The set lunch menu at The Marrakesh in Chapel Bar offers a Moroccan, Lebanese or fish menu that includes 2 mezze dishes and a main course for you to mix and match. We both opted for the Lebanese menu, I went for the humus (spelled this way on the menu?!) and tabouleh salad to start with the lamb kebab kofta for my main. Emily ordered the falafel and humus mezze to start and the chicken shish tawouk to follow.
Our mezze dishes arrived and we could tell we weren’t going home hungry. It was massive, a large plate full of mezze goodness served separately, but clearly meant for sharing.
The humus was creamy and tasted freshly made, but it didn’t pack much of a flavour punch – it just needed a bit more garlic, more lemon and more salt to amp it up. It was topped with sumac which added a nice fragrant, citrussy flavour, though. The tabouleh salad was lovely. A great balance of bulgar wheat, tomatoes and peppers with mint, parsley and olive oil. This is one of our favourite salads – so much fresh herb flavour and lemon that cuts through the heady spice of middle eastern food fantastically (salads don’t have to be boring!)
The falafel was also good and our favourite of the mezze options – crispy on the outside with a soft, perfectly spiced centre and not greasy at all. Again, it could have done with a bit more of a flavour injection, but it wasn’t as bland as the humus. The mezze was also served with warm pitta bread, which was really nice, but, once it had cooled down it went so tough we couldn’t finish it. A special shoutout goes to the pickled turnip on on the platter that was really sharp and tangy.
It’s fair to say that after the mezze we were actually quite full but we were still excited for our mains. It was actually a really nice experience sharing a starter like this, it’s a very sociable lunch!
I’m used to kebabs coming in a naan bread with chilli sauce and salad when we’re slightly (ahem) worse for wear, but this lamb kofta was served with savoury rice, grilled vegetables, salad and more bread. The two koftas were sizeable, but again I was expecting them to taste spicier and punchier than they did – they were a little lacklustre. The lamb tasted fresh though and was tasty when dipped in the sauce. I’m not a big fan of rice so mainly ignored it but did like the flaked almonds that it was served with.
Emily’s chicken was much more flavourful and probably the dish of the day. Chicken breast can go very dry when roasted this way but The Marrakesh has perfected keeping it tasty and moist. The rice went really well with this dish and the salad and pickled veg on the side added a really nice freshness. The spicing on the chicken was great and not too hot – this was a really good lunch dish and hit the spot.
Just a note on the atmosphere and environment of The Marrakesh: it has the feel of a Morroccan bazar with dim lighting, ornate decorations and lots of velvet and gold… but it’s just SO dark! I think it would be a better evening experience (they even have belly dancers at night) and it actually broke our heart a little to be led into the depths of darkness as it was a really sunny day. The smell of burning incense is overwhelming and gave Emily a bit of a headache after a while – they could do with toning this down. The service was good enough, we did wait a fair while for our main courses and we reassured twice that they wouldn’t be long, but the servers were very pleasant (one was even especially concerned after Emily bit her tongue and started whinging about it – the server thought she was complaining about the food and came rushing over! She is a special kind of idiot, that one.)
So, we both agreed there were positives and negatives to eating at The Marrakesh. At £12.95 it is a good value lunch menu for the amount of food we received, but I think I would’ve preferred the mezze starter with the kofta kebabs rather than two separate plates. The flavours need a big boost on a lot of the spiced dishes, but if you’re in the mood for middle eastern cuisine it’s not a bad shout. I think we would prefer to try their express restaurant on Long Row next time, but would maybe return in the winter when you want somewhere cosy.
Atmosphere and surroundings: 4/10
Emily & Stu