Thursday, 28 May 2015

Insiders Guide VI: Update on Restaurants in Marrakech

The next best thing of eating food is to write about it and here we are, four months into our new life in Morocco, and of course we have discovered a lot of new favourite restaurants and hot spots that we would like to share with you. So here is an addition to our previous blog post on favourite restaurants. For our previous list on where to eat, check out the blog post Insiders Guide II. As always you find ALL our best tips on restaurants, bars, spa:s, hotels and shopping in the Insiders Guide section of this blog. And in the end of this post you get our current top-10-list!

Magnificant Royal Mansour

In Marrakech you find a very happening and vibrant restaurant scene with a lot of different options. The interior design and ambience are often breathtaking but the quality of the food can be both amazing as well as disapointing. What was a great dining experience one week can turn out to be a disaster a week later, this is due to a lot of rotation of the good chefs in town. As a friend said, you can guarantee the design and service of place but never the quality of the food. We were not very impressed with the food at Grand Café de la Poste when we came here but during our recent visits the food has been great, let's see how long that lasts.

Royal Mansour
Oh yes, it is posh. Very posh. And expensive. Very very expensive. But we are totally seduced by this palace out of 1001 nights, filled with magic and impressive craftsmanship. Royal Manaour is the latest addition to the super luxury hotel scene of Marrakech. It is, like La Mamounia, owned by the King and very upscale. Royal Mansour has a beautiful spa (see previous blog post), amazing suites and two restaurants: the Moroccan and the International restaurants. We prefer the International restaurant of Royal Mansour, the food is excellent and the ambience to die for. To give you an idea about the price level a bottle of still water is 10 Euros and a main course around 45 Euros. However, right now they have a three course set menue for just 65 Euros, which is great value for money.

The gate to Royal Mansour

Outside the international restaurant of Royal Mansour

ILimoni
ILimoni is in our opinion the best Italian restaurant in town. We have been here many times and both the pasta and deserts are like in Italy (and we love Italy). You dine under the citrus trees in the lush courtyard, the staff and owner are very friendly and attentive. Also open for lunch with a nice roof terrace as well. This is a new favorite spot that we can highly recomend. 

ILimoni

Riad Nashira
Riad Nashira is operated by the same team that also runs Café Arabe and Hamam de la rose. Riad Nashira also has an Italian touch and the menue contains both Moroccan and Italian dishes. The food is very good and the ambience modern and lounge-like. Open for non residents both for lunch and dinner.

Riad Nashira

Namazake, at the Pearl
Located on the roof top terrace of hotel the Pearl in Hivernage you find the Japanese restaurant Namazake. If you fell like sushi or modern Japanese food this is a good spot. The views are amazing, the music and lounge ambience is very international and the food is good. You can also come here to hang out for a cocktail, go for a swim in the pool and enjoy the views (both of the guests and the medina)

Namazake, Japanese food on the roof top of the Pearl hotel

Latitude 31
Latitide31 is an outdoor restaurant in the medina (no indoor seating). The kitchen is very ambitious and the food excellent, fine dining level for a very good price. Very nice ambience and DJ:s playing lounge music. Perfect for a nice lunch or dinner. The only downside is that they don't serve wine, we cross our fingers that they will receive the permits for this shortly since the food here truly deserves some good wine as company.

Latitude 31

La Table du Palais
La Table du Palais is the restaurant of Palais Riad Lamrani, set in a beautiful, lush and traditional palace garden this is the perfect place for a long lunch (not open for dinner and closed Sundays). They serve an excellent three course lunch and have very friendly and attentive staff. We keep coming back to this favourite place. Ambitious kitchen serving French and Moroccan food with a modern twist.

La Table du Palais, the restaurant of Palais Lamrani

Pop-Ups
We are super happy to notice that several pop up restaurants start to pop-up in Marrakech. Famous and not so famous international chefs teaming up with local restaurants and creating pop up events for a couple of nights or weeks. This brings even more energy to the already vibrant restaurant scene. We have been to both some good and some bad ones. A couple of weeks ago Paris Pop-Up took over the roof top terrace of Restaurant Nomad and presented an amazing menue and great cocktails, one of the best menues we had here actually. If you are visiting Marrakech, make sure to google for which events and pop-ups that might be taking place during your visit!

