Originally built as a holiday home, the at-home philosophy is still palpable at Riad Farnatchi today. Now a luxurious, all-suites hotel – and a welcome oasis from the commotion of Marrakech (be that the sound of citizens clamouring past on mopeds or merchants beckoning you to sample their mountains of spices) – the riad is run more like a house party. Breakfast, aperitifs (pre-dinner cocktails) or dinner are available to take wherever you choose and staff are a joy; charming and attentive without being intrusive. There’s also a luxurious new spa.
The bedrooms at Riad Farnatchi
Five houses were remodelled (and joined together) to create Riad Farnatichi’s ten luxurious suites. All are gathered around two central courtyards, one of which is home to a small swimming pool, one abundant with orange trees, and each with plenty of private nooks to relax in with a mint tea.
The 10 suites vary in size but each one blends Moroccan and European styles, with neutral white and stone-coloured walls and eye-catching black and white tiling. Traditional Moroccan rugs and intricately carved plaster cornicing softens the hard lines. Each suite also boasts a fireplace, handmade beds and luxuriously soft duck-down bedding. Book suite 10 and you’ll also have a walk-in shower, a marble-topped bath and your own roof terrace. Fez hats and djellabas (traditional house robes) are also provided – enjoy them during your stay or buy them to take home as haggle-free souvenirs.
There is no minibar, nor tea and coffee making facilities, but obliging staff are on call to deliver whatever you fancy, often accompanied by traditional sweets or biscuits.
The food at Riad Farnatchi
Tucked down the same alley, facing the Riad, Le Trou au Mur opened at the end of October. Part of the hotel but operated separately, the restaurant is bright and modern with statement monochrome tiling and lime green accent banquette seating but still manages to feel cosy and intimate thanks to a medley of rugs and historical paintings.
International dishes are listed but the kitchen has worked hard to design a menu that demonstrates refined versions of dishes that would be found in traditional Moroccan homes, and as such have not shied away from Marrakech’s love of offal.
A selection of Moroccan salads to start features a fresh tomato salad, silky sweet potato purée spiked with warming cinnamon, delicately spiced cauliflower, intense charred aubergine and sweet carrot salad. Berkoukesh, another Moroccan specialty of grain-like handmade pasta, is cooked with a rich tomato and herb sauce to give it an indulgently creamy texture.
Mains include slow-cooked tripe with white beans and a spiced tomato sauce, offal medley and tripe; fine shredded pancakes with lentils, chicken and a saffron and herb sauce. The mixed mechoui was exactly as hoped; tender, fall-apart meat flavoured with rich, melting fat and served with a fragrant garlic and saffron sauce. It’s testament to the quality of the produce and skill in cooking that, while it enhanced the flavours of the meat, there was so much flavour in the lamb that the sauce was almost surplus to requirements. There is also a daily changing tagine du jour; on our visit this was succulent chicken served with jewel-like raisins and tfaya – sweet, caramelised onions.
Although Moroccan cuisine is often laced with sweetness, desserts are not generally a strong point. One exception is berkoukesh – presented here as a luxuriously creamy, cinnamon-spiced rice pudding.
Beyond the hotel, there are plenty of intriguing food stalls to be found among Marrakech’s crowded streets and, after sunset in the main square, Jemaa el-Fna, where pop-up restaurants serve Marrakechi delicacies (sheep’s eyes, anyone?). Fight for a spot on a surrounding roof terrace and watch the stalls set up while you sip a mint tea. For something more refined, head to Le Jardin, a courtyard restaurant filled with verdant plants and wildlife – you’ll often find tortoises slowly meandering between tables. Sweet, flakey pigeon pastilla, Moroccan cous cous and whole grilled sardines are must-try dishes. Be sure to book in advance as these tables are highly covetable lejardinmarrakech.com.
The drink at Riad Farnatchi
Many restaurants in Marrakech are understandably dry, but Le Trou Au Mur is not one of them. Morocco also has a burgeoning wine scene – something the team at Le Trou au Mur has embraced. The menu offers a range of local wines by the glass or bottle, with staff on hand to talk you through the selection.
Breakfast can be taken anywhere throughout the hotel and includes a menu of eggs alongside fresh fruit and traditional homemade breads (don’t miss the thin, layered flatbreads spiked with spices – perfect for mopping up the rich tomato sauce and runny egg yolks of shakshuka. Other options include eggs Florentine or smoked salmon and scrambled egg.