Into The Marrakesh Medina: Farnatchi Spa and Le Trou Au Mur

After a dusty day of sightseeing in Morocco’s capital, I am treated to an evening spa treatment at the luxurious Farnatchi Spa and sister restaurant to the spa, Le Trou Au Mur.

Finding the Farnatchi Spa is in itself an experience. Signposts direct you down a winding alley, typical of those in Marrakesh’s hectic city centre. It eventually opens out into an aromatic central courtyard with plush white armchairs, vaulted ceilings, ornate doors, black and white zellige tiles and an intricate Berber carpet. The contrast delights the senses.

The Farnatchi Spa offers a range of treatments from back and body massages to manicures by Essie nail colour and Oriental facials. And yet, if you haven’t experienced a hammam before then I think this should be your treatment of choice.

Hammams in Morocco are hot, steamy gender-segregated public spaces for getting a good clean. Visiting a local hammam is a real experience in Morocco and I would recommend it – but it is really quite different from a truly indulgent hammam spa treatment at the Farnatchi Spa.

I opt for the Royal Hammam treatment and my partner and I are both invited to enjoy this in a couples’ treatment room. This involves lots of relaxing in steam to open the pores, a rigorous scrub with black soap and eucalyptus essential oil, a thick mud mask of aromatic seven plant ghassoul and a delicious-smelling rosewater rinse. We are left feeling seriously clean (my hair even got a thorough shampoo and condition).

It is one of the best hammam experiences I have had, made so by one of those therapists who immediately creates a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. The top-quality products from Nectarome – such as their locally sourced Argan oil – ensure that the treatment feels luxurious. When you close your eyes, you can think on the fact that this is a Moroccan tradition that has been practised for centuries. A blend of culture and opulence that is right up #TeamCoco’s street.

Feeling so fresh and so clean, we are led again down some back streets to Le Trou au Mur for a romantic dinner for two. Le Trou au mur is a new restaurant in a tiny riad in the oldest part of the Marrakesh medina which blends modern European design elements with traditional Moroccan handicraft. I particularly like the black and white photography prints on the chair upholstery and the zig-zag tilework underfoot.

The hammam somehow leaves me hungry so we dive right in to the eclectic menu. It features twists on Moroccan classics as well as international morsels like pate de foie gras and Vietnamese spring rolls. We start with the simply-named but unusually-presented Moroccan salads. This is one of the highlights of the menu for me: an assortment of seven salads and dips, served in dishes on a tree-like structure, and each one devoted to gorgeous but simple flavours, like carrot or pumpkin, fragranced with orange blossom.

For the mains, we opt for the vegetable couscous and highly recommended tangia. This is a dish of slow-cooked lamb served in a clay pot that my partner describes as tender and mouth-watering. Other unusual dishes that we don’t try this time are the offal medley of kidneys, liver and heart in traditional spices and slow-cooked tripe with white beans in a tomato sauce. We skip to dessert and enjoy a silky chocolate fondant and a Moroccan fresh fruit pastilla – or filo pastry and almond pie.

Le Trou au Mur is a must-visit in Marrakesh because there is a dearth of really good restaurants here. There are several run-of-the-mill couscous and harissa soup affairs. But to be able to enjoy those classic flavours done exceptionally well and to be able to try more daring blends of cultural influence is quite a novelty in Morocco’s capital. I hope that Le Trou au Mur is a sign of things to come in Marrakesh’s culinary scene, but for now it is quite a unique offering in the medina.

Heading out into the chilly night, the restaurant kindly provides us with a guide to get us back to the main square. We emerge through the tiny winding streets, the juxtaposition of hectic medina life and the havens of the restaurant and spa again leave me smiling.

For more information, visit farnatschispa.com and letrouaumur.com

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