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Gourmands worldwide devour Moroccan cookbooks, and the country's food is served in some of the best restaurants around the globe. In Marrakech a new breed of chef - a group that includes French masters with Michelin stars - are bringing haute cuisine to this desert outpost. Moroccan food is a direct result of its cultural influences and Marrakech - as a centre for trade and a target for imperialists - is its culinary core. French colonialism lingers in sophisticated dishes; while the staples of couscous, tagines (traditional cooking pots and also stew in which they are cooked) and harira (spicy garlic, chickpea and tomato soup) are testament to Berber origins. The nomads brought dates, milk and bread, while the Andalucian influence can be tasted in lemons, olives and olive oil. From the east the Arabs introduced saffron, coriander, cumin and paprika - adding the touch of spice predominant in so many dishes. Try to eat at least once in a riad (Moroccan boutique style hotel) - they generally offer family-style cooking that is much better than restaurant food. Many are open to non-guests, but in all cases reservations should be made a day in advance. Many riads also offer small, casual cookery classes that are highly recommended. Set meals kif-kif - usually salads, pigeon pastilla (pie), tagine with couscous and Moroccan pastries - are annoyingly the only option in many tourist restaurants. While a few of the best can be an approximation of a real Moroccan feast, visitors can find it an unsatisfying experience. A la carte Moroccan, Asian and international restaurants can all be found too, so concentrate on those.
Tipping advice: - It's acceptable to tip 10-15 percent in restaurants, if service is not included so do check your bill. For hotels (if service not included), cafes, bars or taxis a tip of 10 percent is normal. Massage or spa attendants can be tipped 5 percent, and loose change is an acceptable tip for doormen, toilet attendants or anyone giving directions.
Read more on this destination in The AA Citypack Guide to Marrakech.
Recommended restaurants in Marrakech
Chez Bahia, Rue Riad Zitoun El Kedim - This little Moroccan eatery dishes up hearty tagines, bubbling soups and colourful salads. A real locals' place that is completely unpretentious and consistently good quality. The average price for a three-course meal is under €20 per person.
Le Riad Des Mers, 411 Derb Sidi Messoud - Fresh fish and seafood, such as oysters and lobsters, are brought in daily from the coast, and there are also some Italian favourites, offering welcome relief from traditional tagine fare. This is a friendly place and one of the rare restaurants to serve seafood in the medina. The average price for a three-course meal is between €20-40 per person.
La Mamounia, Avenue Bab Jedid - The buffets at this grand dame of a hotel have long been legendary. There are several, mostly formal, restaurants as well as snack bars, most of which are open to non-residents. There is a dress code (no trainers or shorts) and it is rigorously enforced. The average price for a three-course meal is over €20-40 per person.
Cafe Bourganvillea, 33 Rue Mouassine - This riad-restaurant offers really good international and Moroccan food, as well as tea and petits fours. Sit in the courtyard, shady terrace or in one of the comfortable lounges. The average price for a three-course meal is between €20-40 per person.
Restaurant Al Fassia, 55 Boulevard Mohammed Zerktouni, Gueliz - A favourite with locals and visitors alike. Superb, home-cooked food (a la carte Moroccan) served in formal surroundings. A women's cooperative, where the chefs, waiting staff and even the management are all female. Reservations are required. The average price for a three-course meal is over €40 per person.