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Marhba Moorish Lounge and Bistro

Marhba Moorish Lounge and Bistro

Issue 64 January 2010

Review by Joseph Downing and Gaenor Levington

 

In the middle of bustling Bayswater, Marhba Moroccan restaurant is a family run business serving traditional cuisine; a glorious mix of meats and vegetables cooked with luxurious spices and fruits.Decorated with a wonderful mix of modern chic style and traditional fittings, Marhba is reminiscent of the classy North African restaurants found in Paris.We were welcomed warmly and ushered over to a large table with a very comfortable Moroccan sofa. There is a choice of conventional chairs and tables, making for a more versatile dining experience: one can eat at a chair and table and then move onto a sofa to relax with some Moroccan tea and take advantage of the free internet. There is also aseparate outdoor terrace for dining al-fresco in the summer months.The starters we received were excellent: smokey aubergine and tomato za’alouk, hommous and a salad of slow cooked peppers – all wonderfully complemented by fresh and warm Moroccan bread, which is all baked on the premises. A real treat was the Harira, a Moroccan lamb, chickpea and tomato soup, which reminded us of our time in Morocco. When teamed with the unlikely partner of small spiced honey cakes the results are amazing, typifying the way Moroccan food effortlessly blends complex flavours. It is no wonder that this delicacy is a favourite in North Africa during Ramadan.The main courses, however, were even better. The vegetable cous cous was wonderfully flavoured with the vegetables perfectly cooked. Both main courses, the chicken with green olives and preserved lemons, and the lamb with cinnamon and prunes, came bursting with flavour. In both instances the meat was authentically slow cooked, resulting in a wonderful buttery tenderness complemented with the sweet and sour taste of the fruits. The highlight, however, was the pastila, a filo pastry parcel stuffed with spiced chicken, hommous and a salad of slow cooked peppers – all wonderfully complemented by fresh and warm Moroccan bread, which is all baked on the premises. A real treat was the Harira, a Moroccan lamb, chickpea and tomato soup, which reminded us of our time in Morocco. When teamed with the unlikely partner of small spiced honey cakes the results are amazing, typifying the way Moroccan food effortlessly blends complex flavours. It is no wonder that this delicacy is a favourite in North Africa during Ramadan.The main courses, however, were even better. The vegetable cous cous was wonderfully flavoured with the vegetables perfectly cooked. Both main courses, the chicken with green olives and preserved lemons, and the lamb with cinnamon and prunes, came bursting with flavour. In both instances the meat was authentically slow cooked, resulting in a wonderful buttery tenderness complemented with the sweet and sour taste of the fruits. The highlight, however, was the pastila, a filo pastry parcel stuffed with spiced chicken, cinnamon, nuts, raisins and topped with icing sugar and ground cinnamon. Although it looked too good to eat, we tucked in and were delighted with the tender and perfectly flavoured chicken, crisp nuts and pastry adding an interesting crunchy texture, topped off with a hit of ground cinnamon. We finished our meal lounging on the sofas with Moroccan tea. The mix of the finest Chinese gunpowder green tea and fresh Moroccan mint gives a sublime and perfumedbrew, and the smell transported us back to the Medina of Marrakech. As is common in North Africa, with its French colonial past, Marhba offers French patisserie alongside North African sweets. We opted for the traditional Moroccan pastries, with a mix of almond paste and orange flower water.Marhba blends sublime cuisine with real Moroccan hospitality and, as a bonus, does so at a very reasonable price: around £15 a head for a full three course meal with drinks. This is what the owner, the warm and charming Youssef Benazha, was aiming for. He can be found at Marhba most nights, and his presence increased the sense of hospitality the place conjures up. If you want some world-class North African cooking at great prices with some priceless Moroccan hospitality thrown in, head down to Marhba as it really does deliver on its names meaning in Arabic: “welcome”.

 

Marhba Moorish Lounge

The Colonnades,

26 Porchester Road,

London, W2 6ES

020 7221 8898




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