This year I spent the first four days of January in Marrakech, finalising arrangements for my April Gourmet Adventure. I have visited Marrakech many times but this year I set a record. I came home without doing any shopping – unheard of for this enchanting city.
Of course I knew I was returning soon so I spent most of my time relaxing and eating. I had chosen this period because Livia and Alfonso Iaccarino from Sant’Agata sui due Golfi near Sorrento, were enjoying a well-deserved rest while keeping an eye on their restaurant in the historic Mamounia Hotel. I had an authentic Italian feast using produce grown and sourced to satisfy Alfonso’s search for perfection.The legendary hotel was closed for several years for refurbishment and today it is a seductive fusion of Arab-Andalusian opulence and 21st century elegance. There are three restaurants open to correctly-dressed non-residents and enticing cocktail bars serve drinks named for the famous guests of the past, from Winston Churchill to Audrey Hepburn and Yves Saint Laurent.
I stayed at the Al Fassia hotel while choosing menus for some of our meals in April. Al Fassia is probably the best traditional Moroccan restaurant in the city and it is my favourite. It is run completely by women and they make you feel an honoured guest in a private home. The à la carte menu is well-balanced and I managed to fit in two meals here. The harira soup using a judicious touch of ras-el-hanout is very subtle and the lamb is succulent but not fatty.
For my last evening I had dinner in the Riad l’Orangeraie where we will be staying in April. I wanted to sample Nadia’s tagines and as I sat by myself in the pool courtyard I discovered a black and white movie was being projected, without sound, high up on the white walls of the courtyard. From time to time I glanced up as I sampled my wine and realised I was looking at Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman – Casablanca – one of my favourite films of all time. The film was not even shot in Morocco but the silent flickering somehow completed the magic of my short visit.
The April trip has been full since last June but while I was in Marrakech I heard there was a cancellation due to health problems. Let me know if you are interested in taking the room. Unfortunately Bogart will not be there in person.