La Sultana Restaurant, Marrakech

La Sultana, a highly rated restaurant within the 5 star hotel of the same name, is situated very near to the Saadian Tombs, about a 20 minute walk south of the Jemma el Fna in the old Jewish area of Marrakech. Two guides in red livery waited on the main street to direct customers up a narrow alleyway towards La Sultana. Another guide showed us through the maze of magnificently decorated patios and corridors to the lift that took us to the rooftop restaurant. Before I talk our dining experience, I just want to show you some of the views that greeted us on arrival.

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We ordered cocktails, a ‘La Sultana’ for Lamia, the Mai Tai for me; they were presented to us by an impeccably presented waiter.

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“This ‘La Sultana’ is very refreshing,” said Lamia, “it’s woken me right up with a real kick to my senses. Lovely to look at and great tasting; the Champagne gives it a delicate, floral aftertaste. Very relaxing too, a few sips and I’ve sunk into my chair, it’s a very strong alcoholic drink!”

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I tasted the ‘La Sultana’ and can say without reservation that it was the best cocktail I’ve ever had. My own Mai Tai was fruity, gentle, extremely minty and refreshing. Full of rum, mint, crushed ice and lime, this was the Caribbean meets Morocco in a glass.

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We lingered under the lattice roof; with the white linen drapes blowing gently and the sun setting behind the minarets and turrets of the medina, it had the makings of an Arabian Nights fantasy.  We could just hear the calls of the market sellers 2 storeys below, until the wind blew just a little bit harder and the rustle of the palm trees overpowered all else. It was a magical half hour.

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A man in a Fes began playing an Oud – very well indeed – as appetizers were brought to our table.

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The appetizers were chicken wings, salmon and frois gras. The chicken and salmon were perfectly cooked and presented, as you’d hope and expect them to be in an establishment such as La Sultana (we didn’t try the frois gras as it’s not our thing). Like everything we were to eat during the evening, the core ingredients were excellent and there was no attempt to spice them too heavily. The chicken tasted of chicken, likewise the salmon. Naturally this is how they should taste but all too often nowadays inferior quality ingredients are used and spices added to cover the fact up. Not so at La Sultana, I’m pleased to say. 

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As the sun set over the medina a waiter led us to our table.

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We ordered and then asked the waiter to recommend a wine; he chose the ‘Volubilia Gris’, a Moroccan Rose that originated in the north of the country near Meknes, an area where vines were first cultivated by the Romans.

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It was a clean wine and proved to be a sound choice, complimenting the varying style of dishes we’d ordered.

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If you happen to know the perfect temperature for each individual wine that you’re likely to order, then you’ll find that the waiters at La Sultana will be up to standard and serve as expected. They also all spoke good English and knew the menu intricately, which isn’t always the case in Marrakech restaurants.

Lamia ordered from the regular menu whilst I had what is known as a Moroccan ‘Taster’, a set menu containing small portions of all that is good in Moroccan cuisine (you could call it an edited highlights menu). First to arrive for me was harira: a comforting warming soup whose softness was ignited by a squeeze of lemon. Closure was offered by a medjool date.

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Lamia had a fennel soup with cream: not a soup we’d seen on any menu in Marrakech so far but staying true to the homemade, comforting and earthy feeling of the more common harira, and a satisfying first course.

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My second course was a Moroccan mix.

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Most memorable were the traditional pigeon b’stilla, a spicy seafood/tomato mousse and the salsa salad in a nest of thin pastry with a hint of coriander.

Then came my 3 tagines, whose lids were lifted with a flourish.

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The menu had said I’d get prawn, mussels and chicken, but I don’t like mussels so I asked for them to substitute more prawn for the mussel, which they did. Everything was superb (the prawns garlicky, the chicken tender).

Our glasses were refilled without us asking. We found the waiters ready to talk if we wanted, to laugh and be friendly; La Sultana is a 5-star residence but there’s no stuffiness here at all.

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Lamia whispered that she was cold at this point and the waiters must have heard because they brought her a blanket to drape over her shoulders.

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For her main course Lamia had the beef shank with potato.

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The beef was tender, juicy and delicately flavoured. 

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My next course arrived just afterwards, a fluffy vegetable cous cous with a couple of sides (almond with raisins and an olive medley).

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For dessert I had the raspberry sorbet and vanilla b’stilla: superb. Now I can say I’ve tasted a dessert! It was so overpoweringly satisfying that it threatened to overshadow and cancel out everything that had come before it during the course of the evening.

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Lamia had the creme brûlée.

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Lamia thought it a perfect creme brûlée. Delicately caramelised whilst the creme wasn’t overly sweet, she could even see real vanilla beans within the creme, what a divine dessert!

The evening progressed at a leisurely pace, we enjoyed the moonlight and music. Tea was offered with Moroccan sweets. 

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The clattering of storks beaks interrupted the musician as they settled down in the nearby rooftops for the night. The noise offered a perfect closure to our evening at La Sultana.

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We didn’t feel overfed as we left and this was ok by us; when the ingredients, cooking and presentation is this good, you don’t need bulk. We felt that we’d had a glimpse into a seldom seen world by dining at La Sultana, it was worth the expense and the photographic opportunities were unlimited. Most of the staff were happy to be photographed (a few asked us not to show their faces, which was fair enough) and the location itself is a dream; not just the rooftop, but the corridors you pass through on the way to and from the street.

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We recommend you spend at least one evening at the La Sultana restaurant in Marrakech. Discover more about what La Sultana offers here - http://lasultanahotels.com/

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