One of the great joys for me of living in the Mediterranean is the seemingly infinite variations of the same dishes. The different combinations of herbs and spices that produce the signature taste of different countries. Also the country-by-country speciality dishes that mark out the different areas around the region, all underlined by the basics of lamb, pork, chicken, chickpeas and lentils and unleavened bread.
The Marrakech Restaurant on the coast road in Kissonerga is a prime example of Mediterranean cooking at its best. Chef/Owner Sam Burgess, who is half Lebanese and half Iranian, allows her origins to come through in her cooking with her choice of herbs and spices and specialises in dishes from Morocco and Lebanon. Starters include pastilla, a Morrocan pie of filo pastry filled with spiced chicken, crushed almonds, scrambled eggs and covered with icing sugar. Main courses feature Lebanese dawood pasha which is meatballs cooked in a tomato sauce served with rice or a Moroccan tagine of beef, chicken or fish.
Chef Sam trained in patisserie and then elected to specialise in the “hot kitchen” in Lebanese and Morroccan cooking. She has quite literally cooked all over the world; in Zanzibar, The Maldives, Thailand, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Scotland and India. Now she has brought all this knowledge to Cyprus where she has made her home and opened just over a year ago The Marrakesh in Paphos.
The restaurant is spacious with comfy chairs and tables laid out a nice distance apart from each other. Decorated with Morrocan lamps and rugs, it looks particularly lovely after dark as the lamps twinkle against the dark sky. We were warmly welcomed by our Moroccan waiter, Noor, dressed in traditional costume.
He had a good knowledge of the menu and we went with his advice to try two tagines instead of the very popular meze (consisting of approx eight dishes) which is also available as a vegetarian option.
Everything is cooked to order so it is not fast food, but the wait was certainly worth it when two authentic tagine dishes arrived at the table piping hot. The first one, Sam’s signature lamb tagine with prunes, was a New Zealand lamb shank cooked with prunes, almonds and apricots. But what makes it so different are the 32 blended spices which she adds to the sauce. It was excellent served with rice. The other tagine was her seafood variety which consisted of fish, calamari, king prawns and mussels. This came in a light sauce which didn’t overpower the fish flavours at all.
We were then lucky enough to experience one of the restaurant’s daily specials: spiced rice and chicken cooked in bread. The idea is just to eat the rice inside the bread as, in this instance, the bread is a cooking utensil to produce a unique and complicated flavour in the rice which we loved. A new culinary experience for both of us.
With Sam’s patisserie background you would have high hopes for the final course here and we were not disappointed after enjoying Marrakech’s signature Chocolate Brownie with ice cream. Her expertise came thorough with the perfect balance of melted gooey chocolate in the middle. The desert menu is limited but varies with daily specials such as apple crumble which is cooked from scratch to order and Arabic sweets.
The Marrakech is a little oasis on the busy road from Paphos to Coral Bay where Moroccan and Lebanese food can be enjoyed with a wide variety of both local and international wines. Having cooked for two American president, Sam still awaits our own President Nicos Anastasiades to pass by and sample her food.
SPECIALTY Moroccan and Lebanese
WHERE The Marrekech Restaurant, Mediterranean Plaza, Chrysoneras Avenue, Paphos
CONTACT 99 283566
WHEN Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 3 pm for brunch menu, 6pm – 11pm dinner menu.
PRICE from €6.50 – €22