Cheeky and I flew into Marrakesh in the late afternoon, our friendly driver Mr. Talbi was ready and waiting for us with a smile. It was a baptism of fire as we were introduced to Marrakesh rush hour on one of the busiest days of the year, the Islamic new year and it seemed that everyone was out. Mr Talbi got us as far as he could until it was time to ‘portage’ the rest of the way on foot whilst a nice young fellow pushed out luggage in a trolley. We made our way through the hustle and bustle of Avenue Bab El Khemis followed by a right up Rue Bin Lafnadek, this certainly was the way to get to see Moroccan culture up close and personal. If we had not of been chasing our luggage along the winding alleyways Cheeky would have adopted a litter of kittens she spied on our journey. Eventually we took a right down a little back passage to find a big black door which was the entrance to Riad Farnatchi.
Once through the door, along the passage to the courtyard where cold mint tea awaited us there was silence, peace and quiet from the chaotic streets that we left behind. What a contrast! It felt like we had just stepped through a portal into utter calm. The place had a old world feel to it with tall white walls leading up to the night sky and beautiful Moroccan stone carving and architecture. In the centre was a green tiled bathing pool with the constant sound of flowing water. We were show to our apartment on the first floor which had high wooden ceilings, authentic interiors and textiles. The living room lead onto a balcony overlooking the courtyard which was to be one of my favourite places to reside. The Bathroom was decadence itself, it felt like it had been lifted from the film set from Cleopatra. All we needed was ass’s milk in the bath to complete the picture.
We were invited down to dinner in the courtyard, where we sat looking over the pool. To start the proceeding I chose the Chilled cucumber and mint soup which was light, somehow airy and most refreshing after a day’s travel. Cheeky went for the Baked vegetables, which were beautiful in its simplicity with merely rosemary, garlic and olive oil which combined delivered a lovely fiery, peppery flavour, very rustic.
For the main course I opted for the Beef Tangia which is basically a Moroccan hot pot served with steamed vegetables, whilst Cheeky settled on the Beef and Eggplant Tagine. Somehow on arrival of these two dishes we managed to mix our dishes and tucked in; once we realised our error there was no way that we were going to give each others dishes back, they were both divine. Both beef dishes had been slow cooked and just fell apart at the hint of a knife. The beef and eggplant had a unique smoky flavour from being slowly cooked in a Tagine over coals as they have been cooked in Morocco for hundreds and hundreds of years. Simply flavoured with Cumin, salt and pepper these dishes were succulent and simply perfect. We finished the meal with Ginger ice cream and peeled orange segments sprinkled with cinnamon, followed by a couple of Espressos. The cooking at Riad Farnatchi is traditional and quite exceptional. I hear that they are planning to open a restaurant soon; if this experience is anything to go by then I am sure it will be one of the the best in Marrakech.
James Wix who owns and manages the Riad is quite the charming English gentleman. He and his father discovered the properties that make up the whole labyrinth of courtyards and apartments over 10 years ago. The 5 to 6 Riads were apparently in a bit of a mess but they lovingly restored the buildings to their present state with 10 luxurious suites, 2 dining rooms, 2 sitting rooms and a splendid roof terrace. One of my favourite places to to work or unwind was on our private balcony with the sound of the water flowing into the bathing pool below and the local birds singing their daily song all whilst being sheltered from the heat of the Moroccan sun.
The Riad is perfectly placed to immerse oneself right into the heart of Moroccan Culture. It is positioned at the North end of the Medina- The old walled centre of Marrakesh, with the Musée de Marrakech on the doorstep and the famous Souk with its hundreds of market stalls selling everything from spices and leatherwork to local fashion, metal work and even the odd lizard! This area is where you see real Moroccan daily life take place. But the riad is a little oasis of calm amongst the craziness of the streets of the Medina. James and his father have created a very special hideaway in the Medina, with a fabulous team who looked after us with such attention and always with a smile. They made it even more special on my Birthday by bringing a birthday cake for breakfast, just how I like to start the day… CAKE! Word seemed to spread even to the spa, for when I went for my very first Hammam at the recently built Farnatchi Spa I was greeted with a Happy Birthday. The Riad Farnatchi really is a little gem in Marrakesh, with a homely quality and luxury style, and true Marrakesh experiences to be had at its doorstep. In March 2017 the Riad is opening the ‘Le Trou au Mur’ restaurant directly opposite the Riad, I am sure this will be a fantastic addition to the Farnatchi portfolio.
Derb el Farnatchi,
Rue Souk el Fassis,
Qua’at Ben Ahid,