“ Address: 58 Princes Avenue / Hull HU5 3QG / East Yorkshire / Tel: 01724 275222 „
Hull is one of those cities where you will have to venture further than just the city centre to get the real spirit of the place. While Newland Avenue is the perfect place for vintage shopping and tasty take-aways Princes Avenue is certainly the place to see and to be seen. Halfway between the university and the city centre this area attracts a diverse crowd of people looking for a posh night out and exotic food. Prinny Ave as the locals lovingly call it is my primary port of call when looking for a nicer night out than your typical student night. With a wide variety of restaurants, bars and cafes there is something for everyone.
The one place that I have been eying up without ever going to is Marrakech restaurant - right at the beginning of the food mile it looks incredibly inviting from the outside with the dark wooden fittings and the colourful lamps. The menu chalk boards promised traditional Moroccan food and every time I was going past there on the bus I had to restrain myself from jumping off and gorging on all the spicy deliciousness. Olives and dates are some of my favourite things, both of which I associate with north African cuisine. What stopped me from going for so long was the lack of a website or an online menu. I am a sucker for reading menus and only go out to eat if the dishes offer sound good. I am not much for a surprise and would hate going to a fancy restaurant just to discover that there is nothing on offer that I like.
However, after two years of taking the bus past Marrakech fairly regularly it was finally time to jump into the dark and actually try it. My housemate and I had planned a girly night in but after some consideration we got dressed up and ventured on a date while our respective boyfriends were slaving away at work. When it is dark the restaurant looks even more inviting than during the day with all the lamps and candles giving it a very romantic feel. With it being mid-week we were surprised by how busy it was but luckily we still got a table. There are two tables outside on the small terrace for anyone brave enough to try their luck at al fresco dining in Hull. We were definitely not dressed warmly enough and opted for the cosy inside area instead. The front of the restaurant looked very cramped with tiny tables hardly big enough for dishes and plates. The fifteen odd people stuffed into the tiny room and the opening to the kitchen made this area a bit stuffy and quite loud. I guess it would not be too bad if you are on a date and being close to each other is an advantage rather than a nuisance. We were quite happy when the waitress brought us to the back area - a narrow room covered in Moroccan fabrics, candles and colourful lamp shades. It looked absolutely stunning and somehow Marrakech managed the fine balance between wanting to be very obviously Moroccan but not looking tacky.
The tables here are a bit more wildly spaces with a continues bench running around the room but still, I would only go here with people that I am quite comfortable with. Not much private space or privacy here either though. Anyway, we enjoyed the atmosphere and happily started to study the menu. Marrakech offers a wide selection of starters priced between 3£ up to 8£ ranging from the obligatory olives to cold vegetable salads and small kebabs. Main courses are very meat-heavy including various types of kebabs and of course Moroccan tagines. Tagines are meaty stews prepared in traditional clay pots served with bread or couscous on the side. At least that is the case in Morocco proper whereas here they are served on their own. We opted to share the set meal consisting of a starter of our choice, a selection of Moroccan salads and vegetables, three tagines to share and baklava as a dessert - all for less than 23£ per person.
For starters we had hummus, marinated olives and small kebabs. All arrived within minutes of ordering and were accompanied by warm flatbread. The kebabs were two small kofte kebabs (seasoned minced meat grilled around a skewer) with a small side salad. Albeit a bit small they were very tasty and my housemate enjoyed them a lot. The hummus was equally tasty and definitely homemade; flavour wise it was lovely but a bit too oily for me. When I make hummus at home it is usually a bit dryer without the oil swimming on top of it. The olives where a big let-down for me - far too spicy without any real taste. I am a bit biased here as I absolutely love olives marinated in lemon and herbs, which is what I expected here as well. These olives however tasted of nothing but spice to me. I have been to Marrakech Restaurant since and tried them again - on subsequent visits they were not as spicy and actually quite tasty. Maybe I got unlucky on my first visit and got some olives from the bottom of the jar.
The selection of Moroccan salads turned out to be a few small dishes of various vegetables preparations, all of which I adored and could eat most days. We had butter beans in a spicy tomato sauce, grilled and marinated aubergines and two other dishes that I cannot really remember anymore, I am almost certain one was green - maybe a green bean stew? Regardless of my memory being like a sieve right now they were all very tasty and, although they did look on the small side when they arrived, rather filling. We still had some bread left over from the starters and thoroughly enjoyed dipping it into the various veggie dishes. Slightly full by that point we were still looking forward to or mains.
