‘Traveling; it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller,’ a timeless observation by Ibn Battuta, and one which immediately comes to mind when you take a seat at Tagine & Courtyard. Located at the One&Only Royal Mirage, the restaurant whisks you away on an adventure as soon as you set foot inside. With its majlis-style seating in semi-private alcoves, colourful tapestries, and ornate lanterns, you really feel as if you have crossed beyond the borders of Dubai and entered into the very heart of Morocco.
No sooner had we been seated by the staff, that my brother and I found ourselves reaching for our phones to capture the gentle ambiance of the venue. A few photos later and we were both poring over the menu which promised us an authentic gastronomic tour of Morocco. We started off with a cold mezzeh and the Harira Fassia, a traditional Moroccan tomato soup made with chickpeas and other lentils. The soup was light, comforting, slightly tangy, and the perfect teaser of what more was to come. The mezzeh featured an excellent selection of starters that were bursting with flavor. We had steamed carrots, beetroots, potatoes, semolina pancakes, stuffed flatbread, a fresh cucumber and tomato salad, all served with the most delicious selection of freshly baked bread and various dips.
The serving staff were an absolute joy to interact with and I often found myself asking them more about a certain dish and the best way to enjoy it during our meal. The breakout star in the mezzeh for me was a small and round cake-like bun. Almost unassuming at first glance, a quick slice revealed a dense interior, which was faintly sweet with a nutty and rich sesame taste. “Have it with dates and tea afterwards,” our server said and we had to agree with him. For the main course, we had the Tagine Kofta, the Tagine Fassia, and the Couscous Djaj – all served steaming hot in the traditional tagine dish. It was hard to pick a favourite when all three dishes were absolutely divine. The couscous was light and fluffy and the chicken was so tender that it came off the bone at the slightest touch of my fork. The Tagine Fassia featured a fresh hamour and vegetables. The hamour was deliciously flaky, with minimal spice to complement the vegetables. My favourite though had to be the Tagine Kofta. The meatballs were cooked to perfection and came with a rich tomato sauce that had just the slightest hint of spice. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of it, or that was maybe because I was determined to scoop out every last spoonful to have with the couscous.
For those that have never tried Moroccan cuisine, don’t expect large quantities of hot spices; Moroccan cuisine is packed with spices of a different kind – expect the warm notes of cinnamon, saffron, cloves, ginger, cumin, cardamom, and nutmeg. The focus is on letting fresh ingredients speak for themselves. Finally, we topped off our main meal with one of the most delicious desserts that I have ever had the joy of experiencing in Dubai. The Kenaffa may well be the star dish that has every diner coming back. Piles of filo pastry, lovingly stacked with a delicate vanilla sauce, and topped with roasted almond flakes all call out to you to dig in with gusto. Afterwards, I would say that the best place to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee would be outside in the open-air courtyard. The lavish seating arrangements, paired with the music that fills the air, are the perfect place to relax and enjoy an evening with friends or family.
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