Review: Roti D’Or, Marrakech Morocco

Fast food has its time and place – and when you’re down to your final hundred Moroccan Dirhams on your last day in Marrakech and need one more meal, you really can’t beat cheap fast food for its price and convenience! There’s no need to go in search of another ATM to withdraw more money for yet another chicken tajine dinner when 100 Dirhams ($13.80 AUD) can get you an incredibly filling meal for two people at Roti D’Or off the main square.

rotidor-01It is absolutely nothing to look at from the outside – a small little cafe with outdoor seating on a side street off the main square. Somehow though, it is consistently rated in the top five restaurants in Marrakech on TripAdvisor, usually only beat out by much more expensive and fancier restaurants located in five star hotels.

Falafel, 25 Moroccan Dirhams
Falafel, 25 Moroccan Dirhams

The menu is uncomplicated and consists of either burgers with fries, or fried meat served with rice, flatbread and salad. We started with the Falafel served with the aforementioned sides – I didn’t even bother touching the flatbread, but did gobble up the delicious herbed rice with the falafel. I thought the falafel was a bit over-fried actually – definitely not a patch on the amazing falafel we had in Ohrid in Macedonia.

Crunchy Chicken, 25 Moroccan Dirhams
Crunchy Chicken, 25 Moroccan Dirhams

We went on to order the Crunchy Chicken, which I had hoped would be deep-fried chicken drumsticks or wings. It turns out that you’ll need to go to KFC for those though – Roti D’Or’s crunchy chicken is essentially just processed chicken fillets like frozen Birds Eye chicken strips. This is the type of dish you won’t need to bribe a young child to eat – and indeed, there was an English family sitting next to us where both of the young children were munching away on these chicken strips!

Tex Mex Burger, 35 Moroccan Dirhams
Tex Mex Burger, 35 Moroccan Dirhams

We finished off our meal by sharing the Tex Mex Burger, which was very interestingly if impractically presented with the burger bun skewered upright on the top of the burger. This is no Roslund Finnish burger unfortunately, and barely rates against a Burger King offering. At least it comes with a side of crunchy French fries.

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As a general ordering guide – one meal per person is more than sufficient. We definitely over-ordered as evidenced by the fact that we left all the flatbread and most of the rice on the plate – I also ended up leaving most of the bun from my half of the burger as there was simply too much food!

I’m surprised that Roti D’Or is rated as highly as it is as it certainly doesn’t offer a particularly noteworthy menu or amazingly unique food. What it does offer is an incredibly cheap menu which barely challenges the budget, so I suspect that its many highly positive reviews are based on price rather than quality. Come here if you’re down to your last hundred Dirhams, but don’t go out of your way to visit!

Roti D’Or is located at 17 Rue Kennaria in Marrakech, Morocco.

Review: Cafe Mama Afrika, Marrakech Morocco

If you get sick of Marrakech souvenir stall sellers hounding you about entering their shop to check out their buckets of spices, genuine Moroccan argan oil, handmade leather goods, or gimmicky knick-knacks that will end up gathering dust on your shelves at home, you can always walk twenty minutes up the road from the main square in the Medina to what is known as “New Marrakech”.

Here you might still be followed by guys on the street trying to sell you a watch or belt, or insisting that they shine your shoes for a fee (guys, I’m wearing sneakers. Shoeshine is entirely unnecessary.). But you can also make the most of air-conditioned shopping malls and centres where shop assistants won’t follow you around the store insisting that you try everything on. It’s honestly a bit of a relief to not be hounded and to just have some room to breathe as a tourist.

There’s plenty of cafes in the area where you can grab a casual bite to eat of mainly quite Westernised food. There’s pizzas and sandwiches galore. If you want something a little more local but still accessible, Cafe Mama Afrika is a great choice.

Coconut Kiss cocktail (Pineapple, banana, coconut milk, desiccated coconut), 20 Moroccan Dirhams
Coconut Kiss cocktail (Pineapple, banana, coconut milk, desiccated coconut), 20 Moroccan Dirhams

While it’s always well-patronised by young holidaymakers taking advantage of the cheap drinks on the menu, it’s also popular with locals with a few younger and more modern Moroccan couples dining there.

I made the most of their non-alcoholic drinks – there’s plenty of fresh juices on the menu, but I chose the Coconut Kiss cocktail of pineapple, banana and coconut milk. Like a tropical party in your mouth, only tastier.

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We got the traditional Moroccan khobz bread of course, that’s a given.

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This was a nice surprise though – a little appetiser of marinated olives to start. I liked the green olives which had a little extra chilli spice stuffed into them, but found the black olives a bit too sour for my liking.

Mama Detox (rice, onion, green red yellow peppers, eggplant, cheese, pineapple), 40 Moroccan Dirhams
Mama Detox (rice, onion, green red yellow peppers, eggplant, cheese, pineapple), 40 Moroccan Dirhams

I chose their healthy vegetarian menu option of the Mama Detox, which actually turned out to be a surprisingly Asian-African fusion kind of dish. The peppers, onion and pineapple was fried in a sauce not dissimilar to a Cantonese sweet and sour sauce, and served on a bed of white rice. With some slices of fried eggplant and a healthy sprinkle of cheese on top, it was a deliciously tempting dish – I could have eaten much more! This is of course, not to mention its entirely adorable presentation as a mini-map of Africa!

