Molin’Arte Restaurant, Chefchaouen

Despite reading on Trip Advisor that Molin’arte is difficult to find, we came across it really easily. Basically, when you’re at the river, you’re near. And if you’re at the lower bathing/clothes washing spot (there are only two and they’re easy to find), standing on the bridge, it’s right in front of you.

The restaurant has a superb setting. The ladies of the town come to do their clothes washing nearby and the kids swim just upstream. As such the soundtrack as you eat is pleasant, with distant shrieks and cries of delight mingling with rushing water.

This is how the restaurant looks from the path, if you had this view then behind you would be the clothes washing area.

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And here is the front door.

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The restaurant is owned and run by Mr Laabissi, his wife and children. Mr Laabissi is, in our opinion, an extraordinarily prolific and talented self-taught artist. He greeted us at the door and showed us into the dining room where every piece of art – the oil paintings and the sculptures, made using a variety of material and wrought iron – was created by him.

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We enjoyed an instantly refreshing, tangy lemon and sweet strawberry drink…

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…and then decided that, since it was a warm, sunny afternoon, we’d sit upstairs on the terrace where there are a number of shady pavilions linked by neat winding brick pathways.

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The garden was just as impressive an artwork as anything we’d seen inside. There were some sculptures and carvings but also well framed views and roses, fig trees, palms, bamboo and numerous other flowering and leafy plants and vines planted in certain places to make the most of the light and colour. Once again, it had all been created, designed and constructed by Mr Laabissi.

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Eva the garden dog greeted us…

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She was large but very friendly and she knew how to behave around guests. She saw us to our seats and as soon as we began to be served, she moved away and left us in peace. We had the choice of sitting in a large shady area…

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…but we chose a smaller pavilion from which we had a view of the city walls, the peaks towering over them and the mountains on the opposite side of the valley beyond the city.

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We ordered water and checked the menu out. It was in French and Arabic; our French isn’t great and Mr Laabissi doesn’t really speak English but with a little work could understand what was on offer.

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For starters we had the cucumber, melon, olive and feta salad.

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It consisted of balls of sweet melon sprinkled with herbs and topped with goats cheese, spirals of cucumber and black olives. We loved the range of textures and the very subtle flavour; it made for a tasty, light, fresh and cool starter that was quite unlike anything else we’d had in Morocco.

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We’d heard that you could have quite a wait for food here so we asked Mr Laabissi what he’d recommend for our main that could arrive reasonably quickly. The result of this was that we ate a local goat gratin.

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The meat must’ve been cooking for a really long time as it was extremely soft and the prunes melted in the mouth. It was possible to suck the prune flesh from the pit, no knife needed. It was again a satisfying range of textures, from the crispy cheese that topped the gratin to the firm potato slices and then the meat that took no convincing at all to come away from the bone.

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The table bread deserves a mention; it was paler in colour, softer and thinner than any other we’d had during the previous month in Morocco. it was well worth trying.

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We came away satisfied. The food had been good, and Eva was lovely…

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…but what really stood out was the friendliness of Mr Laabissi and the great quality of the artwork he’s created. He doesn’t claim to be a garden designer as far as I know but he’d done a better job than many of those who do. The garden is on a par with Monets’ creation and also the rock garden in Chandigarh (which was built over a period of 25 years by a civil servant in his free time with materials he found at a local rubbish dump), in our opinion, and the paintings and sculptures are well executed, entertaining in a Surrealist sort of way and therefore thought provoking.

Our opinion is, if you want to support a local artist in Chefchaouen and also eat very satisfying food in a tranquil, arty location, then definitely pay a visit to Molin’arte.

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