Lunch at La Mamounia (Marrakech, Morocco)

(MARRAKECH, MOROCCO)

I woke up in my cute little AirBnB tucked away in a Marrakech backstreet. I liked it here. It was cheap, colourful and cosy. I met a lot of amazing people here. I can't recommend the AirBnB experience more!

But today, for one day, I chose to try a luxurious side of Marrakech.


I'd heard of this fantastic hotel, about 10 minutes from Jemaa El Fnaa Square, which seemed to offer the kind of glitzy experience I was craving.

La Mamounia, a refurbished king's palace, has had a mark on the maps of Marrakech for a very long time. Adapted as a hotel, La Mamounia has charmed the likes of Princess Caroline of Monaco and Winston Churchill, who in particular described it as 'the best in the world to spend an afternoon.'


I had to see what the fuss was about. But as you might expect, this kind of experience would come at a fee.

Fortunately, I had just received my paycheck!

I packed my modest shoulder bag, wore something nice, and popped long to spend the day at La Mamounia.

Entering the hotel was a breath of fresh air - literally. The hotel is scented with its own gorgeous signature fragrance, a spicy, woody aroma. I can only think it's what Brad Pitt's underwear drawer would smell like.


I purchased my day's entry, which was around $150US - sounds very steep for just one day, but that includes lunch, spa and all the facilities - far from terrible.

The lobby was slicked with thick, plushy carpets and propped up by grand, mahogany wooden beams.



I wandered towards the garden, met a sharply-tailoured waiter and was shown to a little table on the patio.

I sat on the edge of the patio's shade, around quiet eaters and even quieter plants.


The staff were incredibly attentive from the get-go. I wasn't sure what to expect, I'd never experienced a high-end dining experience like this in my life before. It was a first. Every time I took a sip of my water, a waiter zipped by and topped up my glass. I'll admit, I felt quite uneasy having such dedicated table service. I couldn't help but feel guilt as I sat and watched the table being set around me by three pairs of gloved hands.

I just wanted to jump in and help them, make their life easier. Though I didn't want to seem like I was undermining their job. I also didn't want to sit there nonchalant and look like I didn't appreciate their effort. I had no idea how to be in this kind of situation. All I did was rapid-fire a load of thank yous, merci's and shukran's at them and show them my most thankful-looking smile. I think I did a good job of that.

The food was delicious, beautiful and very arty. Some of the portions looked small and clownish at first, but as the courses came out, they gradually became more substantial and even more delicious!

First up was an appetiser: foie gras. Incredibly controversial, I'm totally aware. I've never tried it before and I like to try anything once. I probably won't try it again. But at least I know what a force-fed duck's liver tastes like (damn good).


They brought over a selection of different breads, complete with a bottle of their own signature olive oil, pressed from the olives that grow in the palace's grounds. That was a pretty fab touch. A tasty one too!


Then there was the starter. A flaky pastry cushion stacked with roasted balsamic vegetables and aubergine puree. This tasted like a plate of spring - it tasted clean and fresh. Energising! Everything you want from a starter (beats a dumpy mac & cheese starter at least.)


Then along came the main. A darling Atlas lamb rack, encrusted with herbs and cress, and hiding an 'aubergine bomb' - grilled aubergines formed into a dome and stuffed with baba ghanoush. Marvellous.


I had trouble getting my knife and fork around the little lamb ribs, so a lot of meat went to waste. If I were at home I would have used my teeth, but I didn't think they'd tolerate that sort of thing here!


That main course was incredible. Herby, meaty and spicy - it stills haunts me while I'm writing this!

Dessert, however, was my favourite one.


The plate started out as a small, white mound, clustered with pink praline.

Pink praline is seen around a lot of markets in Marrakech, you can buy bags of it very cheaply from street vendors. I love how they incorporated it here!

The waiter poured over a milky custard and the mound magically grew into a pillowy vanilla mousse. There were churros on the side for dipping. There was no way I was going to humiliate myself by eating churros with a knife and fork - my hands did the work.


The staff literally couldn't have done enough for me. It may have felt unsettling, perhaps because I'm British, or maybe it's Moroccan hospitality, or because I've never really tried a luxury eating experience before - who knows? But it was a new experience for me nevertheless - how the other half live - and I don't regret trying it.

So, after being very much nourished on the inside, it was time to nourish myself on the outside.

Spa Time!

The 'hammam', a Moroccan spa, is absolutely a must-try if you visit Morocco. Stay with me for my next post, when I share the rough-and-ready of a Moroccan underground hammam. Bring a towel!

Thanks for reading!

Anthony

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