Ellen and I take our restaurants pretty seriously. Ok, too seriously. We agreed upon Al Fassia Gueliz after an extended period of research, deliberation, and debate. We eschew touristy stuff and we loath prix fixe menu (control issues, both of us). Romantic is out of the question (we date guys, or at least we would if we actually dated). I don’t do Italian (not in Morocco, anyway). Belly dancers: um, no. Alcohol service: yes, please.
Al Fassia Gueliz — woman owned and run (a pretty advanced concept in Morocco) — had consistently earned high marks in every review Ellen and I consulted. Far from touristy, ordering off-the-menu only, not particularly geared towards couples, pasta-free, no belly dancers and a complete wine list. We booked it.
AL FASSIA GUELIZ, MARRAKECH
Pretty. Even with white tablecloths and candlelight, Al Fassia doesn’t come off as especially romantic, and it’s just informal enough to feel comfortable.
Ellen and I are tucked into a table along the wall, near the entrance, perfect for people-watching.
We ask our server about dry rosés, my summertime go-to tonic. She recommends a bottle of home-grown Medallion.
“Sure,” we agree with shrugs. What do we know about North African wine? Nothing.
The mixed salad (a 17-plate assortment of small vegetable concoctions, highly recommended by internet posters) and the Medallion arrive. We doubt the quality of Moroccan wine, but the shimmery violet label instills confidence in us (Ellen is a sucker for anything that sparkles and I favor purple in general).
Full wine glasses in hand, relaxed for the first time in days (it was a rough trip over), our commentary begins. Like Joan Rivers, we can be harsh (the truth can hurt), but we also give credit when due.
“Animal print,” notes Ellen, spying the woman in the leopard blouse, a member of the Italian group that just entered Al Fassia.
“Funky glasses” I add. Every fabulous one of them sports ironic eyewear.
One of The Italians, now seated — a playboy Mastroianni-type with a cashmere sweater draped across his shoulders — nods in our direction. The rest of the group looks our way. Animated discussion ensues. They raise their glasses enthusiastically.
“They’re toasting to your cleavage,” I say somewhat disapprovingly. Ellen ignored my culturally-sensitive fashion advice and discarded her Muslim-friendly cover-up upon entering. Hell, if I had the luxury of cleavage I might not dress so culturally-sensitively either.
Anticipating our lamb tanginess, we dissect the miserable English woman seated across from us, who is glowing red like a human ember from today’s foray into Jemaa El Fna, I suspect. Mutual note to selves: wear plenty of sunscreen tomorrow.
The lamb arrives and it’s perfect. Stick-to-your-ribs, hearty, comfort food here at Al Fassia Gueliz.
But wait: what’s this? A tall, dapper, fifty-something, salt-and-pepper-haired gentleman, frumpy wife and sullen teenage son in tow place themselves directly in our line of vision. Just asking for it, really. The couple face away from each other, exchanging not a word. Ellen and I are intrigued. What does he see in her (and not us)? Why aren’t they talking? Does she realize just how good she has it? Where do we catch a sexy one like that? You only appreciate what you don’t have, I guess.
Jesus, Ellen proclaims.
A six-foot-one Naomi Campbell look-alike enmeshed in a metallic Hervé Leger dress has just stalked across Al Fassia to either join her friends or consume them. We gape like everyone else. Having reached our (early!) forties we’re too old to even remotely, possibly compete with her for attention: we’re no longer jealous of creatures of her ilk, just in awe of them. Left wondering what it would be like to actually be them. Happy for them even, the lucky bitches.
I’d like to say that one of the (few) advantages of aging is being able to just drop-out from The Competition and enjoy it from the sidelines, but the truth is, you keep competing, just in a different bracket, another division.
Ellen and I applaud the supermodel but we’re still envious of the middle-aged wife with the hot middle-aged husband.
“More Medallion?” I proffer as a salve.
We like El Fassia Gueliz a lot.