Reggae Fish (Vietnamese Rice Cake, Fish Fillet, Eggplant, Onion, Pepper, Tomato), 50 Moroccan Dirhams
Reggae Fish (Vietnamese Rice Cake, Fish Fillet, Eggplant, Onion, Pepper, Tomato), 50 Moroccan Dirhams

K chose their fish dish – the Reggae Fish of plump juicy fish fillets wrapped in deep-fried Vietnamese rice paper. Served on top of a bed of lettuce leaves and a little scoop of corn and cucumber salsa, the fish was enhanced by the drizzle of sweet teriyaki-esque sauce on top. Yet another nod to Asian-African fusion that works extremely well!

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This little stray cat takes up its residence in Cafe Mama Afrika, winding his way through peoples legs under tables and standing up to place his front paws on your lap in a reminder of ‘hey I’m here, feed me!’. I gave him some pieces of fish fillet which he gobbled up hungrily!

Cafe Mama Afrika is a reasonably-priced cafe bordering old and new Marrakech, offering local cuisine with an international twist. It’s nothing fancy but it is hearty and filling, and the whole cafe is very relaxed so it’s very possible to just grab a seat and while away the afternoon with a few drinks. Take a break from the hustle (and bustle) of old Marrakech, and chill out at Cafe Mama Afrika.

Cafe Mama Afrika is located on Rue Oum Errabii Gueliz in Marrakech, Morocco.

Review: Square and Compass, East Melbourne

I’ve been practicing yoga a few times a week for the past couple of months. I wouldn’t call myself proficient by any means – I struggle to get my foot above my knee in tree pose, I faceplant in crow pose, and while most people seem to be able to jump to forward fold from downward-facing dog, I have to walk my way to the top of the mat.

Still, I turn up every week without fail. I practice my breathing. I try to clear my mind and focus on being in the moment. I’ve changed other parts of my life to match the philosophies of yoga practice. I even wake up at 7am on a Saturday morning to go to a 9am yoga class at my yoga studio in the city. As one of the teachers at the studio says, yoga practice is about dedication not proficiency, or, being true to the moment not how long you can hold a pose.

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Attending an early Saturday morning yoga class is sweetened by a brunching afterwards in the city outskirts at cafes like Square and Compass. Run by the same family who own the cafe Mammoth in Armadale, Square and Compass is cut from the same mold – light, airy interiors, a serious concentration on coffee, and a brunch menu that features classics with a modern twist.

Seven Seeds Cappuccino, $4 and Earl Grey Tea, $4.50
Seven Seeds Cappuccino, $4 and Earl Grey Tea, $4.50

We started with some drinks – a Cappuccino for K (coffee from Seven Seeds) and an Earl Grey Tea for myself. K was thankful for his cappuccino to help wake him up after an early start! Tea here is served in a Japanese-style tetsubin cast iron teapot, ensuring that the tea brews evenly and stays warm for longer. Milk is served here with Earl Grey tea (probably all teas), but I would have preferred a wedge of lemon on the side as an option over the milk.

Ayomo Garden Greens cold pressed juice (cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, apple), $8
Ayomo Garden Greens cold pressed juice (cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, apple), $8

I love green juices, though K’s not a big fan. Ayomo‘s cold-pressed juices are always a treat, and the Garden Greens is one of my favourites. It’s always cleansing on the palate, with just enough sweetness from the apple juice to make it more palatable.

Smoked pork croquettes, roast pumpkin, sweet onion puree, crispy sage, poached egg, $19 AUD
Smoked pork croquettes, roast pumpkin, sweet onion puree, crispy sage, poached egg, $19 AUD

K opted for a dish that you wouldn’t find on most cafe brunch menus – Smoked Pork Croquettes with Roast Pumpkin. It’s the type of dish that one might associate more with an evening meal than breakfast.

However once I tasted the different elements of the dish together, I understood why it seemed to work. The rich meatiness of the pork croquettes was reminiscent of salty bacon and with a mouthful of soft sweet roasted pumpkin that imitated a stack of sweet pancakes, this dish is like a reinterpretation of maple syrup and bacon pancakes. The salty, meaty and sweet flavours co-mingle to create something quite special.

Crunchy peanut butter, heirloom tomatoes, salt and pepper peanuts on toast, $15 AUD
Crunchy peanut butter, heirloom tomatoes, salt and pepper peanuts on toast, $15 AUD

I chose the Square and Compass signature dish of Crunchy Peanut Butter on Toast…with the extra special twist of an Heirloom Tomato topping. ‘What!’ I hear you exclaim? ‘Peanut butter and tomato? That’s madness!’ Reader, that was my first reaction too. It’s not until you take your first bite that you understand what a genius combination this really is – one that I actually hope to recreate at home!

The fresh tang and burst of juice from the heirloom tomatoes helps to cut through the palate-sticking residue from the liberal serving of everyone’s childhood favourite Kraft branded crunchy peanut butter. Those with arachibutyrophobia can rejoice, as peanut butter toast will no longer stick to your palate as long you combine it with a tiny heirloom tomato or two.

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The brunch offerings at cafes owned by the Sahely family continue to impress. Like our meal at Mammoth, our brunch at Square and Compass was particularly unique and innovative, looking at key ingredients through a different lens. Our meals were a nod to some favourite childhood breakfasts, but with a firm eye to ‘how can we make it better’?

We’ll continue to visit the Sahely/McBride family cafes for their excellent and innovative food. In fact, keep an eye out for an upcoming review of another of their cafes – Touchwood in Richmond!

Square and Compass is located at 222 Clarendon Street in East Melbourne.