There is no shortage of restaurants in Essaouira and you’ll never be far from a cone-hatted tajine or a bowl of coucous like driven snow, but sometimes you fancy something different. Here are my favourite restaurants in Essaouira.
Eating in Elizir kind of feels like eating in your granny’s front room, only with cool retro 60s furniture and Colonial-era crockery rather than chinz and tea sets. The décor of this place wouldn’t look out of place in East Berlin: it’s like Prenzlauer Berg meets Cuban Paladar. But don’t expect grey socialist fare – the Communist parallels end there. The menu features the best of Italy mixed with the best of Morocco. It’s an unusual North-South Mediterranean fusion, but it works. The dishes are not over-complex and the fresh, local ingredients are prepared to maximise their flavours. Book in advance, because the secret’s out!
Elizir, 1 rue d’Agadir, Essaouira. Tel: +212 (0)5 24 47 21 03
Beach & Friends
Way along at the far end of the beach from the medina, Beach & Friends is where to go when you want to get away from getting away from it all. It’s fresh; it’s funky; it’s fun. It’s on the beach (without the bother), it serves Euro-café staples such as salads and quiches, and it has free wifi. It’s the perfect place when you’ve had one too many tajines and fancy a taste of home. (Or just a chilled glass of vin gris in an oversized sofa with a sea view). There are also “transats” (sunbeds to you and me), so pack your swimming togs and make a day of it!
Beach & Friends, Bd Mohamed 5 corniche sud, Essaouira – 44000, tel : : +212 (0) 5 24 47 45 58
Café des Arts
Like a festival in your front room, Café des Arts is a hidden gem above the main shopping street – you wouldn’t even know it’s there (and it’s not to be confused with Coin des Artistes across the road). The restaurant is up a tall, narrow flight of stairs and although there’s seating on various floors, keep climbing as high as possible. At the top, there’s a tiny room which seats max 15 people (at a sardine squeeze) for delicious and good value food (better than average tajines and couscous) while they listen to a crazy jam session in the corner. The musicians include Aziz Homadi, who runs the place and is also the artist whose work adorns the walls and tables. The night we were there we had an accordion, guitarists, vocalists and percussionists plus the Gnaoui krakeb and gimbre. The musicians are multi-talented and lively – and do all they can to encourage audience participation! Café des Arts, 56 Ave Istiklal, Essouaira
Worth a footnote and well off the beaten tourist track, is the small ‘bring your own’ restaurant on Avenue Mohammed Zarktouni in the heart of the souk. It’s on the right as you head towards Bab Doukkala, next to a small kiosk selling groceries and soft drinks. Blink and you’ll miss it – it’s long and narrow, but if you poke your head in you’ll see the braziers where the young guys will grill anything you bring them. So, pick up some fish or meat, salad ingredients, some loose tea and some fresh mint plus a lemon or two and some olives and they will create a feast for a few dirham! If you want seasoning, bring that too – get thyme from the old grannies under the arches where Avenue Istiklal becomes Avenue Mohammed Zarktouni or a dirham’s worth of parprika, fresh chillies or garlic from the old guys in the market. Full marks if you can find it!! It’s pretty basic, but simple and delicious!
© Lynn Sheppard