“A prime position, friendly owners, rooftop dinners and ornate rooms add up to our favourite riad-hotel in Fes’ vast medina”
There are just 5 bedrooms, all of them stately, spacious and magnificent in their decorative detail. Expect high panelled ceilings, ornate stucco friezes or window arches, finely carved shutters over stained glass windows and beautifully (but not garishly) patterned floor tiling - often continuing around 4-metre high wooden doors; much of this is original (100 years old). All rooms have an ensuite bathroom with bespoke bath products from London (the ‘winter’ range includes an orange and cardamom scented gel that’s almost edible).
Pride of place goes to the splendid double-aspect Yasmina Suite on the first floor. Triple windows look over the court one way and the city roofscape the other, one set opening onto a small private balcony. A huge handmade cedar four-poster sits on zellij tiling which continues up to head height, while stucco patterns continue up from the window arches to cover the entire ceiling. The bathroom has a 3-corner tub and plenty of light.
Of the other rooms, ground-floor Roumana Suite stands out for its claw-footed bathtub and separate shower room, while across the court, Qarmousa Suite has steps up from the main double bedroom to a narrow mezzanine room with a daybed, and a green-tiled tadlakt-walled shower room below. Second floor Tamarind Suite is perhaps the least opulent, but shares the same 5-metre ceilings, diamond-tiled floors and beautiful rugs and bedspreads - in this case faded red, amber and burgundy; its bathroom has a raised tub in a zellij-covered pedestal, with overhead shower. The Argana Suite suite is smaller and is reached by 3 steep flights of stairs. It is the only suite that doesn’t look onto the courtyard but it has a lovely view over the medina and feels more private than the other rooms.
You start the day with a classic Moroccan breakfast of freshly-made crêpes and pastries (oversize crumpets or perhaps diamonds of lemon-semolina cake), a trio of jams including sweet potato (reminiscent of chestnut) and apricot, and a platter of dates, figs and other seasonal fruit. Fresh juices include, appropriately enough, pomegranate (roumana) with a twist of lemon and ginger, or orange outside the pomegranate season; there’s Twinings tea and strong coffee, and it’s all served in the courtyard on pretty crockery.
But where this place stands out is in its daily-changing dinner menu; French chef Vincent goes to the market every morning and sources fresh local produce to transform into beautiful Mediterranean dishes which are served in the candlelit courtyard. Expect more than just tagines, couscous and brochettes! You could be served a smoked duck salad with fresh figs and pain d'epice, wild sea-bass with artichokes and chermoula sauce or chicken marinated in pomegranate molasses. Desserts include creme brulée, a sinfully-rich dark-chocolate tart, or a Sephardic bitter orange and almond cake with yoghurt - a nod to the nearby Jewish quarter. Note that the restaurant is open Tuesday-Sunday, from 7.30-9pm; advance booking is recommended.
On Monday’s, hotel guests have the opportunity to sample traditional home-cooked Moroccan food, prepared by head housekeeper Naima. For lunch, and if you’d like a change of scene at dinner, there are numerous restaurants and cafés a short walk away. From simple stalls selling sweet and savoury pastries to the top-notch feasts offered by La Maison Bleue.
Bear in mind that Fes is a tiring city at the best of times, doubly so with children (crowded, chaotic, easy to get separated from parents), and triply so if you go with kids during Ramadan.
There’s a 'low' rollaway bed (small and low to the ground) for under 5’s which can be placed in any room. The Qarmousa Suite has a narrow mezzanine sitting room with a single daybed, but the stairs leading to it are not protected.
Babysitting is available by arrangement.