What to eat and drink in Marrakesh
In January we spent a lovely few days in Marrakesh, Morocco where we ate some great food and enjoyed several bottles of wine on rooftops. Here’s our take on what to eat in Marrakesh, and for those of us who like a tipple, where to drink alcohol in Marrakesh, in various bars and restaurants.
What to eat in Marrakesh
We had some great food in Marrakesh. Food in most Moroccan restaurants tends to be the same, tagine, couscous, harira and pastilla, but many places also did pizza and other international foods too.
All meals we had came with a basked of Moroccan bread and olives. Seriously, we ate so many olives in a week, I don’t want to see another olive for a long time.
Most of the dishes below could also come without meat (apart from one obvious exception!)
The term ‘tagine’ refers to the pot it is cooked in, so it’s more a way of cooking than a specific dish. The pot is a circular base, with a cone-shaped top so the condensation falls back into the dish. This pot is then traditionally put on charcoal, or on a low heat, so whatever is inside stews slowly.
Common tagines in Marrakesh are lamb with prunes and chicken with lemon, although there is a whole range. You can also have it just with vegetables.
We found that tagines in a lot of restaurants in the medina cost about 70 dirhams, but if you paid a bit more, like 100 and higher, you got more meat.
Couscous is another thing you think of when you think about Moroccan food and it is also everywhere. The fluffy semolina is served with meat, vegetables, and sauce on top, or on the side.
Brochettes are basically kebabs with meat on a stick: chicken, lamb, and beef. The stalls in Jemaa del Fna had them raw on display and then cooked them over coals.
This soup is thick and made with lentils and chickpeas. It tastes like you’d imagine, a thick, lentil soup.
The typical Moroccan salad we were given was diced tomatoes, cucumber and onion with lemon juice and parsley.
A pastilla is a small pie made with flaky pastry and filled with meat, traditionally pigeon but sometimes with chicken instead. The slightly odd thing about it is that its sprinkled with cinnamon and icing sugar, so it’s both sweet and savoury.
Boiled Sheep Head
One night we were eating in the food stalls in Jemaa Del Fna and we chose one where a lot of locals were eating. As we looked around, we realised that everyone else was eating the same thing, small chunks of meat gathered up with bread with their hands. Then we noticed that the guy on the stall had a big metal vat that he was pulling sheep’s heads out of and then chopping up. The front of the stall, that we hadn’t noticed before sitting down, was full of sheep heads. We watched in fascination for a while, before the stall owner gave us a small piece to try. It tasted ok, so the next night, we decided to properly go for it.
Sitting down at one of the stalls, we ordered two half heads. The guy reached inside the vat, pulled out a whole sheep head, chopped it in half and put half on each plate. He then dipped some bread in the vat and put it on the side. The half sheep eyes look up at us as we tried to work out how to go about eating it. We pulled off bits of meat, Kris tried the eye and the tongue…there isn’t actually that much meat on a sheep head.
It was ok. I don’t actually eat lamb as a rule, but Kris said it just tasted a bit like that. The texture was a bit odd at times. I wouldn’t order another one, but it was an experience. We paid 50 dirhams each but you can get them for 70.
Breakfast in Marrakesh is carb heavy. There is usually the type of Moroccan bread that accompanies every meal: Khobz, a round, flattish loaf with a crust, cut into chunks.
Msemen is a kind of pancake which is a thin square which is then folded over on itself. It’s crispy on the outside but chewy in the middle.
There was also often baghrir, like a thin crumpet. Some breakfasts also came with baguette. A whole lot of bread!
With these, came butter, jam and honey, as well as coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice and mint tea.
What to drink in Marrakesh
Freshly squeezed fruit juice is everywhere. We got served orange juice for breakfast and the stalls in Jemaa del Fna serve this along with other juices: watermelon, pomegranate and more. We had a good mixed fruit juice too.
Being a Muslim country, alcohol is expensive in Marrakesh. The cheapest beer we saw was 35 dirhams for a small bottle, and most were 50. The beer comes in 33ml bottles sometimes, but often 25ml ones. The main beers available are Casablanca, Flag Special and Stork. All are quite generic lagers.
Morocco’s colonial history means that there is quite a large wine industry and many vineyards. We had a few bottles of local red wine during our trip and all were good. Most of the time, wine proved to be cheaper than beer, as a bottle was around 130 dirhams so just over two small bottles of beer.
Where to drink alcohol in Marrakesh
As Morocco is a Muslim country, alcohol is not available everywhere and many restaurants serve only soft drinks with your meal. However, there are many places where you can get wine, beer and spirits, you just need to know where to go. While there are a lot of little cafes in squares around the Medina, it is not allowed to drink alcohol in Marrakesh in public, so people are not sat there enjoying a glass of wine of an evening. Many of the places where you can drink have rooftop terraces instead. Here are places to drink alcohol in Marrakesh.
Kozybar is by the entrance to El Badi Palace and has a two level rooftop with a view over the Palace to the Atlas mountains beyond. It’s a lovely place to enjoy a sunset drink. We shared a bottle of wine for 160 dirhams which came with a massive bowl of olives. Inside, Kozybar has several more rooms decorated in a slightly Buddhist style.
Café Arabe is opposite the Secret Garden in the northern part of the Medina. It also has an expansive rooftop which is lovely at sunset. A bottle of local red wine here was a bit cheaper at 130 dirhams and it came with olives and breadsticks.
Just around the corner from Café Arabe, this place also has a nice rooftop where it serves beer, wine and cocktails as well as food. We had glasses of local wine here for 50 dirhams as the bottles were about 200.
Grand Hotel Tazi
This is one of those ‘old dame’ hotels that hails from the colonial days and where you can imagine Poirot solving a murder. It doesn’t look like it has been renovated since the 1920s. It has a big rooftop overlooking a busy traffic junction which makes for some good watching. A small beer was 35 dirhams, but we drank 33cl bottle of Casablanca for 50 dirhams. Again, they came with olives.
There are far more bars and restaurants serving alcohol outside the Medina. We went to a Couchsurfing MeetUp at Le Bistrot Marrakesh, a cool little place on Avenue Mohammed V. This was much cheaper at 35 dirhams for a glass of wine. If you are in Marrakesh on a Wednesday night, we’d recommend heading to the Couchsurfing MeetUp. We met a great group of locals and travellers. You don’t have to Couchsurf to attend and there was a mix of ages there. Lots of locals who wanted to meet people and practice their English, along with people travelling through.
Read more about our trip to Marrakesh in this post: Marvellous Marrakesh.
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