A short stretch outside the city walls of Marrakech, on the road to l’Ourika valley, sits Bô & Zin. One needs a taxi and a guide to get there; the first, because of the distance and the second, because one would certainly not find it unless they knew exactly where it was. Though upon the main road, one of Marrakech’s most exciting nightspots is concealed within an ochre-red brick walled bunker. From without, like most Moroccan riads/restaurants/buildings in general, it is nothing to behold, but from within, it is contemporary, capacious and chic.
Actually it is more than capacious, it is colossal: there is room for around 400 guests spread between a pergola (fitting 50-70), a bar (50-80), two verandas (40 each), an interior lounge (70-90) and a garden (100-120). Inside, there is a laid-back cool emanating from plush sofas, fireplaces, candles and dim lighting. The mood changes as, walking through the more rustic verandas filled with bamboo cane armchairs, white linen liveried furniture and large earthenware pottery, one reaches the exotic gardens. Out here, on one side is a long bar, on the other the dining area and in between a litter of torches, tents and braziers.
The dining area consists of a mix of white booths and chairs around onyx tables, all studded across white platforms and footbridges over decorative ponds. I apologise now for the general lack of photography, but it was ‘strongly frowned upon’ by the management; in fact, before the meal we were even put through the charade of forced posing whilst a staff member took photos of us together, hoping surely to stop us taking more later by controllably satisfying our appetites now.
The menu promised a ‘culinary cruise where flavours of Asia mingle with those of Morocco and the classics of International Cuisine’. Queue raised eyebrows. What this translated into were dishes either Moroccan in design with Thai ingredients or Thai-style dishes using local produce; there was a couple of random entries too to comply with the international tag (Serrano smoked ham, ‘eggplants milfeuille’, etc.).
Entrées: Bô & Zin << Thai>> Tasting Selection and Bô & Zin << Japan>> Tasting Selection 14 Pieces. We were four so, for entrées, we ordered two tasting platters. The Thai offered ‘the nem, the chicken satay, steam Thai, the glass noodles, prawns salad’, whilst Japan gave us ‘sushis, sashimis, makis, California Rolls, Cucumber-sesame salad’. To be honest, bar some salmon, I cannot name any Japanese components, much time has passed since, but that is not the reason; W’s pithy comment summed it up nicely, ‘worst sushi I’ve ever had, dude’. Thai hardly fared better, but put some deep-fried food on the table and, for certain, someone is going to eat it (sauf moi, évidemment); the nems (spring rolls) and battered prawns were proof of this. Needless to say, a shameful quantity of food remained.
Plats Principals: As mains, we selected scallops, an assortment of kebabs, shark and lamb. Bear with me as I try with difficulty to recount my feelings and others’ opinions of each dish. The Scallops with Olive Oil and Leek Fondue were nicely presented, cooked correctly and served with caramelised cherry tomatoes and leeks. Actually, my cousin enjoyed this so much so that I did not get to taste any. The Kebabs Assortment – Beef, Lamb, Chicken, Salmon, Shark, Prawns was decent. I tried the salmon myself; it had good flavour, charred coat and moist middle. The Shark – in Tagine with Apricot and Courgette sounded very exciting, but seriously disappointed; the shark itself was rather horrible – dry and mushy at the same time – its sauce was decent, but had no chance of saving the dish. The Lamb – in Tagine, with Moroccan Truffle and Walnuts was the pick of the four. The meat, juicy and tender, fell off the bone at the slightest urging and was complemented well by the accompanying crunchy walnuts. The gravy that the sizeable shank sat in was delicious: sweet, rich and thick. In hindsight, I believe someone snatched that tubby truffle before I had even seen it! Judging by the leftovers – scallops (none); kebabs (very little); shark (loads); and lamb (not a drop) – this course was much preferred to the first.
Desserts: Choosing these caused some debate, probably as this course would make or break the meal. Much negotiation and polite coercion led to the ordering of macaroons, ice cream, crème brûlée and chocolate cake. First, the Macarons – Vanilla, Chocolate and Pistachio; these were utterly forgettable. The Bitter Chocolate, Date and Pistachio Ice Cream were alright and dispatched with quite quickly. My cousin was very keen on ordering the Crème Brûlée – in Trilogy, Vanilla, Pistachio and Honey-Saffron, but after an initial taste of each, she refused any more. She made some strong allegations against the honey-saffron especially, suggesting that it was unpalatable (euphemistic retelling here), but all three tasted the same or rather, were pretty tasteless, to me. Finally, the Chocolate – Melt Bô & Zin Cake, Ice Cream; I would like to write something about this, but I cannot even remember what it looked like! However, chocolate is chocolate and this too was polished off.
The food left us unanimous in our dissatisfaction and disappointment. One, maybe two dishes were good (the lamb, maybe the scallops), but the rest were mediocre and forgettable at their best. However, though we were in accord that this was not probably a place noted for its cuisine, we all agreed that it seemed quite fashionable, fun and a good place to spend an evening with friends; but certainly more bar-cum-restaurant than restaurant-cum-bar.
As the night wore on, Bô & Zin filled with a discerning crowd of well-groomed Moroccan socialites and well-tanned Euro expats. The music was pumping, the crowd was chichi, drinks were shockingly expensive – this was indeed the place to be seen. Apparently, it is a destination for many Western celebrities and affluent Europeans when in town: recently it has hosted parties for Christian Dior and Albert Frère whilst Salma Hayek and Matt Damon have been seen partying here.
I cannot deny Bô & Zin does have its charms – beautiful décor, beautiful crowd, good music too – but without a doubt, this self-styled ‘drinking & fooding oasis’, is more about the drinking than the fooding.