“If you want to go where the locals go” advised Camar the owner of our Riad in Essaouira “go to Ferdaouss”. It was the best place in town, she assured us, for authentic Moroccan cuisine at a cheap price. “No alcohol though” Camar warns with a knowing smile, clearly all to familiar with her guest predilections.
Undeterred MTV boyfriend and I head to Ferdaouss for dinner. Housed in a narrow alleyway off the medina you have to know where Ferdaouss is to find it. The floor is tiled with beautiful mosaics and the look is traditional Moroccan with walls of cushioned seating against each wall.
Our waiter ceremoniously pours us glasses of mint tea before providing us with some flat breads and agram oil to start with. Agram oil is a specialty of the region derived from the agram nut. Goats climb the agram trees and eat the nuts, the goat dung is then collected and the nuts are extracted and ground to a paste to make the agram oil. So, yes the local specialty comes from goat dung but if you ignore that fact you can enjoy the complex nutty flavour of agram oil.
When eating traditional Moroccan cuisine it is hard to go past the tagine. The beef tagine sizzles as it is set on the table and inside it are generous hunks of stewed beef loaded with walnuts and floating in rich earthy juices. The food at Ferdaouss emphasises flavour over high style. The fish tagine is not particularly pretty to look at (pictured above) and you have to debone the fillet of fish yourself but the firm white flesh of the sea bass provides a perfect foil to the tang of roasted peppers and briny olives.
Ferdaouss’s dessert menu is limited to crepes and Moroccan pastries so we decide to give it a miss and head back home to our Riad to collapse. Camar is pleased to see that at least two of her guests have stayed off the booze for the night.
Details: Ferdaouss, 27 Rue Abdessalam Lebadi, Essaouira, Morocco (Ph 024 47 3655)
Damage: Such a bargain even my mother would approve
If you liked reading this you might like to read about the best restaurant in Essaouira called Elizir or if you feel like cooking a Moroccan influenced dish try this recipe for Lemon Chicken and Cous Cous.