegambia Beach Hotel, on their evening buffet (approx 650 Dalasi).

Did not try but heard from several sources that Kadie-Kadie was realy good and where the locals go for benachin. Only open for lunch though from what I heard and less busy from 14:00/2 pm.

Afra (aka dibi)

Afra is a quite simple, but delicious Gambian and West African dish also known as “dibi”. It is basically grilled or fried meat or chicken as well as onions that is post-grilling combined with a savoury, salty “sauce” of maggi stock cubes. You can eat it in a soft tapalapa bread (similar to baguette) or with rice.

Where I tried afra

In above picture the afra is enjoyed with beef domoda, coleslaw and Gambian meat pies at the Senegambia Beach Hotel’s dinner buffet.

Julbrew

Gambia has their own beer, made by Banjul Breweries – hence: Julbrew. Although nothing spectacular, Julbrew, is a nice, relatively light (4,7 percents of alcohol) beer that works well with the local food as well as enjoyed ice cold in the sun. Prices vary from what I saw from about 35 dalasi (€0.8) to about 80 dalasi (€1,7) in restaurants. In supermarkets/mini markets slightly cheaper.

Palm wine (aka Sum-Sum or Kill Me Quick)

Palm wine is tapped, as the name implies, from palm trees. After a bit of time resting the sap, alcohol is created and within two hours palm wine reaches about 4 percents of alcohol. If it ferments longer, up to a day, it gets even stronger. After more than a day of fermentation though, the palm wine eventually turns into vinegar. We tried both the freshly tapped stuff which was non-alcoholic and the fermented and distilled version of local ‘fire water” aka sum-sum or locally named Kill Me Quick that was about 50 percents. Strong stuff!

As mentioned above; what a great food destination Gambia is! If you like slow-cooked food, stews and rich, savoury sauces, at really affordable prices, this is a great place to visit.