Altrincham has never been short of a nice little café to sit down, enjoy some Smashed Avocado and watch people busy themselves on Market Street. In fact, it’s no accident that the rise of brunching in Manchester happened to coincide with the town’s meteoric rise in popularity over the last decade.
I’ll level with you though – sometimes I find all of these brunch and lunch places a bit samey – so when something genuinely new and exciting comes along – it’s all the more interesting. And in the case of So Marrakech – instantly demands our attention.
So Marrakech has been open for just under a year now, swinging their big wooden doors wide back in mid-2020, although the arrival of a certain global pandemic almost instantly threw a huge spanner into any momentum or following that could be mustered from the place.
That’s not to say that this totally unique Marrakech concept store didn’t turn heads when it first opened, and since then – through lockdowns and restrictions – they’ve come out the other side ready and firing on all cylinders, not just with the store, but with an adapted and improved brunch and lunch menu.
The idea of a Marrakech homeware and café concept came from half-Moroccan Anissa Damoussi, whose father in fact ran a similar store down in London, The Kasbah back in the 90’s.
So growing up Anissa would travel the markets and merchants of Marrakech with her dad, subconsciously, it seems, taking inspiration and knowledge from every encounter, every product and every seemingly drawn-out haggling session.
“At the beginning of my So Marrakech journey a few years ago, my father and I did a big road trip together all over Morocco and he introduced me to some of the artisans that he used to work with all that time ago”.
“I’m now working with the next generation of those families and they often remember me as a little girls from when I was there with my dad”.
Using this experience and contacts, Anissa has sourced a veritable bazaar of modern homeware and lifestyle goods, each one lovingly hand-crafted in Morocco by the people and families that she’s known for more than 25 years.
“The idea behind the concept store is very much that of experience”, where customers can enjoy the glasses, plates, bowls, placemats and furniture in the café, all of which are handmade and available to buy either in the shop on site, online or through Anissa and shipped over.
As you’d expect, there’s a sharp focus on natural materials and centuries old techniques, with glassware hand-blown from recycled glass, authentic hand-spun and painted clay pottery, furniture and hand-woven rugs, to name but a few.
Alongside the concept store, So Marrakech is also a Moroccan café, and one which takes its authenticity of flavours and dishes extremely seriously.
This isn’t just a lazy afterthought, affixing the word ‘Moroccan’ onto a Full English to satisfy the theme; the same level of detail, dedication and experience has seemingly gone into every dish on offer.
“For me, food is such a big part of Moroccan culture, it seemed an obvious fit for me to introduce a daytime café in here”.
Home to one of the world’s great, but also criminally underrated, cuisines, Moroccan dishes feature strong French influences of flavour and technique, as well as the baking heritage of the classic patisserie that lends itself perfectly to a café concept.
The menu has been inspired by Aicha, the renowned Damoussi family cook of 20 years in Marrakech, as well as some of Anissa’s favourite rooftop eateries in Morocco.
Featuring many of the staple flavours of Moroccan cuisine, the brunch and lunch menu includes Moroccan pancakes with almond nut butter & raw honey for breakfast, berber baked eggs with ‘taktouka’, or delicious meze with filo pastries and salads for lunch.
The impressive Marrakech Breakfast is unlike anything you’ve ever eaten in Manchester before, a glorious introduction to mornings in Marrakech, with freshly baked bread alongside Moroccan Beghrir pancakes, raw honey, fresh fruit, yoghurt and preserves.
Similarly, the lunch menu is dominated by The Moroccan Meze, a selection of salad, hummus, cheese, falafel, light filo pastry briouat filled with chicken, black olives and preserved lemon, and some truly sublime roasted carrots with dates which were a huge stand-out on a plate of truly outstanding contributions.
Finally, we devoured the Kofte Berber Eggs, and you will too – a Moroccan take on the classic shakshuka but better in every way imaginable.
Tender house lamb kofte meatballs cooked in a zesty tomatoes and green pepper tatouka, and the obligatory baked eggs which oozed yolk with even the lightest of touches from the freshly baked pita.
In addition, you can expect an impressive range of speciality teas, including proper Moroccan mint tea, coffees and an indulgent selection of cakes and pastries – perfect for sitting in this truly stunning space, that only seems to get better with the sunshine streaming through the large windows that traverse the entire front of the space.