Usually I am all up for getting served as quickly as possible but a bit of a wait would have been good to let everything settle. However, the tagines where brought over almost immediately once we finished the second course. The three tagines of the day were chicken & ginger, meatballs in tomato sauce and lamb&prunes. All sounded lovey but we were debating whether to get some couscous or potatoes to soak up the sauce as none come with the set menu. Luckily we didn't as these tagines were huge! We shared each of them and struggled to finish our least favourite one - the chicken and ginger. Cooked with potatoes and carrots I thought it was rather bland with the chicken having a very rubbery consistency. The sauce was not unpleasant but albeit it was nothing special either. We tried it but in the end decided that it tasted more like chicken soup with chucky veg that a Moroccan dish. The lamb tagines was the one I was looking forward to the most. Taste and texture wise the lamb was perfect with a lovely melt in your mouth consistency. The sauce and the prunes were divine and my only little niggle would be that some of the lamb pieces were very, very fatty. The surprise of the night was the meatball tagine. We did not expect much from it, thinking it would be a cheap dish added to the menu to bulk it up a bit. They turned out to be lovely, simmered in a mildly spiced tomato sauce that was very different from the Italian inspired dish we expected.
All in all we loved the food so far and were so full that even thinking about dessert caused out tummies to be very, very upset. But hey, there is no chance that I would say no to baklava and mint tea. Both took quite a while to arrive which surprised us given the quick service earlier that night. The baklava was tasty but a bit on the small side - I love baklava so there can be never enough for me. We had a choice of coffee and mint tea as part of our meal deal, with both of us opting for the tea. Served in a small can with a traditional tea glass it certainly fitted the surroundings. The mint tea was quite strong and I needed heaps of sugar to drink it.
Throughout the night staff was very polite and professional. It was however rather hard getting their attention. Sitting in the back we sometimes did not see a waitress for a good twenty minutes. Drink orders took long to arrive compared to the food orders. We did not really mind though given how lovely the atmosphere was in Marrakech. The back room was simply lovely with my only niggle being the slightly too loud music playing in the background. I could imagine this place being rather too noisy for a nice meal if you are unlucky enough to share the room with a big group of people.
For the set meal and a couple of soft drinks each we paid less than 60£ - good value for money given the quality and the size of the dishes as well as the lovely atmosphere. Marrakech is a great addition to Hull's culinary scene and I can highly recommend it to anyone. Saying that, I am not sure how child friendly it is with the small tables and everything, there would certainly be no space to let the kids run wild. Maybe it would be better to leave the kids at home when going there for a meal.
58 Princes Avenue Hull, Yorkshire HU5 3QG
01482 343 746
The rather useful information pack in our room in Hull's IBIS hotel informed us that the Princes Avenue area is the place to head for good restaurants and nightlife and having read about a couple of restaurants we'd be happy to try we decided to head there for our Saturday night's entertainment.
The little map we had for the city centre didn't appear to show Princes Avenue so we made a quick visit to the Tourist Information Centre to ask for directions. The assistant there asked where we were thinking of eating and we told her that our first choice was Marrakech Avenue; she said she'd eaten there and that the food was very good. She also asked if we had a reservation and we did think about phoning in advance but decided not to as there appeared to be plenty of other restaurants in the area should we not be able to get in at our first choice.
By the time we'd watched Newcastle's opening game of the season and walked a little further to the restaurant it was about 7.30pm and the restaurant looked to be filling up. Princes Avenue is a very lively road with lots of bars, pubs and restaurants, not as crazy as Newcastle's infamous Bigg Market, and slightly less upmarket than our Osborne Road area. I must admit I had wondered earlier in the day when walking in the city centre where the restaurants were as there are not so many non-chain places in the centre so it was nice to get to Princes Avenue and find out that Hull is not a total culinary desert.
The restaurant looked very appealing, more so as the night got darker. Most of the tables inside appeared to be taken but we'd have been happy to eat a little later if necessary. A waitress came to the door and informed us that they were fully booked except for the outdoor tables but as it was a warm night we were happy to eat al fresco. WeÂ'd had a late lunch so we arranged to return in 45 minutes.