Paris Pop Up at Nomad in May

And the jumbo price for lousy service goes to...
As mentioned in the beginning, the quality of food and service at a venue can change quickly here in Marrakech. We have always loved Bo Zin for the ambience and cool vibe and also promoted it as one of the coolest places to go in this blog. We still love the ambience, DJ:s and the vibe of Bo Zin but we unfortunatley need to add some negative comments to all our previous praise. The food is good but the service has gone from good (2 years ago), to bad (1 year ago) to lousy (this spring). It is obvious the logistics and staff management is not working anymore. It took 30 minutes from getting menues to placing order (after asking to do so 3 times), missed drink orders, un-coordinated and non existing service from staff etc. We will still go here for the outdoor bar and music but don't expect good service... Hopefully they will get this under control shortly.

Our top-10-list (June-15):
1) Gastro MK at maison MK
2) Royal Mansour, the international restaurant 
3) Dar Zellij
4) Grand Café de la Poste 
5) Table du Palais
6) I Limoni
7) La Maison Arabe
8) Amaia Restaurant
9) La Sultana
10) Latitude31

And of course we have to mention our own kitchen here at Riad Arabe where we have our excellent cook Rachida who constantly keep surprising us with new dishes, some from secret family recepies and some from recepies she finds on Internet. 

Tonight we are dining at home in our own riad and Rachida is preparing some surprise for us
Bon Apetit!
P&P

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Books about Marrakech

Since we made Marrakech our base we have basically bought all available books, fiction as well as non-fiction, related to Morocco and Marrakech. In our library, aka "the gold lounge", we have a nice little collection by now and it is great to be able to just go in and browse through the shelves and select a new book to read, for inspiration, education or pleasure.

If you are on your way to Marrakech and - like us - think it is nice to read books about the destination of your travel or if you just want to bring som Moroccan magic into your home we give you our favourite books about our favourite town. All books are available on Amazon (Une Passion Marocaine is however rare and a bit harder to find)

Design Books


Marrakesh by Design by Maryam Montague
This is an amazing book by our dear friend, Maryam. It is both a beautiful coffee table book with inspirational pictures and also a source of information about Morocco, Marrakech, architecture and design. It gives you great ideas for styling and how to bring Marrakech design into your home. If you just buy one book, buy this one!



Yves Saint Laurent - Une passion Marocaine, by Pierre Berge
This is a unique book with private photos and comments by Pierre Berge, the partner of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. The book is a piece of art and contains a lot of both photos and drawings by the couple. Pierre writes his own handwritten personal notes and comments. The book has the feeling of a private album and it is an exciting peak into Marrakech in the 60s and 70s when the rock myth begun. 

A peak into the private and fascinating lives of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in Marrakech. 

 

Marrakech - living on the edge of the desert by Massimo Lisiri & Daniel Ray
The team from Architectural Digest present their favourite Marrakech properties and pursuade the owners to open up their magnificent homes. This is a beautiful coffee table book showing off some amazing homes and covering both the medina, the Palmairie and surounding areas. Prepare to be seduced!


Living in Morocco by Barabara & Rene Stoeltie
Also here we find seductive pictures of beautiful homes, but we also get to meet the owners who explain their passions for Morocco and the magic of their homes as well as share stories from their lives in Morocco. Living in Morocco - we sure see no reason why not.

Fiction - books featuring Marrakech and/or Morocco as the main character


A year in Marrakesh by Peter Mayne
We bought this book for our very first visit to Marrakech back in 2008. This classical book from 1953 tells the story of Peter Mayne settling down in the Marrakech medina and getting to know the mysteries of the city from within. It is a very well written book about life in the medina in the 50s, not so very different from today. We loved this book som much that we named our blog in it's honor.


The last storytellers by Richard Hamilton
The storyteller tradition is the very heart of Moroccan culture and these ancient stories have been told for thousands of years on the Jemaa el Fna square in Marrakech. The author tracks down the last remaining traditional storytellers and document their stories for the future and for the English speaking audience. A very unique insight in Moroccan culture and heritage. Did you know that movies like "Inception" are based on the ancient "layer over layer" storytelling technique from the Arabic culture?


The caliphs house & In Arabian nights, both by Tahir Shah
Tahir Shah is a Moroccan cult author. The first book "the caliphs house" is about the adventures, cultural clashes, fortunes and misfortunes when his family buys a run down riad in Casablanca. There are many books based on the adventures of foreigners buying a riad in Morocco, other exampes are "a house in Fes" and "Cinnamon City", but the book by Tahir is by far the best one. The second book "in Arabian nights" captures traditional Moroccan storytelling in a modern format.


The voices of Marrakesh by Elias Canetti
Nobel prize winner Canetti was swept away by Marrakech and wrote this novel where he explains his love for the city by focusing on the many sounds of the medina. A beautiful little story about a man's love for a newly discovered city. Very well written.


