Tag Archives: Restaurant review

Cafe Arabe: Bar and Restaurant in the Marrakech Medina

Bar and Restaurant Review

If  you need a drink and have an hour to laze away in civilised surroundings, then drop into Cafe Arabe. It’s definitely a bar which deserves to be near the top of your list. It’s a useful place to know within the Medina, and one which actually offers alcohol – in particular, a well-chosen range of both classic and more unusual cocktails.

Cafe Arabe, Bar and Restaurant in the Marrakech Medina

Cafe Arabe, Bar and Restaurant in the Marrakech Medina

There is also an impressive restaurant on the ground floor which offers a largely Italian menu, with very fine pastas. It’s charming, with its lamp-lit lattice carving and decorative tiling, but we like the bar best.

Lanterns in the red lacquered hallway, Cafe Arabe, Marrakech

Lanterns in the red lacquered hallway, Cafe Arabe, Marrakech

Cafe Arabe is a 10 minutes walk through the periphery of the souk. Like all authentic places, entry is through a gate within an ancient wall.  It’s in the rue Mouassine, a narrow road peppered with fascinating antique and decorative arts shops on the north side of the souk. And how do you find it ? Take a map or pay a small boy a few dirhams to take you there, otherwise you could find yourself wandering around for ages.

Phoebe in the terrace bar at Cafe Arabe, Marrakech

Phoebe in the terrace bar at Cafe Arabe, Marrakech

Once through the doorway, it’s yet another example of a theatrical ambience in which Marrakech excels. Part chic, part dramatic.  The walls in the hallways and staircases are lacquered an atmospheric deep red. There is an indoor seating area with a small library for visitors to browse in, though most books are in French. But we head outside into the main bar with view of the roofs over the souk. There you can lounge on the meandering cream sofas under the fluttering sea of dozens awnings which provide welcome shade from the heat of the African sun. In the hottest months, a discreet system of pipes releases fine sprays of water to cool the air. 

Lounge bar at Cafe Arabe, Marrakech

Lounge bar at Cafe Arabe, Marrakech

As for prices: Alcoholic cocktails range from 80 dh to 120 dh (say roughly £6 – £10);  a good range of fruit juice cocktails around Dh 40 (£3), and herbal teas Dh 25 (£2).

And why do we like it so much? It’s an engaging mixture of informality and sophistication. Also a place where gay couples and friends would be very comfortable. I’d say it’s an essential part of the Marrakchi experience.

Crystal Restaurant, Marrakech

Restaurant Review

An evening at Crystal is a real treat and shouldn’t be missed when you visit Marrakech. There are two restaurants attached to the famous Pacha Night Club, one offering Moroccan cuisine, and then Crystal, which has largely Italian dishes, including some with a French or gentle Moroccan twist.

Crystal Restaurant, Pacha, Marrakech

Interior of Crystal, Pacha, Marrakech

Marrakech is famous for its glamorous hotels and restaurants, and Crystal is one of the best. Its approach is suitably dramatic, with a broad stone staircase rising up past flaming torches, and then a path meandering down past the illuminated pool.

Diners have a choice of where to enjoy their meal. Either within the euro chic dining room, with its high ceiling hung with clusters of Chinese parchment lanterns and tassels – tassels are everywhere in Marrakech – the decoration all pale and woody with huge (genuine) polished ammonites. Or, in the warmer months, it’s fun to eat beside the pool. You can even recline on the cream-upholstered four-poster beds between courses. In fact, I’ve never actually lounged on them, but my son always eats too much (it’s his favourite restaurant anywhere in the world), and spends time on one gazing at the reflections in the pool and preparing himself for his next course.

Daybeds around the the pool at Crystal Restaurant, Marrakech

Daybeds around the the pool at Crystal Restaurant, Marrakech

As one might expect, the service is immaculate, with well-trained, good-looking staff. We’ve tried many of the dishes and none have disappointed. And there is a very good choice of shell fish, for example. But, maybe surprisingly, the best foods have been the delicious risottos (such as grilled prawn and marscapone), and ravioli and pastas so fine you can see through them, (filled with lobster and spinach, perhaps) –just as you might find in Italy. Before each course, amuses bouches arrive unprompted: tangy dips with the thinnest of savoury tuiles, micro-soups, and tender snippets of lightly spiced meat.

Francesca and Letitia at dinner, Crystal Restaurant, Pacha, Marrakech

Francesca and Letitia at dinner, Crystal Restaurant, Pacha, Marrakech

And the choice: mouthwatering, crisp little pizzetas (Dh 90 – 120), starters around Dh 160, main courses Dh 110 – 400, but most around Dh 250. Each dish comprises condensed rich and succulent flavours, no culinary clutter, no stodge. Though I’m sorry to say I’ve always stuffed myself so much that I’ve never got as far as a pudding (DH 80 – 120 for delicate-looking profiteroles, tiramisu, ice cream and all sorts of fruit).

And what does this all cost? I’ve just read somewhere that the price is $350 per person. This is complete nonsense, unless you get really stuck into the champagne, which is an expensive indulgence anywhere in Marrakech. Two courses plus mineral water and a couple of glasses of house wine costs around £30-40 per head, which compares very favourably with the nearest equivalents in UK restaurants, let alone anywhere in Europe, where the prices seem phenomenal for the humble bearer of sterling.

Exchange rate at the time of writing: £1 buys around 13 Moroccan dirhams (Dh13)