At the appointed time we returned to the restaurant and the waitress spotted us from inside and brought us a couple of menus. There are a good number of starters and a more limited selection of mains, most of which are tagines, traditional Moroccan stews, named for the earthenware pot with its distinctive conical lid, in which they are cooked.
Casablanca, a Moroccan beer ,is available but we picked a bottle of Argentine Malbec which was reasonably priced and worked well with our meaty mains. When the waitress brought it she asked if we wanted to pour it ourselves and we were happy to do that; the service at Marrakech Avenue was always friendly with a can-do attitude, though towards the end of the meal it became more difficult to get the attention of staff when we required it. When ordering I mentioned my nut allergy just in case the tagine contained almonds and I was confident when she told me that my chosen dish did not contain them. She told us that the main course that Himself had ordered did contain nuts but they could be omitted if we'd like; as I wanted to be able to try his dinner too, we asked for them to omit the nuts.
We decided to share some hummus and olives with pita bread to start. The hummus was clearly homemade and very good it was too; not too garlicky and with a very good texture. The portion was generous and we asked for extra pita bread which was given at no extra cost. The olives were excellent; marinated, I think in a harissa dressing, hot but not stupidly so; the quality of the olives was good and there was a mixture of different types.
Our main courses were presented in the tagines they had been cooked in; when our waitress lifted off the lids we were hit by the most delicious aromas. I had chosen a chicken tagine with preserved lemons, carrots and potatoes, and Himself had chosen a lamb tagine with prunes and potatoes. In both dishes the meat was beautifully tender and there was plenty of it.
I've been off carrots recently, finding them unbearably sweet and thought I'd probably leave them on my plate but they were actually very good, soft but not squidgy and with a bit of bite left. The preserved lemons, a common ingredient in tagines, were wonderful and added a lovely sharpness to this saffron fragranced dish. The potatoes were plentiful and were great for soaking up the flavoursome sauce.
Himself has long been of the opinion that meat and fruit shouldn't mix though, of late, he has mellowed slightly from this previously strongly entrenched view. I expressed surprise that he'd chosen a dish with prunes in it but he ate them all (except the couple that found their way with a couple of pieces of melt in the mouth lamb) and might have eaten the tagine too if he'd remembered to put some indigestion tablets in my handbag. The sweetness of the prunes was not overpowering and neither did the complex flavours of the sauce hide the tastiness of the lamb. Both sauces had a mild cinnamon flavour with the richness of cumin, the gentle scent of cardamom and the sweetness of honey. We were impressed!
I'd not been holding out much hope of a good dessert at north African desserts tend to be nut based but there were several appealing options on the menu, and not all of them chocolate based, there were some options such as a lemon and lime dessert that sounded like a refreshing pudding after a rich tagine. In the end I went for a simple portion of homemade vanilla ice-cream with honey; the waitress brought two spoons with the ice cream and even Himself, who is not a puddings person usually, put in a good account of himself. A silver pot of freshly made mint tea (made with real mint, not minty tea bags) and two little tea glasses were the finishing touch to our meal. I'm addicted to mint tea and always find it a good way of ensuring you don't leave the restaurant feeling like you might pop.
I would usually say something about the decor and ambience of a restaurant but I only passed through the interior very briefly when going to the toilet. It should be noted that the toilets for both men and women are on the first floor and if there is a wheelchair accessible toilet, I didn't spot it. I did get a chance to see that some effort has been made to create a Moroccan theme for the interior with lots of ornate lamps hanging from the ceiling and the use of richly brightly coloured and embroidered fabrics. It feels very cosy and looks great.
There were two cubicles in the ladies' toilets. The lighting there was very dim. There were two bulbs covered with carved wooden lamp covers; only one of them had a working bulb so I chose the cubicle that was best lit; unfortunately, that was the one with no loo paper. When I'd washed my hands I had a job tofind the hand drier: it had been painted the same dark red as the walls and was camouflaged in the darkness of the toilets.This was the only negative in a very pleasant and successful evening. Please Marrakech Avenue, give us some lights in the toilet and don't disguise the hand drier.
We really enjoyed our meal and I'd even go so far as to say I'd go back if I was in Hull again; this is particular rare as I usually like to try new places. The food was delicious and excellent value. We paid around £55 for one shared starter, two mains, a bottle of good wine, a pot of mint tea and ice cream.