Marrakesh through a writers eyes, by 10 different writers
George Orwell, Peter Harris and 8 more aclaimed authors share their stories of, and reflections about, Marrakech in 10 short stories. This book collects all Marrakech loving authors in one volume.

Guide Books

Your best source of information when travelling today is of course Trip Advisor, blogs and guide app:s. Printed guide books tend to be outdated before they hit the shelves and especially when it comes to restaurants and hotels where the scene changes so quickly. If you want a traditional guide book you can buy First Class or Lonley Planet.


Hg2 Marrakech (Hedonist guide to Marrakech) & Wallpaper City Guide Marrakech
For relevant information on bars, restaurants and hotels the lates edition of these two books are your best choice. Thet focus on the trendy and upscale scene in Marrakech and where our loyal advisors during our first trip. For personal and updated information on bars, spa:s, restaurants and hotels check out the Insiders Guide section of this blog, where we collect our favorites.


Our little library in "the gold lounge" of our riad

We know you will find new inspiration and learn more about Morocco if you pick up some of these books before your travel and why not bring some Moroccan magic into your own home?

Time to put down the iPad and pick out a new book!
Have a great day!
P&P





Wednesday, 13 May 2015

L'Amandier - luxury villas in the Atlas Mountains

As you know by now we LOVE the Atlas mountains. The fresh air, the amazing views and the beautiful nature up here is to die for. There are some ok kasbahs and hotels to stay in but the only true luxury place so far is awesom Kasbah Tamadot, where we stayed some weeks ago (see previous blog post). 

The nature up here is truly unique and it is just a one hour drive from Marrakech. So far to buy a house of some standards in the mountains has been almost impossible. But now all that has changed. Now there is L'Amandier!

Beautiful landscaped gardens and magnificant views surround the 12 villas

L'Amandier means almond grove and is the name of this new luxury development which is surounded not only by the most spectacular of Atlas mountain views but also by almond and olive trees. It is a beautiful spot with a 360 degree view of the mountains. 

There are 14 villas with 2 or 3 bedrooms built in traditional materials but with a contemporary design and modern take on the Moroccan design heritage. The villas all have their own private landscaped gardens with views of the mountains, roof terraces and a small pool. This villas have great finishings and the highest possible standards.

Details from the gardens of L'Amandier

Later this year a five star boutique hotel will also open here and the owners of the villas will have access to the spa, restaurant, activities and aupport of the hotel. We can't wait to see what the finished hotel will be like, one thing is for sure, the views will be to die for and the infinity pool the coolest one in Morocco. Stay tuned for a review and pictures later this fall when L'amandiar Hotel & Spa opens and we check in to check it out.

You can also add on services like cleaning, gardening, poolkeeping, grocery shopping etc at a very reasonable cost and you can also get help furnituring the house (but that is great fun to do so why give up roaming the souks for treasures?). There is 24 hour security and service of the property. This is probably a very solid investment, prices are expected to increase 20-25% later this fall when the hotel and spa is open and operational. The villas are aprox 329-349.000 £.

If you are interested in investing in a very unique property in the Atlas Mountains you must hurry, there are only two villas left for sale. If interested, email us for contact details (per.sjodell@gmail.com). 

One of the villas from the outside

The villa from another angle

Lush gardens 

A small private pool in each villa and access to the huge infinity pool of the hotel

Spacious entry hall with lots of natural light

2-3 bathrooms and 1 extra guest wc in all villas

Livingroom with a fireplace and a view

Roof top terrace with 360 degree views of the Atlas mountains

Entry to one of the villas

View from inside the villa

Part of the future five star boutique hotel that will boost 8 suites, a spa, restaurant, bar and 25 metre infinity pool. Soft launch of the hotel is planned for October.

Thanks Team L'Amandier for inviting me for a private preview of your beautiful villas and the hotel to be. Can't wait to come back and see the final result!

We will keep comming back to this magical spot for sure.

Sunshine and love from a almond grove in the mountains!
Per (the other P was not able to join this time)

Monday, 11 May 2015

Project Soar - Doing good in the local community

When you live in a country like Morocco it is inevitable that you sooner or later will feel the need to get involved in some kind of charity, trying to help out and make life a little easier for people in your community. In Morocco there are public schools and even universities, hospitals and a basic wellfare system. However, many Moroccans who live on the countryside under very basic conditions can not always benefit from this. Also there are cultural norms and uneducated parents that create problems for especially girls. A big problem is young girls dropping out of school to help out at home or even get married very young.
 

