The Wellingtonian – Dining – The Succulent Taste of Morocco

December 18, 2008

It is sometimes surprising that a city the size of Wellington has the range of ethnic restaurants it does – Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Thai, Nepalese, Mexican, Chilean, Lebanese, Italian, French, Greek, Moroccan and others.

Many have kept to their culinary customs, making their dishes fresh in the traditional way, Others have turned their backs on the old ways, having been seduced by the savings in money and effort that they feel can be made by using commercially prepared ingredients.

There are few Moroccan restaurants in the capital so, happily, none have resorted to bulk-buy tagine sauce, boil-in-a-bag couscous or the like, but instead rely on the expertise of their cooks to interpret their culinary classics.

I went for lunch last week to Marrakech, an oasis at Greta Point on the inland stretch of round-the-bays walk. We were given a menu which on one side offered the culinary delights of North Africa and on the other, the usual Wellington brunch dishes like mint tea or “Zagora Breakfast” with jam, butter, olive oil, olives and home made bread. I chose from the black board menu, hot crispy pastry rolls. D chose the lamb tagine.

The lamb was served in, though patently not cooked in, a traditional tagine. The base hot enough to keep the sauce bubbling while the top was cool enough to be lifted without a cloth. The succulent lamb shank was wonderful and tender, slow cooked in a delicious sauce with broad beans, peppers, olives and other vegetables served with saffron rice.

My pastry rolls were crisp and full of beautifully seasoned minced halal beef, rice and almonds, sweetened with raisins and spiced with cinnamon and with the fiery harissa. They were exceptional and were served on the simplest and most refreshing salad.

The restaurant was busy and I could understand why – Marrakech Café may not be licensed or make the list of best dressed restaurants, but it is right up there for good food andvalue, our meal costing a pleasing $33.80