For a feel good eating experience in Marrakesh it is hard to go past Al Fassia a restaurant that is run by an all women cooperative of chefs and waitresses. In a country where it is rare to see women in the public sphere and certainly not in any of the all male cafes Al Fassia offers a welcome role reversal. Such is its popularity that there are now two Al Fassia’s one in the villa nouvelle and Al Fassia Aguedal on the route de L’Ourika which is a 50 dirham (£5) taxi ride from the medina.
Al Fassia Aguedal is housed in a large building plonked in the middle of nowhere. All around it is a huge construction site and it seems as if the plan is for the city to grown around the restaurant. MTV boyfriend went there on our last night in Marrakesh with our friend Tim who was also travelling in Morocco. Doormen wearing blood red Fez’s greeted us and ushered us into the cavernous restaurant where the all female team took over. Circular linen clad tables were dotted around the mosaic tiled floors and the look was luxurious but more hotel foyer than funky Kasbah.
The menu offers traditional Moroccan food and a selection of reasonably priced local wine. Our bottle of cabernet sauvignon is a measly 130 dirhams (£13). To start with the Harira is a good option. This quintessential Moroccan soup is made from lentils and chickpeas and when you order it at Al Fassia you are served with the tureen as well in case one bowl is not enough.
The generous servings go one step further with the legendary mezze starter which involves over twenty different small dishes. There is pumpkin dip laced with cumin, thinly diced tomato and red onion salad, olive tapenade and grilled slices of zucchini. In retrospect we could have ordered this alone between the three of us. There was probably no need for the cocktail briouates which are small triangles of puff pastry with a mixture of fillings including minced lamb, rice, vegetables and fish. We had enough food already and in any event the fillings were a little dry and uninspiring.
If you go to Al Fassia you must order the slow roasted shoulder of lamb. The lamb is served feasting style on a large platter and a waitress carves the meat off the bone although minimal effort is required on her part as the meat is so tender that it falls off. Our waitress divvies up the rich sinews of meat studded with almonds along with some fluffy cous cous and steamed vegetables. The lamb melts like chocolate in your mouth and even after our twenty starters we devour it.
The desserts on offer are not as exciting as it seems that Moroccans place more emphasis on pastries than desserts so we skip the desultory options of sliced orange sprinkled with cinnamon or crepes with honey and finish our meal in traditional style with fresh mint tea.
Details: Route de L’Ourika, Marrakesh, Morocco (Ph 024 38 38 39)
If you liked this you might like to read about food adventures in the Marrakesh markets at Djemaa El Fna.