maison mk

Marrakech, Morocco Book from

Reviewed by Cat Martin
A luxurious hideaway with fantastic restaurant in the heart of the medina - lives up to the definition of riad as 'a little drop of paradise'
It’s only a stone's throw from the medina walls to maison mk, but as you wander through narrow winding streets, it feels like every turn takes you back centuries to a whole new world: fragrant, dusty, exotic. First-time visitors will be bewitched.

A simple door on the corner of a cobbled alley leads into the 200-year-old 6-room riad, and inside there's another dramatic contrast. Owner and artist Paul Hopkins has transformed the space into an indulgent modern haven, with lashings of local detail against a backdrop of polished tadelakt and warm spice colours: silk tassles, rich fabrics, an array of lights and lamps and big brass door handles. There's a fabulous terrace and bar on the rooftop, a renowned restaurant and a wonderfully indulgent small spa on the ground floor. Better yet, there are several seating areas, so even if the riad's full, you'll find a quiet corner. Paul and Aoibheann visit regularly from the UK, and there's little they and their manager Hanane can't organise: tours, taxis, restaurants, shopping recommendations, even belly dancing displays. Ideal for couples or a whole house rental with friends.

Highs

  • Fantastic location just a 3-minute stroll from Djemaa El Fna square and Bab Ksour (the nearest gateway to the medina) is close for taxi drop offs - in the heart of the action but far enough from the noise
  • gastro mk has been cooking up an international storm for some time now; the French-Moroccan cuisine, is not to be missed, there are cooking courses too
  • A wonderfully lofty and luxurious roof terrace with stunning views, great for lazy breakfasts spent admiring the magnificent Atlas mountains
  • Smiling staff for whom nothing seems too much trouble; management seem to possess an attention to detail verging on obsession, there's consistently excellent concierge-style service
  • Great in-house technology provided free of charge: WiFi, pre-loaded iPods, and mobile phones loaded with credit

Lows

  • Some won't like the lack of locks on the door but this is the nature of riad living; locks are in room if you wish to use them
  • Chill-out music is played throughout but can be adjusted through controls on each speaker if it starts to grate
  • It's an expensive treat, but afternoon tea is complimentary and staff go the extra mile
  • Light sleepers may be woken by the call to prayer. However, this is the case all over Marrakech and maison mk is in a quieter part than most and earplugs are provided

Best time to go

The riad is closed in August for annual renovation, but Marrakech is extremely hot at this time anyway. Easter and Christmas are busy seasons, so book well ahead for these periods. It's probably best to avoid Ramadan (July-August, dates vary year by year).

Our top tips

    What to Pack:
  • A half-empty suitcase - you'll want to shop lots when you're here
  • Summer clothes in case it's unexpectedly hot (although women may feel more comfortable covering their shoulders in the medina)
  • A jumper - once the sun is down the terrace can be surprisingly chilly
  • Euros - most prices are quoted in Euros as well as Dirhams (the national currency), but you can't take Dirhams out of the country
  • A sense of humour so you don’t feel bothered by the inevitable barrage of enticement from stallholders
  • Brush up on your French - very useful in the medina

Great for...

City Style
Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 6
  • Restaurant (open daily)
  • Over 12s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Plunge Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: Master Suite

Rooms

The 6 decadent bedrooms sit on the first floor, and most face in to the central courtyard, in typical riad style. Decor-wise, they are very similar: curved tadelakt walls, terracotta floors, old Moroccan Bejmat tiles, sumptuous velvet cushions and voile curtains, beaded hangers, silk-chiffon artwork. Colour schemes are autumnal (conker-brown, pumpkin, sienna, amber), beds are handcrafted by the King's official bedmaker and the Egyptian cotton sheets are magnificent. Ensuite bathrooms are proper wet rooms with vast walk-in showers and deep baths, and are generously stocked with local organic toiletries and quirky rubber ducks.

Honeymooners may want to treat themselves to the large Master Suite with its a high ceiling and enormous bed, a silk-wrapped chandelier illuminates the space and a polished plaster fireplace is surrounded by velvet banquette.

