Secrets of a travel writer: 11 under-the-radar restaurants in Marrakech

Tara Stevens
L'Mida is a groovy, emerald green rooftop restaurant that offers modern takes on Moroccan classics

When it comes to food the Red City is having a moment and it’s not all tagine and couscous. Although there’s plenty of great traditional fare when nothing but a comforting dish will do, the city’s bright young things – both Moroccan and resident expat – are making their mark with dazzling new restaurants that mix bold design with an innovative, spice-spiked spin on the classics. The Marrakech of the 2020s has it all from hip, sun-splashed roof terraces with healthy, plant-forward menus, cosy neighbourhood bistros for a joyful plat du jour and a glass of wine, and decadent five-star dining rooms for those all-important treats.

Restaurant El Bahja

Quietly known among locals for its succulent mutton tagine, this bare-bones, typically Moroccan canteen stands out from the rest along this strip because it still fires up a traditional charcoal chawiya (barbecue) to chargrill smoky vegetables for cooked Moroccan salads and tender brochettes. If you book 24 hours in advance, you can also get a kilo of the city’s legendary tangia (crockpot beef, slowly cooked in the embers of the hammam for eight hours), or lamb mechouia (steamed and spiced with salt and cumin), both £15.

Address: 41 Rue Bani Marine, Imm. Haj Radi
Contact: 00 212 524 440 343

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L'Hôtel

You don’t have to be staying at Jasper Conran's sleek little bolthole to enjoy the designer’s serenely tasteful ode to Marrakech. Simply reserve 24 hours in advance and you can come for dinner at L’Hotel. Take a cocktail at the bar then sink into the plush, pastel striped dining room where resident cook Bouchra, serves up some of the best traditional Moroccan cooking in the city with dishes such as meltingly tender chicken with prunes and almonds and a spectacular couscous with seven vegetables. A three-course meal starts from around £45 per person; private dining is available for groups of 10-16.

Address: 41 Derb Sidi Lahcen O Ali, Bab Doukkala
Contact: 00 212 524 387 880; l-hotelmarrakech.com

Reserve 24 hours in advance and you can come for dinner at Jasper Conran’s sleek little bolthole, L’Hotel

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L’Mida 

Owner Omar Lyazidi brought in cookbook sensation Nargisse Benkabbou (of My Moroccan Food and Casablanca fame) to oversee the kitchen in this groovy, emerald green rooftop restaurant. Her unique approach to the food and flavour of her mother country includes dishes such as spiced meatballs on yogurt topped with a fiery pilpil sauce, and spanking fresh sea bream with sweet and sour chermoula poke bowls. L’Mida is brimming with the exotic flavours of Morocco, but not as you know them. Mains from £9. 

Address:78 bis Derb Nkhal, Rahba Lakdima.
Contact: 00 212 524 443 662; lmidamarrakech.com

L’Mida brims with the exotic flavours of Morocco, but not as you know them

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Stylia 

The ultimate Arabian nights fantasy where walls of filigreed plaster, stained glass glimmering like jewels, floors strewn with crimson carpets and flower petals scattered hither and thither set the scene for a night of unabashed feasting. Somehow Stylia fell off the Red City radar for restaurants, but it’s still one of the best for an authentic Moroccan diffa – a lavish, multi-course banquet of cooked salads, pastilla, tagine, couscous, pastries fruits and lashings of hot, sweet mint tea. From £75 for a set menu. 

Address: 34 Rue Ksour, Bab Laksour
Contact: 00 212 524 440 505

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Kabana 

The new darling of the party crowd, this tropically inspired roof top thrills with bursts of flamboyant zellije tile. Kabana takes an unapologetically irreverent approach to mixing flavours from around the world with luxury Moroccan ingredients: think Oualidia king crab sushi with asparagus and tobiko, meltingly tender lamb brochettes with boulghroul salads, plus a killer Copa Kabana Marrakchis cocktail that combines cachaça and triple sec with figs, honey and lemon. Fast reaching a point where walk-ins are impossible, don’t forget to make that reservation. Mains from £16.

