A Taste of Morocco’s Fez

North Africa's Fez, in Morocco, is the most compelling medieval city in the world. There are numerous and savoury reasons why.

Nov 3, 2009
  • The 1,050-year-old minaret of the Kairaouine Mosque towers over the rooftops. Radiating around it are 9,000 twisting alleyways and cul-de-sacs. This is Fez el-Bali, the walled medina or old town that in the 13th century expanded to Fez el-Jdid.
  • Salades marocaines—heaven to any vegetarian as they combine tender cooked vegetables with a fragrant balance of spices, herbs and occasionally a sweet edge of sugar, cinnamon or flower-water. Here, a selection from Palais de Fès.
  • La Maison Bleue’s cream b’steeya, a main course dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
  • Dessert at La Maison Bleue: a b’steeya au lait, a layered pastry enveloping oranges, almonds and a cream laced with orange-blossom water.
  • Starters at L’Ambre: sliced quince bathed in orange-blossom water, and aubergine grilled in a m’charmel sauce of sweet paprika, garlic, cumin and coriander
  • Freshly baked bread rolls at L’Ambre, by general consensus, the top medina restaurant. At Riad Fès, it is a vast, coolly elegant 18th-century palace full of sharp contemporary features. Many of the recipes come from the owner’s wife, Fouzia Sefrioui.
  • Kenza Samih and Abida Khadija cook exquisite dishes at L’Ambre. This is where to try l’hame tfaya, richly spiced lamb and saffron served with toasted almonds and a sweet carrot jam, or frakh maamar, tender pigeon stuffed with couscous, raisins and almonds. The little salads are pure textural genius too.
  • Traditional zelij mosaic, carved cedarwood and sumptuous fabrics set the scene.
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The 1,050-year-old minaret of the Kairaouine Mosque towers over the rooftops. Radiating around it are 9,000 twisting alleyways and cul-de-sacs. This is Fez el-Bali, the walled medina or old town that in the 13th century expanded to Fez el-Jdid.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
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Salades marocaines—heaven to any vegetarian as they combine tender cooked vegetables with a fragrant balance of spices, herbs and occasionally a sweet edge of sugar, cinnamon or flower-water. Here, a selection from Palais de Fès.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
3/8
La Maison Bleue’s cream b’steeya, a main course dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
4/8
Dessert at La Maison Bleue: a b’steeya au lait, a layered pastry enveloping oranges, almonds and a cream laced with orange-blossom water.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
5/8
Starters at L’Ambre: sliced quince bathed in orange-blossom water, and aubergine grilled in a m’charmel sauce of sweet paprika, garlic, cumin and coriander
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
6/8
Freshly baked bread rolls at L’Ambre, by general consensus, the top medina restaurant. At Riad Fès, it is a vast, coolly elegant 18th-century palace full of sharp contemporary features. Many of the recipes come from the owner’s wife, Fouzia Sefrioui.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
7/8
Kenza Samih and Abida Khadija cook exquisite dishes at L’Ambre. This is where to try l’hame tfaya, richly spiced lamb and saffron served with toasted almonds and a sweet carrot jam, or frakh maamar, tender pigeon stuffed with couscous, raisins and almonds. The little salads are pure textural genius too.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
8/8
Traditional zelij mosaic, carved cedarwood and sumptuous fabrics set the scene.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker

Aristocratic, cultured, deeply religious, Fez has to be the most compelling medieval city in the world. Its geographic location, too, is spectacular, spilling over fertile hills between the Middle Atlas and Rif mountains of northern Morocco. This is where to taste velvety tagines like nowhere else, to sample sweet couscous cooked to a 13th-century recipe, to crunch the feather-light pastry of a b’steeya or to dip into a baroque selection of salades marocaines.

Fez Restaurants

L’Ambre at Riad Fès
Recognised as the top restaurant for refined Fassi cuisine beside a spectacular courtyard bar in an 18th-century palace. Innovative presentation gives old classics a modern twist. 5, Derb Ben Slimane, Zerbtana, Fez Medina.

Palais de Fès
Perfect for a lunch on a shady terrace or dinner with twinkling views, even in winter. Most of the vegetables come from the King’s farm, irrigated with spring water, and spices are prepared in-house. 15 Makhfia, R’cif, Fez Medina.

La Maison Bleue
Live oud music and Gnaoua musicians heighten the atmosphere in the blue-and-white–tiled salon of this 1916 mansion. Dinner only. 2 Place de l’Istiqlal, Batha, Fez Medina.

Dar El Ghalia
An eccentric 19th-century jewel owned by the descendant of the original owner. Dinners are prepared with traditional methods and served on the roof terrace or in the patio. 13/15 Ras Janane, Ross Rhi, Fez.

Al Fassia
Dine in the splendour of a Grand Vizir’s 1879 palace or on a terrace overlooking lush gardens with the entire medina at your feet. Excellent Fassi cuisine—belly dancers and Moroccan music are a bonus. Palais Jamaï, Bab Guissa, Fez Medina.

Dar Roumana
American-owned Cordon Bleu riad serving evolved Moroccan cuisine in the patio or on rooftop. Cooking lessons available for guests. Zqaq Rommane, Fez Medina.

Mezzanine
Youthful Fez revels in this hip new cocktail lounge, sampling European and Moroccan tapas under the stars. Eclectic décor, polyglot staff. 17 Kasbat Chams, Bab Boujloud (opposite gates to Jardin Jnan Sbil), Fez Medina.

For individual cooking classes in a traditional medina house and market tours, contact Lahcen Beqqi, a genial Berber from the Atlas Mountains who is a trained cook. 212 15/866144


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