High Street banks, cafes and municipal buildings are the normal architectural fare on the average London High Street so a Moroccan-style shop front with grand-looking doors and stand out North African and Middle Eastern design elements is always going to get more than its fair share of double takes in Stratford. Although you can’t always tell a book by its cover, a quick gander is a must at this point and as soon as you’ve got your head in the door you’ll notice that the interior’s ornate Eastern décor continues the lavish, no expense theme. There are replica muskets on the walls along with paintings depicting pleasant episodes of Middle Eastern and North African life from centuries past. The red and orange colour theme somehow complimenting those untold tales and our exotic dreams of the East.
Those colours and the dimmed atmosphere will also give evening diners an unexpected winter welcome. Yes, for those who haven’t travelled as far East thus far you are introduced to the semblance of a warm, idyllic night in Morocco and all the hues and moods you associate with this. And you’ll feel this regardless of how quickly the temperatures are dropping outside. The cuisine is described as Moroccan and Lebanese and any one new to such restaurants is encouraged to take a chance on the culinary range rather than nitpick their way through the menu seeking out something they are familiar and comfortable with.
A starter of Calamari Meki is a must for squid-lovers. Deep fried to the point of crispiness and served with ailoi dip, a Mediterranean sauce made from garlic and olive oil. All the food is presented in traditional Moroccan ware and even the teapots are pretty ornate. It’s a constant delight on the senses, especially visually but most importantly the discerning palate demands are met with ease. Certainly where the main course of Pastilla chicken is concerned. This tenderly cooked savoury chicken meal is wrapped in filo pas and has a delicious blend of ingredients – almonds, sesame and cinnamons – that lift it into the five star experience.
The reason we we dine out, anyway, is to be taken somewhere magical with a dab of luxury for a few hours before the hard reality of the 9-5 grind comes home. Well Dar Marrakech is the full ticket in that respect. Your only gripe will be that once you’ve paid up your bill and left the establishment there’s a realisation that your dreams of the East do not lie outside those ornate doors. Yep you’ll wake up just as Novembers cold snap has you reaching for your woolies. But the restaurant would have done its job by then.
Dar Marrakech, 403 Stratford High Street, London E15