The Double Rooms feel cosier: Rooms 2, 4 and 5 have a bath and shower (they may be able to hold an extra bed on request), while Room 6 has a shower only, and no room for extra guests. Deluxe Room (#3) has a window seat with views over the courtyard, it is also brighter than the Double Rooms which frequently makes it more popular; it can fit an additional extra bed, too. All have A/C, minibars, safes and professional hairdryers (straighteners to borrow). Lighting is ambiant: at turndown, the beds are lit from below and sprinkled with rose petals. Gadget junkies will love the mobile phone loaded with useful numbers and a little bit of credit, the pre-loaded iPod (music and videos of local restaurants), and the chill-out music that plays throughout the riad. The controls for the music system are near the door.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Plunge pool
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Dinner in the fabulous gastro mk restaurant is presented as a 5-course tasting menu, see Rates. The Moroccan-French fusions are one of the hotel's great assets: unique and tasty, but totally unpretentious. Examples include stuffed courgette with herb gnocchi, fillet of beef tagine with prune puree, minted pineapple lassi with verveine foam and banana bavarois. Dinner starts at 8pm and guests are invited for drinks and canapés on the roof terrace from 7pm, which lends a social atmosphere to the evenings. They limit external guests to just 10 people per night (booking one month ahead) meaning that guests take priority but there is always a buzzy vibe. There's also a private dining room for that special occasion.

Lunch (by request and for residents only) is usually taken on the roof terrace under the welcome shade of a sun umbrella. Dishes could include home-smoked salmon, barbecued skewers, spiced vegetable salad, pan-fried red mullet, and mint panna cotta. For ultimate flexibility there is also a 24-hour snack menu including club sandwiches, croque monsieurs, and salads.

A complimentary afternoon tea is also served daily at the riad - freshly made cake and mint tea (aka 'Moroccan whisky', incredibly sweet but a good reviver after a morning in the market). With a day's notice a full English afternoon tea can be arranged - 3 tiers of cucumber sandwiches, cakes, scones with jam and Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea - see Rates.

Drinks are available throughout the day; each room has a minibar with soft drinks, and beer, wine, champagne and 'honesty' bottles of spirits (gin, whisky, rum etc) are available. Just ask.

Early morning coffee is left outside your door before 7am in a tasselled thermos flask. Breakfast is then served when you want it, and can be taken on the roof (a little chilly until the sun has had time to warm the city) or in the ground-floor restaurant. They alternate between Moroccan and French days. Moroccan days include the msimmen homemade pancakes and Moroccan breads. French days have fabulous baguettes, pains aux chocolat and pastries. Both days have homemade yoghurts, fresh eggs, just-squeezed orange juice, and fruit salad using seasonal local fruits.

If you want a change of scene, there are plenty of great restaurants nearby such as Le Tobsil, a riad-restaurant. Hanane can make recommendations, arrange tables and transport if required.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Private dining
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Sign up for a Moroccan Cooking Experience: Course 1 is split between a visit to the vibrant local market, and cooking an authentic tagine. Course 2 is all cooking - they will provide the raw ingredients and you will be hands-on cooking a selection of Moroccan dishes
  • Get lost in the extensive old town, or take a half-day shopping tour in the souks with a multi-lingual guide. Barter for jewellery, kaftans, spices, leather, metalwork, carpets, stone masons, even kitchen sinks! (maison mk set newbies to Marrakech a bartering challenge - to come back with a tassel which is added to a display cabinet). Back in Djemaa El Fna medina, listen to story tellers and watch snake charmers
  • Take an excursion to El Bahia Palace, the glorious Jardin de l’Agdal gardens or the famous Saadian Tombs which are all close by. The Koutoubia Mosque's 70m high minaret is also worth a gawp
  • Scrub up with a traditional hammam at the riad, or indulge in a beauty treatment (facials, exfoliation, pedicures)
  • Laze on the roof terrace, which is higher than most, and listen to the world around you. Soak up the sun on a lounger, hide from the heat in the Arabic tent or cool off in the courtyard's turquoise blue plunge pool
  • Visit the new town, a total contrast to the medina with a European feel, American retail brands (Diesel, Puma) and good shoe shopping
  • Private guided tours of the Atlas Mountains and Ourika Valley, such as a day trip to the foot of Mount Toubkal, where you can trek in the Atlas mountains for the day (1.5hr drive each way). If you fancy an overnight expedition, the charming fishing village of Essaouira is a 2.5hr drive each way

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Over 12's are welcome at any time, and if the whole riad is rented younger children are too, although in that instance parents will need to bring travel cots for babies.

Family friendly accommodation:

Master Suite (#1), Deluxe Room (#3) and Standard Room (#6) can hold an additional single bed so would suit a younger child sharing with parents, and Double Room (#5) is a twin room (not interconnecting).

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Families Should Know:

The plunge pool is not protected so it could be difficult with toddlers.

Distances:

  • Airport: 15 minutes
  • Shops: 2 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for maison mk