"We believe the world would be a better place if everyone made an effort to be better neighbors"

          - Maryam Montague, founder of Project Soar

This is where Project Soar comes in. Project Soar is a non profit organisation founded by our dear friend, humanitarian worker, design guru and hotelier Maryam Montague. The purpose of the organisation is to help and empower under-served girls in the rural areas outside Marrakech. 

Every Sunday some 30-60 girls turn up for the Project Soar activities

Project Soar works one neighbour and one neighbourhood at a time to make the world a better place, a place that is more beautiful through art, design and rehabilitaion projects. And a place that is healthier through sports, education and cleanup efforts. The project focus on girls 6-14 years old and to empower them through sports, art and design to motivate them to educate themselves and be strong individuals. Girlpower to bring confidence to little girls in a country that is still very traditional in the country side.

Excited girls waiting for Project Soar to start

Every Sunday 30-60 girls from the neighbouring villages turn up to the Project Soar events on the grounds of Peacock Pavilions. Here they participate in different activities and educational sessions and there is also a doctor present informing about hygine, nutrition etc. Project Soar also finance and teach English to the girls to give them tools for communication and a better future.
 
It is a very good intitative and last Sunday we were happy to volunteer at the Project Soar activities for a day of skateboarding, scrapbooking and hanging with these lovley littlr girls.
 
Some of the girls in the project

Maryam is a passionate humanitarian and the founder of Project Soar


The guys from the Association Extreme Sports taught the girls how to skateboard
 
Voluntering instructors
 

Girls skating, they learned quite fast!


Beauty, heart and brains: Maryam, founder of Project Soar, and Erica, branding expert from the US

Some of the Project Soar girls


Scrapbooking, at the same time they also learned about animals and food


Young artists at work


Having fun with the skateboard


Trying to keep up with the girls


We tried to be of assistance
 

Fatima was very into the projects


Maryam and Dr Scully who provides health and nutrition education for the girls

Thanks for inviting us to Project Soar Maryam! We will be back to plan field trips and other things for the girls!

Change start with us as individuals making an effort to help people around us, all efforts big or small matter and will eventually waterfall into a bigger change for the better. We are convinced Project Soar is scalable and we will look into how we can contribute in our local community, in our street, our town and eventually around Morocco. Focus will be empowerment of girls.

Do YOU feel that YOU do a lot of good in your own community, neighbourhood or in the bigger picture? If yes, great! If no, perhaps it's time to start making an effort to make the world a little better. 

To make a change, to be good and to do good is not always so easy. We know that back in Sweden we sure had a hard time to figure out what to do and who to trust but did the occassional charity contribution to feel good about ourselves. Living in Africa it feels more natural to start doing good since you see so much you can improve at close hand. We try our best to help our little tribe, that is the people close around us in the medina and those working for us here in Marrakech. We are very happy to have been invited to Project Soar and we have additional ideas on what we could do to help out here in Morocco. 

If you feel you want to do good and be part of a positive movement for little girls but don't know what to do we suggest you sponsor Project Soar! All contributions make a big difference here. If you have 10-100 Euro (or maybe even more?) to spare the we can guarantee that the money will end up helping underserved girls to a better future. And remember that Project Soar is 100% non profit and a registred charity organisation.

Help us help!
You can learn more about Project Soar and how to make a donation HERE. If you want to both do good and get some cool Moroccan goodies at the same time you can shop beautiful Moroccan design items in the Red Thread Souk webshop. The shop is curated by Maryam who also has written design books and styled  a lot of celebrity homes. All profit from the shop goes directly to Project Soar. If you want to visit Marrakech we suggest you stay at beautiful, stylish and super chic boutique hotel Peacock Pavilions, 10% of the profit goes to support Project Soar.

Per Sjödells foto.
Maryam's beautiful home and boutique hotel Peacock Pavilions is the playground for retreats from all over the world. The retreat leaders also contribute to Project Soar by sharing knowledge with the girls.
 
Peacock Pavilions is a very well known and top ranked hotel for all kind of retreats from all over the world. Everything from yoga, belly dancing, photography and fashion events goes on here and the retreat leaders also contribute to Project Soar by sharing their knowledge with the girls in inspirational workshops. Part of the hotel's profit goes to the project and Maryam also open up her home, gardens and spaces to the Project Soar on Sundays.


Red Thread Souk is the web shop of M Montague
 
Carpets, lamps, design items and goodies for a good cause

Please take some time to reflect on how You can contribute and make the community around you a better place and if you don't know how or where to start, why not start with our little Moroccan projects? We will keep you posted on the developments of both Project Soar and other charity initatives for Morocco. If you have any questions, pleaee contact us!
 
So come on, give a little - to do good is the new black.
P&P