Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Innovative Cooking at Le Patio, Essaouira, Morocco
Le Patio is hidden away like a hidden strand of crucial DNA in a murder scene. Tucked away down a slightly forbidding side street and manned by a chap in a tunic, it’s got atmosphere spilling out of it like the hole in the Ozone layer.
You can either eat Moroccan/French tapas at the bar, or settle in for a proper dinner. Our table was perched on a small podium which we assumed must once have been reserved for a pole dancer. It meant we could peer out over the restaurant as if we owned the place, which was a great experience. However, it made trips to the toilet a near mortal hazard.
I looked at the menu and did what Cowie hates me doing. I ignored the dishes I knew I’d like and instead became besotted with a starter and main course that sounded unusual. Who could resist “Tangier Bouillabaisse” and “Seafood Pastilla”? Cowie was far more sensible and chose a Moroccan salad to start and grilled sea bass for main course with ratatouille.
My Tangier Bouillabaisse was a devil. It occasionally snarled with harissa which I couldn’t discern in the dark. It wasn’t anywhere near as classy as the classic Marseilles version. But I’m delighted I tried it. Instead of being sweet and deep it was a bit dusty and thin. But the fish was well cooked and potatoes a welcome change from cous cous! If you visit Le Patio make sure you give a go.
My seafood pastilla was one of the best things we ate in Essaouira. A typical pastilla is a flaky pastry shell with a filling of pigeon and almonds. But this one was stuffed full of tender squid, deeply flavoured prawns and generous flakes of slightly anonymous fish held together by a subtle white sauce. It was stunning. I’m keen to give it a go at a dinner party, with a hint of tarragon or fennel.
Cowie’s sea bass with ratatouille was excellent. For once the fish wasn’t overcooked, as we found it to be everywhere else in Essaouira. The ratatouille was sweet, well seasoned and packed full of flavour rather than being the watery afterthought it can sometimes be.
Le Patio is one of the most interesting places to eat in Essaouria. If you are bored of tagines, cous cous and over cooked fish, as you inevitably will be, then Le Patio should definitely be on your hit list.
We agree with one of the commenters on Trip Advisor: "Très agréable".
This is part of a mini-series of posts about Essaouira.