Having walked past the unassuming entrance of Souk Medina in Covent Garden many times, I’ve always thought it was an antique shop, which would not look out-of-place in the thriving markets of Marrakech. However, should you dare to venture into the cavernous Souk Medina, your curiosity will be richly rewarded. You won’t find any magical carpets here for sale, but freshly prepared North African cuisine in a vibrant and exotic environment.
Your culinary enjoyment could well depend on where you are sat. The space is designed like a Moroccan riad, there is a waiting area with colourful mismatching couches and cushions, antique looking tables and bright bazaar lamps. This section is great as a traditional teahouse, but because of the low tables it isn’t ideal for dining. For a capacious banqueting experience, definitely request a seat in the main dining floor area.
You might be distracted from the process of menu ordering, but the vast array of indigenous touches, from traditional trinkets to the glimmering tealights to the beautiful artwork of Moroccan beauty. Although most distracting of all is the belly dancing entertainment. This isn’t your run of the mill passive audience clapping experience; if you are fortunate enough to be awarded the fez, you will be expected to gyrate along with the belly dancer. Although the recommended procedure is to drink a few of their thirsty camel cocktails first before your ritual humiliation.
The food here won’t win any awards for invention. It is as traditional as they come: humous, falafel, couscous and tagines; all the Moroccan classics are on the menu. What is pleasantly surprising is the genuine quality and love of food shown in their cooking. The humous is buttery and smooth and ideally matched with the pitta bread which was warm, fragrant and baked correctly without the puffing.
Having visited Marrakech, I have a particular aversion to tagines. The version they cook in their street markets have been cooked hours on end with the meat almost as dry as the Saharan desert. The tagine of lamb with prunes at Souk Medina is exactly the opposite, it’s moist, the meat is tender; whilst I am no massive fan of sweet main courses, the general manager kindly explained this was the only way to cook this dish and it is from a traditional Moroccan recipe.
Your visit is ideally finished off with their selection of baklava; the petits fours are not overly sweet and the pastry is so crispy, you know it’s been baked in-house and not bought from a corner shop.
If you do enjoy their tagines, fez, Moroccan teapots, rugs and lamps, they do in fact sell them so do ask them after your meal. Despite having a maximum cover of up to 300, they are frequently full especially over the weekends, so it would be a wise move to make a booking first if you want to experience the magic of the medina in the heart of Covent Garden.