Friday, April 22, 2011

Tourist trapped at Café Argana

Every major destination have their tourist traps, even Marrakech. Some of the restaurants around Djemaa el Fna offer great views to the square, but the food is over priced and mediochre. One of these are Café Argana. The four B score is due to location and service, but in spite of the rating Café Argana is definitely not a place to dine. It is a serious tourist trap.

Rating Café Argana: BBBB (4,01 points)
  • Location: BBBBB
  • Service: BBBB+
  • Interior & atmosphere: BBB+
  • Food: BBB
The facade of the Café Argana looked impressive
Café Argana is located on the Djemaa el Fna square, the very heart of Marrakech. It is a busy market place during day, but turns into a giant food market at dawn.

We decided to go down and look at the giant food fair one of the first nights of our stay. My fellow travelers were skeptic to enjoy the food served here, and we decided to have a meal and a view to the food market from one of the nearby restaurants.

The Café Argana looked impressive with its ornate decorations and terraces facing what happened on the square. We looked at the menu and were tempted.
Café Argana - interior
The terrace upstairs were filled to capacity with tourists enjoying the view to the food market.

We were seated by a table a few rows from the front tables and with a decent view to what went on on the square.

We were seated comfortably, but the proprietors had decided to seat as many as possible on the terrace, and there were little space to the other guests.

The staff at Café Argana offered decent service. We were given a multilingual menu promptly. Dishes were a mix of French and Moroccan cuisine, and I decided to order the chicken tagine with lemon confit. This dish id definitely one of my favourites of the Moroccan cuisine.

We did not have to wait long to be served, and my brightly coloured glazed terracotta tagine arrived with what I presumed would be a delicious treat.

Chicken tagine with lemon confit
This was not the case - sadly!

It looked delicious. A decent sized chicken breast and thigh with a large slice of lemon confit immersed in a broth with large green olives.

The meat was deliciously tender having been baked in the piping hot tagine. I had tasted this dish before and could not wait to enjoy a well balanced extraordinarily seasoned meal.

I found the lemon confit surprisingly bitter. The sauce was very salt, and these conflicting aromas made this tagine very different to many others I had tasted in Morocco.

Usually tagines are dishes where  sweet, sour and salted ingredients are used cleverly to create the most delicate flavours. The tagine at Café Argana was definitely not one of those. The good thing was that the food was inexpensive, to us, that is. I am convinced that we paid much for our food after Moroccan standards.

To sum this up. The BBBB-rating is based on location, and service, and the great view to the square. You may have more luck with some of the other dishes, but you should be cautious ordering Moroccan food here. If you want a great tagine try the Chez Bahia just a short walk from the square.

Café Argana
Jaleema El Fna 1
, Marrakech, Marokko 
Phone: +212 24445350 ‎

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