The Road to Morocco.

March 4, 2014

I’ve been racking my brains to remember if and when we’ve had a Moroccan restaurant in Leicester. I’ve not come up with anything, so a warm welcome then to Marrakech on Highfield Street.

It opened last week and I’ve not been yet but there are some promising signs. It’s taken a similar route to its neighbour Saray Mangal and is offering a short menu focused on the classics of a particular cuisine. So it’s not pan-Arabic, it’s not con-fusion cuisine, it’s a simple collection of chicken, lamb or vegetable tagines and cous cous dishes, with a few classics such the sweet and spicy pastilla and the warming chickpea soup harira. I had a quick chat with the owner, who seemed down to earth and friendly. And with  mains around £8-11 and a three course set dinner at £13.95 – it looks hard to spend too much.

I’ve never been to the Maghreb but I’ve had some splendid evenings in Moroccan joints in Paris, Bergerac and some other French towns.  I’m looking forward to giving this one a try.

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Saray Mangal

January 21, 2014

We both sighed as my friend told me about seeing the queues outside the newly opened Frankie and Benny’s at Leicester’s Highcross. Fortunately, we could quickly forget about that because we were going somewhere far more pleasurable.

In contrast to the huge rambling collection of American-type food substance on offer at FB,  Saray Mangal has a small, focused menu that distils the appeal of the Turkish ocakbasi –  the extraordinary aromas and tastes of spiced meats grilled over flames. Similar venues have popped up around Narborough Road (I’ve already praised Sultan)  but this is on Highfields Street, just five minutes from my home and it’s lovely. It’s in the premises of what was the cheap and cheerful L’Aperitivo, and shares some of the good natured bonhomie of that restaurant with the advantage of better food.

Sure it’s not sophisticated, but it is very tasty food by smiling people in a buzzing atmosphere. There were nine of us on Saturday night and the place was packed, mainly with large groups of young women in headscarves having a great time. Our waitress apologised for having to shout a bit to get herself heard, but every order came quickly and correctly and served with good grace.  We started by sharing a couple of the family meze selection – small, but fresh and punchy plates of aubergine salad, cacik (Anatolian herby yoghurt), hummus, stuffed vine leaves, olives, springy bread…you know the kind of thing. Then, arriving when ready, our main courses – basically variations of chicken or lamb, minced or cubed, spiced and flame grilled, and served up with rice and salad or a creamy yoghurt sauce.   Just delightful, and both courses and a soft drink for less than a burger at F&B.

If you want a real slice of Leicester life in 2014, as opposed to a dodgy recreation of a marketing meeting’s version of 50’s Americana, and you want some food that is genuine and wholesome – get yourself down there.

 

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