Address: Rue Lalla Fatima Zahra s/n, R’mila
Contact: 00 212 808 510 684; kabana-marrakech.com

Kabana is the new darling of the Marrakech party crowd Credit: Safouate Laila

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Bagatelle 

This Art Deco gem in the heart of Gueliz was beloved by the great and the good of Marrakech society back in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, when you slink through the red velvet draped entrance way into the dining room you get a buzzy, old-school vibe and staunchly French cooking in the vein of ouefs mayonnaise and tongue in cream with capers, as well as a handful of Moroccan classics, that has made it a favourite among regulars, some of whom come daily for the bargain, £15 set lunch. 

Address: 103 Rue Yougoslavie, Gueliz
Contact: 00 212 524 430 274; bagatelle-marrakech.com

Bagatelle is an Art Deco gem in the heart of Gueliz that specialises in staunchly French cooking

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Restaurant Repas Maison

Keep your eyes peeled for the piles of fresh fruit and tagines bubbling away a few minutes’ walk from Dar el Bacha. Restaurant Repas Maison offers seriously tasty home-cooked dishes ranging from chicken with preserved lemons and olives, to beef with prunes, to spiced tripe in a fiery tomato broth, as well as great cauldrons of vegetarian beans and lentils. Time was when the only seating was to pull up a stool on the street (the best spot), but its popularity means they’ve moved diners inside to a handful of tables. A one-person tagine starts at £3.

Address:Rue Sidi Abdelaziz s/n, Dar el Bacha

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Plus61 

The secret’s long out on Plus61 after it burst onto the scene in 2018, casually marrying tasty Sydney-style dining with locally grown organic produce in a sun-splashed dining room. However, many travellers still don't know about it and they’ve since added a stellar cocktail menu and one of the best wine lists in town to pair with seasonal dishes such as wild green tart (with ricotta, spinach and herbs), chicken schnitzel, bean mash and pickled onions, plus polenta cake with roast peaches and ginger. Keep an eye out for their wildly popular pop-ups when roving chefs to come work their magic with Moroccan ingredients. About £45 for three courses. 

Address: 96 Rue Mohammed el Beqal, Gueliz
Contact: 00 212 524 207 020; plus61.com

Plus61 casually marries a tasty Sydney-style dining with locally grown organic produce

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Bar de L’Escale

Most countries have some kind of a riff on chicken and chips, but the lip-smackingly tasty lemon and cumin grilled chicken at L’Escale takes some beating. They still cook everything over the original charcoal grill, which means the saloon-style tiled bar can get smoky, but you might nab a table outside if you arrive before 1pm or after 3pm. Add house-cut fries, bowls of chili-tomato sauce and a cold Flag Spéciale beer on the side, and prepare to happy dance your way through lunch.   

Address: Rue Mauritane s/n, Gueliz
Contact: 00 212 524 433 447

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Le Kilim 

Veteran restaurateur Kamal Laftimi’s latest venture is a crimson-clad, cavernous space with a wraparound terrace where he combines cult classics and Moroccan favourites with his trademark aplomb. Think juicy, fried chicken sandwiches with harissa mayo, cauliflower 'cous cous' and an inspired avocado toast with smoked paprika vinaigrette alongside lamb shank tagine and plum tart with amlou (almond butter) ice cream. His is a vibrant mix of flavour and style and he nails it every time. 

Address: 3 Rue Tarik Ben Ziad, Gueliz
Contact: 00 212 524 446 999; lekilim.com

Le Kilim is a cavernous space with a wraparound terrace that combines cult classics and Moroccan favourites

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116 

This is the kind of place you’d normally walk straight past, but it's always crowded first thing with local traders feasting on their breakfast bissara – dried fava bean soup topped with a swirl of olive oil and a lavish sprinkling of cumin, salt and harissa. Aside from a boiled egg or two they don’t serve anything else, but the soup is fabulous, the atmosphere as authentic as it gets and locals couldn’t be happier than to pass the time with odd traveller happening by. The soup costs £2 a bowl.

Address: 116 Rue Sid Abd El Aziz, Riad Laarousse