After my very filling lunch with Kaeshelle, we went back for some more revision and went for dinner. Before meeting, I had an idea that wherever we’d be eating for dinner, it would be with my tastecard as it’s close to expiring. I found Couscous Darna the night before and booked it with my tastecard on the day. The person who answered my call was really nice and accommodating, and allowed for me to change my booking afterwards to a later time too.
The bright orange exterior really doesn’t give anything away about the restaurant, however when you walk in, the interior definitely makes up for it. The lighting is very much dimmed. Candles and the beautiful Moroccan lights dotted around the walls and ceilings were the main sources of light. When we first walked in, the restaurant was empty albeit the table of 4 seated at the front. Was this an indication of what was to come? Was the lack of customers a tell-tale sign of the quality of the food? I was greeted by a waiter straight away at the entrance, the waiter who took me to the table made an effort to greet me by my name and handed us a rather extensive food menu. The head waiter pointed out the very few options that tastecard members could not choose. It was only about three. I was still impressed by how little restrictions there were for me, a tastecard member. The head waiter was a really smooth speaker and very accommodating always answering any requests with ‘absolutely!’. Another waiter came and asked for drinks, we ordered a large pot of Moroccan tea (£ 6) for the both of us and water. ‘Still or sparkling?’ the waiter asked me. I looked over to Kaeshelle, ‘errrr… st-..’ ‘tap water?’ asked the waiter. It seemed he knew us all too well.
We ordered the Chicken B’Stilla (£ 7.95) to share for our starter, and for the mains I ordered the Tagine Lahem Ba Jelbane Wa Korni (£ 16.95) whilst Kaeshelle ordered the Tagine Fillet Wild Sea bass (£ 16.95). Both tagines came with either rice, couscous or Moroccan bread. After our baguettes at lunch, it wasn’t a tough call. Couscous. The tea came first, I’ve never had Moroccan tea before but Kaeshelle who recently visited Morocco really loves it! I can see why, the mint leaves have been steeped in the tea long enough for all the refreshing flavours and fragrant to be extracted and each sip of the tea tastes minty but has a sweet flavour that slowly creeps up on you. The waiter pours the tea into the Moroccan teaglasses from quite a height, I thought it was just something this specific waiter did, but they all did it. I just read that pouring from a height aerates the tea allowing for more of the flavour to be infused, and is actually a sign of respect towards the guest.
The wait for the food did not take long at all. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Chicken B’Stilla, it’s a traditional Moroccan filo pastry pie with chicken, roasted almond and saffron. B’Stillas are supposed to be very rich in very exotic spices, a mix of sweet and savoury but to be honest it wasn’t very noticeable what with all the sweet going on. The powdered sugar definitely added to the initial sweet taste. I still ate it, it wasn’t a bad type of sweet. I’m still not really sure what I was supposed to expect. The main course arrived very quickly after finishing our shared pie. The waiter also brought a small bowl of a spicy red sauce and a bowl of chickpeas, I missed what the waiter called it but it was sweet. My tagine was exquisite, the lamb was literally just falling to pieces, it was nestled in the rich savoury tomato juices that it was slow cooked in, topped with some sweet onions and surrounded with large chunks of artichokes. I expected to see the usual few small chunks of artichokes and was very pleasantly surprised, it was good to see the ingredient was not being skimped on. One thing I should mention is that I’m quite a peculiar eater, I like having as much of the dish into a bite as possible and so I try to have a little bit of everything in one mouthful. The mild soft artichokes, with the sweet onions, tender stewed lamb, rich heavily spiced and herbed tomato sauce, with the fluffy absorbing couscous in every mouthful was incomparable. I wanted to finish and savour every single bit of the dish, but could not manage it what with a quite filling lunch. When the waiters cleared our tables, we asked for a a refill of our tea. I was quite unimpressed, it felt as if the waiter just hastily added hot water into our teapot. It tasted of hot water with a weak infusion of mint. No sweetness, nothing. We were charged £4.50 which is equivalent to a medium pot of Moroccan tea. That was quite a let down, especially right at the end of the meal. Nonetheless we had such a lovely time and the waiters were so nice, we paid for it. The tastecard only offered 50% food items only, and so a £20 deduction off the whole bill was made.
I’ve never had a tagine or Moroccan tea before and it was a good first time. I had such a pleasant time with the tagine that I can’t wait for a holiday in Morocco now! My previous questions were answered too, the restaurant very quickly filled up, it was clear there were a lot of regular go-ers, very familiar and well received by the owner of the restaurant, conversing in French too. It is clear, it’s a favourite amongst many and I do see why. Definitely try this restaurant if you’re in the area and fancy a culinary transportation to Morocco.