Tagine is entered through a traditional Byzantine-style wooden door that appears to act as a portal, much akin to the author C.S. Lewis' famous wardrobe. Once through you can expect to feel as if you've been transported to downtown Marrakesh in an era when Humphrey Bogart still sat at a piano.
The authenticity envelops you with an exotic excitement; a rarity in the samey sameness of Dubai’s five-star hotels. It allows you to experience an immersive and authentic environment – and that’s before you even get to the food!
We began as tradition dictates with the Harira Fassia, a native dish for my dining companion who hails from Morocco. Unfortunately this for me conjured memories of bad minestrone soup at school. However, we ploughed on undeterred and with the next course, all was forgiven.
The sharing plates of Briouates, (crunchy filo pastry bites filled with meat, rice and seafood) arrived at the table with a flourish, accompanied by Bastilla D’Jaj, which is a Moroccan filo pie of chicken, almond and eggs, covered with cinnamon and sugar. For those who prefer not to mix sweet and savoury, I’ll defy you to not be converted by this dish. A second (or even third) plate could easily transform your meal into the most magnificent you have ever experienced. However I am glad to have resisted ordering more, else I would have missed out on the main event.
If, like me, you rarely experience a culinary epiphany, I can tell you that I had one here. Two words for you – Tangia Marrakeghia. These lamb shanks braised in an array of spices and garlic hit the deepest depths of flavour profiles, while still retaining an unrivalled lightness. It’s quite simply they type of dish they invented the Michelin star rating for.
Just a sliver behind was my Moroccan companion’s Tagine Ouejdj – braised beef seasoned with pepper, ginger, fennel, oil, preserved lemon, onion, salt, coriander… you get the picture. The greatest praise for this came within the first few bites: “It’s just like my mum used to make,” he said, followed by a slight pause and a guilty retraction.“Actually, it’s better.”
If you resist gorging on the starters as I did, you must not miss the desserts; in particular the Kenaffa, a beautiful filo pastry with cream, almonds, cinnamon, sugar and thankfully at this stage, no cheese. That said, you'll be likely to become enamoured by the desserts' irresistible charm and devour them anyway!
From the décor to the entertainment, the staff and of course the magical food, Tagine is the answer to your yearning for a true Moroccan experience and a fantastic evening that I could write about for days. It has a logic-defying genius to its layout, which is in the Moroccan tradition of ‘tadelakt’. This gives every table an intimate feel, whether you have graced the restaurant with your presence on a busy weekend or a quiet weekday.
The UAE is so lucky to have almost every worldly cuisine represented here but, as we all know from experience, some are more authentic than others; take it from an expert (my friend from Morocco), Tagine is the real ‘Moroccan’ deal. Just don’t tell his mum.
INFO: 7pm-11.30pm daily, closed on Mon, One & Only Royal Mirage, Al Sufouh, 04 399 9999, email@example.com
LAMB TAGINE WITH VEGETABLES
1.5kg lamb shoulder
300g potatoes, peeled and cubed
200g carrots, cut into sticks
180g courgettes, cut into sticks
150g onions, finely sliced
200g tomatoes, sliced
30ml olive oil
A stick of cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp Ras el hanout spice mix
A bunch of coriander, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
A handful of green olives
Remove the fat from the lamb shoulder and cut into pieces.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan set over a medium-high heat.
Sear the lamb shoulder in a pan until brown.
Add the courgettes, onion, potatoes, carrots and cinnamon sticks.
Add the paprika and Ras el hanout spice mix.
Season with salt and pepper, and add a little water.
Cover the pan and lower the heat. Allow to simmer for about 50 minutes.
Add the sliced tomatoes and finely chopped coriander.
Stir to combine and cover again. Allow to simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
Remove the pieces of lamb shoulder and vegetables, and reduce the sauce by half.
Arrange the lamb tagine on a plate with the vegetables and sauce.
Garnish with green olives and serve.
What To Wear
Shoes, Miss Selfridge Dhs345